The title of this post is a bit of a misnomer. I have had my luggage lost twice in the past year, and both times I lost more of my patience than I needed to. The sinking feeling in the gut when the crowd starts disbursing from the luggage carousel is one I am familiar with. My luggage has often been last on the belt (maybe I get to the airport too early?), but until my trip to Montreal in the fall, I'd always left the airport with everything I came with.
Losing your luggage on the return trip home is more manageable than on the way there, and I have experienced both. When I left Montreal, my luggage did not come with me. This would not have been so much of a problem, except that I'd had a tough time in Montreal. I had broken my toe the week before and I was hobbling around with a cane, forcing myself to still walk as far as I would have without an injured foot. It was exhausting and I was in a lot of pain each day. I had packed my prescription pain medicine in my checked luggage because I'd thought it wouldn't be allowed in my carry-on for some reason. Not having my pain meds and not knowing when I was going to get them made for a tough night. Luckily, my bag was dropped off to my apartment the next day. But it meant that I had to work the morning from home to get it, after already not being in the office a few days, and that I had to walk up and down my four flights of stairs with a broken toe a few additional times.
On my trip to meet Katie in Lisbon, I'd had some flight issues. Right before we boarded, we were informed the airplane didn't have a part that it needed in order to take off. We were delayed getting into Paris which meant I was delayed getting in Lisbon. There were only a few flights on Delta from Paris to Lisbon so I sat in CDG for a while, being miserable, although I consoled myself with macarons. I wasn't happy about the delay since we only had a few days in Lisbon, and I also felt bad because my sister was there for a while without me. When I finally got to Lisbon and didn't see my suitcase, I may have flipped out a little bit. I convinced myself that I would never see my suitcase or anything in it again, and that I would be wearing the clothes I wore on the plane for two whole weeks as we continued our trip to Spain after Portugal. When I got to the hotel, my sister let me wear one of her shirts and we went out exploring six hours after we'd intended to begin.
I don't like shopping when I am traveling, but since I didn't know if and when I'd get my luggage back, I needed some essentials. I bought a few shirts, underwear, socks, and a pair of jeans. We went to a store I would never shop at in NYC because I don't feel confident about how ethically their clothes are made, but I didn't want to spend too much money, especially if I'd need to get two-weeks worth of clothing eventually. I was also lucky in this case, as my luggage showed up at our hotel the next morning, although it was quite damaged and needed lots of tape.
If your luggage doesn't appear around the carousel, you have to fill out a claim in an office and identify what it looks like compared to a grid with 30 pictures of suitcases that look nothing like yours. They give you a claim number and a phone number and you call every 30 minutes until something happens. In both of my experiences, the first 20 times you call, they will have no idea where your luggage is and just tell you to call back later. But that 21st time, they will say they've found it and that it will be delivered to you the next day.
When you return home from your trip, make sure to contact the airline and complain profusely about your situation. I've received Luggage Compensation Bonuses in SkyMiles from Delta for both my incidents and they quickly sent me a check to cover what I spent on clothing in Lisbon when I attached my receipt to my complaint. I'd also mentioned the damage on my suitcase and sent them a photo of it, which may have helped.
Now that I know from my Switz trip that I can pack for a week into a small carry-on, I'm going to try to avoid checking from now on, at least for shorter trips. Lose my luggage once, shame on you. Lose my luggage twice, shame on me.