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Packing Luggage


Luggage and Packing

TSA breaks your luggage lock while inspecting your bags and now you need something to secure your luggage.  We discuss alternative locks that are inexpensive and reasonably secure.


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Travel Advice - Alternatives to TSA Locks

We have heard stories of the Transportation Security Administration inspectors breaking locks on luggage to inspect the contents. We cover tips for Packing with security in mind and TSA approved locks elsewhere, but what if you don’t want to shell out the bucks for TSA approved locks, don’t have time to get them, or they are broken during inspection anyway?

Locking your bags provides little real security. Airlines generally will not reimburse you for any expensive item missing from your luggage and caution you not to pack anything expensive in luggage that you intend to check.

If thieves want what is in you bag, they will take the luggage, or slash it open to remove the contents. So what does a lock really do?

  • In most cases, a lock prevents your belongings from slipping out of the luggage, if the suitcase should accidentally pop open.


Alternative locks

If you have hard-shell or oyster-shell luggage and the built in locks break, the best you can do is to carry some wrapping tape, a cloth lock-strap, or a bungee that can loop around the bag to keep it closed.

If you have soft-sided luggage that seals with zippers, you a have a few more “locking” option than are available with hard shell luggage.

  • Purchase a bag of cable ties, also known as zip-locks. These devices are often used for keeping those rowdy computer and stereo cables from wandering all over. These handy little self-locking ties (see Figure 1) come in a variety of sizes and are very inexpensive (you can find them at your local hardware store).


                         Figure 1. Cable or "Zip Ties".

  • If you have “locked” the two ends of a luggage zipper together with a cable tie, the TSA will simply cut it off if they need to examine your bag.
    • Carry a bunch of cable ties in a small plastic bag and use one to secure your luggage when needed.
    • The zip ties must be cut-off to remove them but this can easily be done with a fingernail clipper.
    • The disadvantage of the cable tie is that if the TSA cuts it off to inspect your bag, they have nothing to reapply to lock the zippers.
  • Another low cost item that you can use to lock together zippers is a simple key ring – the coiled piece of metal that you use to keep your keys on.
    • You can easily use one of these to keep the two zippers “locked”.
      • Simply slide the opening of each zipper on the ring for a secure and inexpensive lock.
      • TSA should be able to get them off with a little effort but might cut them off, leaving you without a “lock", so bring extras (they are very inexpensive).

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