Locking Checked Bags

I am traveling to Europe for the first time in many years. I was wondering about locking my checked bags with the TSA approved locks? Is this necessary? Thanks

Posted by Ed
7978 posts

Think about it logically, circumstance-by-potential circumstance: Anti-theft in transit: Nope - - assuming the thief can't get surreptitiously past the TSA lock, it can be wrenched off with a screwdriver in a split second, whatever it's attached to can be cut with a pocketknife in the same amount of time, etc. Anti-theft in hotels (if such actually happens): Nope - - all of the time in the world to fiddle with it in complete privacy. Pain in the tail: Yep - - the lock, key, combo, whatever is just something else to keep track of. Use a bread tie or a small caribiner through the zipper pulls or a plain old cinch strap around the whole thing if you're worried about displaying your intimates. Anything you hold dear, valuable, or absolutely necessary is going to be in everwhat you carry on. That leaves mostly clothes - - which nobody wants. I make a couple dozen (at least) international flights a year and an uncountable number of domestic ones. Things gone missing: ZERO. Drawers displayed to the world: ZERO.

Posted by Frank
Tresana, Highlands Ranch, CO, USA
10888 posts

TSA locks, if useful, are only useful in the US. There has been more than one report on this site of TSA locks being cut off by foreign inspection services. We use the plastic cable ties to secure the zippers. I think it is a good idea to secure the zippers and the ties can be cut off if an inspector wants to inspect the bag.

Posted by Sarah
Chicago (formerly St. Louis), IL, USA
1311 posts

I try not to check my bag on overseas trips because of the possibility it will get lost (which happened a few years ago). If I do check it, either on a domestic trip or coming back from a trip abroad, I don't bother locking it. I don't put anything of value in it so if airport/airline employees want to go through it, that's fine with me.

Posted by Linda
Santa Rosa, CA, USA
283 posts

Do you want to be able to lock your bags while you're traveling? Then, yes. I always lock my bags with a TSA lock. Then, I can lock my bags when I in hotels, on trains, etc. I know I am not protected from baggage handling thieves at the airport. But I do like to lock my bags in the hotel room. I actually use two, one small lock on the zipper and a locking strap around my bag. The strap around my bag, I am hoping, will prevent it from popping open on the conveyor and embarrassing me. And I can use it to strap the bag in place on trains and in the hotel room. I know it's not foolproof. But if I make it inconvenient, I am hoping the thief will just move on to someone else's bag. BTW, I carry a laptop and DSLR camera. The laptop stays locked in my bag and when I don't want to carry the DSLR, I lock that in my bag, also...

Posted by Tom
2876 posts

As one who has witnessed his underwear spilling out onto the conveyor at CDG baggage claim, I would say that if your bags have zippered closures, locks or something similar definitely ARE necessary. Zippers can catch on something and get yanked open.

Posted by Ken
Vernon, Canada
17792 posts

Gary, As I use a Backpack (with zippers), I always secure my checked luggage, either with a TSA Lock, Cable Ties or the small disposable Luggage Tags sold on this website. I've found the zippers partially open on occasion, although fortunately I haven't lost anything yet. I've only had the Lock cut off once for an inspection. Some additional comments..... > If the Pack is accessed, either by breaking the Lock or by using the special key, it will be readily apparent (many TSA Locks have a small "flag" which indicates the lock was opened for inspection). > I use combination locks, so no worries about losing keys or whatever. > Although I could also use Cable Ties, these are a last resort as they could be hard to remove when I arrive (considering that my cutting implements are locked inside the bag). > Valuables such as my Netbook, Camera gear, etc. are all taken as carry-on, so on worries about losing them. However, losing clothing or other items from my Pack would be a major inconvenience so I try to minimize the possibility of that. Good luck with your decision!

Posted by Elaine
Columbia, SC
749 posts

FWIW - I have only had my checked luggage opened and inspected twice in my lifetime, and both times I was using TSA locks. They weren't broken, they had been locked and unlocked, and both times a note was inside from TSA stating my luggage had been inspected.
So now I am leery of using them, since I consider them to be an invitation to TSA to "check my luggage, please". Everything of value is in my carry on. I don't think I'll lock my checked luggage in the future, especially if it's just clothes. I can still carry the lock to use in hotel rooms if I feel the need to lock them there.

Posted by Sherry
San Jose, CA
1139 posts

I like the lock, more for use in the hotel and train than when flying. Locked luggage is where I leave valuables I'm not carrying that day. I also carry a very lightweight retractable cable lock. It's great for locking luggage to a rack or post on a train, when it's out of your sight. I've also used it occassionally in a hotel that makes me a little nervous. If I get stuck checking my luggage, I'm more likely to just use a colored cable tie. That way, the airline can cut it off easily if they decide to inspect (or pilfer), and I know if they've gone into my luggage.

Posted by Nancy
Corvallis OR
969 posts

I used to lock my suitcases in the hotel room because I thought, if nothing else, it would make a thief think twice about trying to break into it. However some very smart and well-traveled friends just laughed. They reminded me that if a thief got into my hotel room and wanted what was in the suitcase they would just walk out with it and I'd lose the whole thing. I don't bother anymore. I also don't lock any valuables in my suitcase in the hotel room. That's what room safes (or front desk safes) are for. If I'm not carrying it with me it's in the safe. Although I've heard that room safes are not all that 'safe' either. I never lock a suitcase when checking it on the plane, I just have a strap that goes around it (does not lock) to keep it together in case a zipper breaks.

Posted by Allen
Lafayette, LA
194 posts

I don't ever lock my bag. And I do check a bag when flying internationally. If its gets stolen or lost, hey, I 've got a claim to make and an excuse to buy clothes in a European city.

Posted by Nancy
Bloomington, IL, USA
7683 posts

I use a cable tie to secure the zippers on my bags. I keep a cheap pair of nail scissors in an outside pocket of the bag to remove the ties when I arrive.

Posted by JB
Redding, CA, USA
1568 posts

The only luggage I would not lock is an empty one.
We always use the TSA locks on our baggage whether traveling locally or internationally. All openings on our day back packs are locked. Never lost anything yet. In most situations in life...I believe in the saying....better safe than sorry. I would not like to even lose my travel flashlight while overseas. It is worth a lock.

Posted by Allen
Lafayette, LA
194 posts

Everytime I fly, the TSA leaves a card in my (unlocked) checked bag. Could it be the chapstick that sets off the alarm bells? High octane mouthwash, perhaps?

Posted by pat
victoria, Canada
7828 posts

I have never locked my bag , domestically or internationally, really do not see the point.

Posted by Monte
Genesee, ID
1376 posts

We use the little carabiners with screw closures. I don't see the point of using lock. Selling those little locks is about on par with selling RFID products. They separate people from their money to the benefit of the seller.

Posted by Susan
Sausalito, California
3209 posts

Been traveling in Europe for 50+ yrs and have never locked anything. I've never lost anything or had anything stolen from me.

Posted by Ms. Jo
Frankfurt, Germany
4769 posts

I never lock my bags. I just put a twist tie on the 2 zippers where they come together, just to make sure they don't open and spill my contents onto the luggage carousel.

Posted by S Jackson
Vancouver, Canada
53 posts

I too have always used plastic cable ties to lock my bags. In years of traveling; I've only ever had them cut off once, and that was when flying through a US airport. Nothing was missing, and they left a note inside to say it was an official inspection.
Make sure to leave a cheap pair of scissors in an unlocked outside pocket so you can remove the ties!