Black Bag War

When I travel from my home in Wisconsin to my parent’s home in Hilo, Hawaii, I fly in and out of smaller airports and I check my bags all the way through to my final destination. That means I avoid the “black bag war.” You know, the inevitable jostling that takes place at baggage claims around the world. It includes hordes of grumpy passengers ready to pounce on their black bag…or is it my black bag? Recently, the airline refused to check my luggage all the way through (forcing me to transfer my own luggage to a connecting flight) and I found myself in the Honolulu Airport (with a 22-month-old on my hip) watching as more than 250 passengers shoved their way to the front of the luggage carousel to grab their black bag before someone else took it by mistake. Since then I have been experimenting with ways to make my black bag stand out.

First, I tried the “Easy Spot ID Strips” and “Easy Spot Handle Wraps” made by a popular travel supply company. The neon luggage tags are durable and bright, however, they are not that large. Meaning, when you are standing in a crowd three-people-deep, unless the bag comes down the luggage slide upright, no matter how bright the tag, it can easily go by unnoticed. The same goes for the low-tech means of identifying bags, including tying ribbons on bag handles. Or my mother’s method: tie scrap pieces of upholstery fabric around the handle. The ribbons and fabric can easily rip off in the hands of luggage handlers.

Then there was the “Big Tag,” from another luggage company. It measures 4.5 inches in diameter and comes in a rainbow of colors. While it may be considered gaudy, that is the least of its problems. A friend of mine who is a baggage handler says some of his co-workers use the tags to “assist in handling the bags.” So, basically, you’re lucky if the tag is still attached by the time your bag arrives at your final destination.

I even considered trading in my black bag for a bright pink one I saw in a travel magazine. (My husband talked me out of it.) But, the idea of colorful bags is not being lost on leading luggage manufacturers. In fact, I have seen safari luggage in travel catalogs, featuring suitcases with jungle stripes, spots, zebra styles, and leopard styles with lilac leather trim. (My husband wasn’t “wild” about those either.)

I’m still weighing my options, but in the meantime I may consider employing a method my grandma instituted years ago. In 1989 she hand-stitched a dozen multi-printed fabric swatches onto her black suitcase and has never had a problem identifying her bag. My brother reasons it’s because no one else wants it.

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Michele Cheplic

About Michele Cheplic

Michele Cheplic was born and raised in Hilo, Hawaii, but now lives in Wisconsin. Michele graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with a degree in Journalism. She spent the next ten years as a television anchor and reporter at various stations throughout the country (from the CBS affiliate in Honolulu to the NBC affiliate in Green Bay). She has won numerous honors including an Emmy Award and multiple Edward R. Murrow awards honoring outstanding achievements in broadcast journalism. In addition, she has received awards from the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association for her reports on air travel and the Wisconsin Education Association Council for her stories on education. Michele has since left television to concentrate on being a mom and freelance writer.