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Baggage insurance explained

One of the most essential parts of any trip is what you take with you. But when you’re considering what to pack in your luggage, you should also consider what might happen if your baggage is lost, stolen, or damaged during the course of your trip. This is something for which most travel insurance plans should provide coverage.

What is baggage insurance?

Baggage insurance is a general term that refers to a range of travel insurance benefits that your policy may provide. These can include reimbursement or compensation for the following:

  • If your baggage and personal effects are damaged in flight, or lost by an airline, or misplaced in a hotel storage facility
  • If your baggage is stolen in an act of crime, such as in a hotel or in transit
  • If your baggage is delayed or misplaced, requiring you to buy replacement items

Remember, your luggage can be lost, stolen, or damaged not just by airlines during the course of a flight, but also throughout the course of your trip, such as in taxis, on train platforms, in your rental car, in your hotel, or in secure storage. All these scenarios are ones where you want to make sure your travel insurance company covers your losses and provides benefits if something goes wrong.

Coverage for lost or baggage loss is a typical part of many travel insurance policies, but it’s particularly important to ensure you have it if you’re traveling with expensive or valuable items, such as camera equipment or jewelry.

Are you traveling with costly sporting equipment such as golf clubs, scuba gear, hunting or fishing equipment? Some travel insurance policies will cover this gear as part of the baggage coverage.

Traveling always includes a certain amount of risk, and you can limit how much risk you’re taking on by making sure your travel insurance plan has you covered when it comes to your baggage.

What is not covered by baggage insurance?

Keep in mind that there will be some exclusions or limitations associated with a typical baggage policy. This limits what the insurance company has to provide benefits for.

If you leave your baggage unattended, don’t report a case of theft to the police or relevant authorities within a certain timeframe, or you leave cash in your bag that gets stolen, your case will likely be excluded by your travel insurance policy.

In addition, some policies will have a single-item excess, which will limit the total maximum amount you can be reimbursed for a single item. So be wary of traveling with super high-value items such as engagement rings if you don’t have additional insurance to cover them

Another common scenario where baggage coverage can help is if the airline loses your luggage. In that case, the airline or carrier may be responsible, by law, to compensate their passenger for losing a checked bag. However, this may depend on the region and the airline’s policy itself, so it’s worth checking the fine print of your policy and your carrier’s terms. If your airline will only provide partial compensation for the value of items lost, travel insurance can help make up the difference.

If you notice the airline has damaged your bag in transit, you should raise a complaint before you leave the airport. This will increase the likelihood of receiving compensation — either from the airline, or your travel insurance company.

Filing a lost, damaged, or stolen baggage claim

When it comes to making a claim for lost, damaged, or stolen baggage, there are some things that are helpful to know beforehand.

Baggage coverage policies will typically have a deductible, or an amount you have to pay up-front before you are reimbursed for lost luggage or damaged bags.

Check the details of your travel insurance plan before purchase, and when it comes time to file a claim, you’ll have a better idea of what you may be entitled to in terms of value.

It can also be helpful to take photos of your luggage and its contents before your trip, so you have an easier time estimating the loss of value when you ask your travel insurance company to reimburse you.

In the case of delay, if you’re forced to purchase emergency clothes, toiletries, or other essential items while you wait for an airline to deliver your delayed baggage to your destination, your travel insurance coverage may provide benefits.  Be sure to keep any and all receipts for purchases you want to be reimbursed for.

In the case of theft resulting in baggage loss, it’s very important to report the incident of crime to the relevant authorities as soon as possible so you can have proper documentation. Having an established record and reference of your crime — usually in the form of a case number or police report — will help enable you to make a successful claim on your policy.

It can be traumatic when your luggage is lost and you have to navigate international authorities you’re not familiar with, but if you want to be reimbursed by your insurance provider, you have to go through this step.

Should I insure my luggage?

Nobody wants to face the prospect of lost, damaged, or stolen baggage while they’re on a trip, but it’s certainly not outside the realm of possibility, which is why you should buy travel insurance. Being familiar with the exclusions of your policy before you leave, having a rough idea of how much your luggage and its contents are worth, and knowing the steps to take in the event of an incident will make it more likely your insurance coverage will reimburse you.