Airlines around the world have gotten markedly better at keeping our luggage with us as we shuffle around the globe. According to recent estimates, only .005% of all luggage gets permanently separated from its owner anymore. I'm still a fan of only taking a carry on bag when I fly, but if that day comes when I have to check my bag, you can bet that I'll follow these simple things for luggage identification and making sure any lost pieces find their way home.
1. Don't buy black luggage.
This almost seems like the most simple solution in the world, but seriously, when you're standing there staring at a carousel of luggage going round and round, what do you see? A sea of black nylon, most likely. Black has it's place in the world - it doesn't show wear like most bags, and it has the added benefit of being inconspicuous. However, a black bag also runs the risk of hiding in the shadows and being left (even by you!). Travel smarter. Choose your luggage for sturdiness and travel-worthiness, to be sure, but if you can, get something that truly stands out and says "I'm yours." My favorite: Diane Von Furstenburg's luggage collection, especially her Rolling City Bag.
2. If you have black luggage, get a hand grip.
Amazon sells Bucky Identi-Grip Luggage Identifier so buy one. It has a convenient business-card sized slip inside, and strong velcro to put around your bag handle. I don't leave home without it on my bag, even if I'm carrying on.
3. Make sure your luggage tag is up to date.
I have luggage that has literally traveled the world without me. My favorite bag went to Turkey and came back, but only after having spent 10 days at London Heathrow (the friend who happened to borrow it got re-routed at the last minute on Lufthansa, but his/my bag continued on it's scheduled journey, and landed during a baggage handler's strike). After 10 days, the bag finally made its way to the Turkish hotel where he was staying. Why do I bring this up? The next time I checked that bag, I got a "screened by TSA" sticker across my luggage tag, and realized that HIS business card, not mine, was in the tag window. Check your tags and make sure they're current.
4. Print off a copy of your boarding pass and put it in your luggage.
If your luggage should happen to become separated from you, it will get opened, most likely. Ensure a copy (or even two or three copies) of your boarding pass is in your suitcase. I generally put on on the bottom and one on top, just in case. With that, try not to overstuff your luggage, either.
5. Your checked luggage tag is as important as your Driver's License.
When the gate agent hands over your luggage tag, put it in a safe place in your wallet. Don't just throw it into any old pocket. If your luggage should become separated from you, that little sticker will save you a ton of heartache in the long run.