What to do if you lose your luggage while travelling overseas

A blue suitcase surrounded by floating pink question marks.

Lots can go wrong overseas, which is where a great travel insurance policy can come in handy. With the right level of coverage, you could be reimbursed for all kinds of mishaps and shenanigans. But when the worst happens, how do you handle it? And how can you get your cover to step in?

Here’s how to deal with one of the most common travel emergencies: lost or stolen luggage.

RELATED: 5 common mistakes to avoid when buying travel insurance

Know your coverage and read the PDS

An open book with flowers sprouting from it.

First thing’s first: make sure you have adequate coverage before you leave. Travel insurance policies come in a variety of tiers and specialisations, so read the product disclosure statement (PDS) thoroughly to make sure it covers all your needs while on holiday. Lost luggage is a pretty common inclusion, especially on comprehensive travel policies, but it’s important to double check.

We’ve also written an in-depth guide on how to file a travel insurance claim for more advice on the general process and how best to prepare. 

Without further ado, let’s dive in.

Lost or stolen luggage insurance checklist

A yellow suitcase lost on a fake beach.

When your bags go on holiday without you, it can be a gutting feeling. In a recent Roy Morgan report, an unnamed baggage handler working for Swissport claimed up to one in 10 pieces of baggage on average are either getting lost or not being loaded onto Qantas domestic flights at Sydney airport each day. Like most airport delays these days, it’s due to employees being underpaid, overworked, and forced to cope with the current surge in domestic air travel.

But whether your luggage was lost in transit or stolen, it’s important to get what happened in writing as soon as possible so you have pertinent evidence for filing a claim – if you can’t track your bags down. 

If your luggage was lost…

  • Seek help at the nearest desk. Airport staff should be ready to assist if your luggage doesn’t arrive at the carousel. Keep calm, stay polite, and work with them. Most lost bags are found and returned safely to you within 24-72 hours, and being respectful can help make the process smoother. Plus, if you packed your carry-on like a pro, you should be set until then anyway.
  • Keep receipts and get it in writing. If you can, keep any and all records of what happened in case your luggage goes permanently missing. This will help any travel insurance claims down the track.

If your luggage was stolen…

  • File a report. If it’s safe to do so, get in touch with local authorities immediately. Be prepared to give them a detailed description of the bags, what was inside them, and where/how the incident happened. Obtain a copy of the official report for your insurance claim later, whether it comes from the local police or hotel management. Insurance providers will also be interested in whether the bags were unattended or not, since this can impact your claim eligibility. But you were at ‘fault’ for leaving your sunnies by the pool, it’s critical to be as honest and upfront as possible. Nothing undercuts a claim more than insurance fraud.
  • Contact your insurance provider ASAP. If important items like travel money or travel documents were in your lost luggage, it’s vital to get in touch with your provider so they can offer you immediate assistance. Your provider should have their international hotline and 24 hour claims email address available on their website.
  • Report any missing official documents ASAP. Losing your passport can be a serious crime if you don’t immediately report it missing to the Australian Passports Office. Make sure you report other missing documents such as your driver’s licence, too, since this prevents someone stealing your identity.
  • Contact your bank and cancel any cards, if relevant. Your bank may also be able to furnish you with some way to access emergency payment methods if you don’t have any backup alternatives.

Your insurance provider will also be able to advise you any extra steps to take before filing a claim. When you get home, any claim you plan to make should be filed within 30 days – and beware the excess.

Preparing for the worst when travelling

We all have travel horror stories, but an ounce of preparation is worth a pound of cure. Especially these days, when flight delays and plagues abound, travel insurance has become an absolute must-have, as essential as your passport. Can you afford to get sick in the USA? How about an unexpected hotel quarantine? 

Unless these have become line items in your travel budget, it might be time to compare policies.

For more guides on handling travel emergencies, check out our travel insurance hub. Compare policies in the table below.

Compare travel insurance policies - last updated 11 August 2022

Search promoted travel insurance below. Advertiser disclosure Important information on terms, conditions and sub-limits.
  • International Travel Insurance
    covid medical cover
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    covid cancellation cover
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    overseas hospital
    Unlimited
    cancellation cover
    $5,000 - Option to increase in lots of $1,000.

    Get protection in a few simple steps with Freely travel insurance all in the palm of your hand. Freely Travel offers 24/7 emergency and medical support, 24/7 customer service. Plus, you can tailor your policy so you only pay for what you need, and adapt your cover in near real time. Add-ons such as car rental excess, snow sports or other activities also available.

    Details
  • Top
    covid medical cover
    Yes
    covid cancellation cover
    Yes
    overseas hospital
    Unlimited
    cancellation cover
    Unlimited

    Be covered for international overseas and medical expenses. Emergency medical assistance 24 hours/365 days a year. Cover for cancellation fees and lost deposits. Cover for luggage and personal money. Dependents covered free of charge (conditions apply). Limited COVID cover available. Cancellation cover for COVID claims limited to $3,500.

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  • Comprehensive
    covid medical cover
    Yes
    covid cancellation cover
    Yes
    overseas hospital
    Unlimited
    cancellation cover
    $25,000

    Easy and cost-effective travel cover with Covid-19 cover included. With 4 base plans, 4 packs and cover for specific medical conditions. For Australian travellers, couples and families up to 99 years young. Add optional extras. 24/7 worldwide emergency help and unlimited medical cover. 14-day cooling-off period, money back guaranteed.

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  • Comprehensive
    covid medical cover
    Yes
    covid cancellation cover
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    overseas hospital
    Unlimited
    cancellation cover
    Unlimited

    Get peace of mind with Fast Cover with worldwide 24 hour emergency assistance. Enjoy cover for emergency medical and hospital expenses. Get cover for cancellation costs as well as for luggage and personal belongings. No medical assessments required. 25 day money back guarantee. Cancellation cover for COVID claims limited to $5,000.

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  • Comprehensive
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    Yes
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    overseas hospital
    Unlimited
    cancellation cover
    $25,000

    Travel insurance with Covid-19 cover and made for women. Choose from 4 levels of cover so you only pay for the insurance you need. Cover comes with unlimited emergency medical cover worldwide. Kids travel free. Tailor your travel insurance with extra cover for activities and special gear. 14-day cooling-off period, money back guaranteed.

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