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Do I really need a lock on my suitcase?

I usually use a lock because I don't want my suitcase to open up in transit, but I hate having to keep track of the keys. One time my lock broke, so I used a twist tie. I just found these carabiner rings that are small enough to fit through my zipper lock. Is there any reason not to use them?

I never back anything valuable. Usually, it is just clothes and toiletries. And for years, I have used various things like carabiner rings to close up my purse or backpack.

Posted by
14150 posts

No, I quit using a lock when the locks my SIL, brother and I had jammed and had to be cut off. The last time I used a lock was June 2014.

As you've discovered, I use a twist tie or a carabiner to keep the zippers together if I check a bag. I like the Nite-ize brand S-biners. Easy for me to open, even the smaller ones.

I've kind of decided that locks just indicate to someone that there might be valuable "stuff" in the bag!

Posted by
11348 posts

Buy locks with a code used to open them. No keys needed! I figure it might slow a thief down to lock them. No valuables inside as they are in carry on.

Posted by
8581 posts

I dont use locks. Twist ties, zip ties, carabiners and even large safety pins. If you think about it, soft-sided luggage can be opened by thieves (or yourself) with a pocket knife through the sides or zipper.

Posted by
3188 posts

I've never used locks since I discovered zap-straps or cable-ties.
Use the black, very thin ones, snug them really tight, you can hardly see them, and a thief would have to be carrying a skinny knife or scissors blade to get them open.
I've never had them removed by an airline, they've always arrived intact.

Bring spares for your return trip.
I just put a cheap pair of small scissors in the (unlocked) smallest outside pocket of my checked bag to get the ties off when I arrive; or ask at the hotel for scissors.

Posted by
7482 posts

I carry a combination lock (usually TSA approved, even though I don't use them during air travel) inside my suitcase. While I use zip ties for air travel, I sometimes use the combo lock for:
1)Time in the "luggage room" at the hotel or an attraction
2)In the hotel room if my Ipad or camera (remember those?) is inside it
3)On a train, if I can't see the bag from my seat.
4)During a transfer, if I'm on a group tour. Sometimes bags sit in a hotel lobby for an hour or two.

Edit: I've also been to College Reunions where we didn't get a key to the (dorm) room we were assigned to. So we had stuff to lock up. After that, I also packed a cable to lock the suitcase to a radiator pipe. Yes, I know the lock isn't very sturdy. But we're talking about reducing opportunity, not setting up a bank vault.

Posted by
1595 posts

In 50 years of travel I have never used locks. I will use twist ties or carabiner rings just to keep the luggage from accidentally opening in transit.

Posted by
15969 posts

Nope, never used them and can't see that I'd ever feel the need to.

Posted by
5020 posts

Like SJ, we use zip ties. We have a bag of them in our travel cupboard and throw a handful into our electronics bag for use while traveling. I keep my small nail clippers in one of the outside pockets of the suitcase to open it once at the hotel.

Posted by
7377 posts

We’ve been traveling frequently to Europe since 2003, and we’ve never used a lock on a suitcase. We don’t check luggage but ride the trains a lot. Although almost always, our suitcase is above our heads on the shelf. I guess the only vulnerable place is that I consistently arrive early to hotels, so they place my suitcase & small backpack in their luggage storage.

The most annoying replacement would be acquiring my two prescriptions, but I doubt they want a toiletry kit.

Posted by
8484 posts

As others have mentioned, locks are pretty useless on luggage for keeping the contents away from a determined thief. However, some sort of system for keeping the zipper pulls together and letting you know if someone has been in your bag is actually quite helpful. Zip-ties are commonly used for this.

I use something similar to these.
The bright colors are also another way of identifying my luggage.

Posted by
23411 posts

.... Locked zipper bags can be easily opened using a ballpoint pen... That is true only if you don't immobilize the travelers (zipper pull). I always use zip ties to immobilize the travelers. Granted, zippers can be popped open with any sharp instrument but if the traveler is not mobile, then the separated zipper cannot be re-zipper together to cover the break-in.

Posted by
496 posts

I stopped using locks with keys decades a go - I use locks with codes and code them all alike.

I'd never travel with unlocked bags - people are fixated about having things stolen. But there are also cass where drugs have been planted in innocent people's luggage.

Posted by
2844 posts

While I carry a TSA approved padlock, I haven’t used it in ages. For soft sided luggage anyone with a sharp knife can get into it if they want. For my peace of mind, I use cable key chain locks to keep the zipper sliders together.

Posted by
7633 posts

I am in the "nope, never used them" camp, and fail to see what benefit they would actually provide. But then I don't buy cables to strap my phone to my body, armor proof day bags, RFID anything, or any of the plethora of anti-theft for my neck pouch, which works because I hate to carry a day bag and do not want my pockets crammed with things.

Posted by
23411 posts

I only reason I use zip ties to secure my bag is to prevent accidental opening. Over nearly 60 years of travel I have seen a couple of bags that were open and scattering clothing, etc., on the tarmac or the luggage return. If it provides a little theft deterrent that is a plus but mainly I am interested in keeping everything in the bag.

Posted by
2731 posts

I’ve never put a lock on a suitcase. I’ve never used twist ties either; just never thought of it. I guess I’ll consider it, but I’ve never had my luggage come open. Maybe I’ve been lucky.

Posted by
86 posts

I used to use locks but stopped once I saw a video of how easy it was to breach a zipper with a pen and then move the zippers to "repair" the breach. Lock was still intact and there was no evidence of any tampering.

A safety pin, cable tie, or other device to keep the zippers together can be useful while in transit to discourage someone from trying to unzip the bag, but I prefer to keep my bag with me and therefore don't use those devices.

Posted by
1259 posts

I carry NiteIze mini-biners as well as two full size, locking gate carabiners. They provide no credible security against a determined thief but they may (or may not) encourage someone to move on to a more vulnerable bag and leave mine alone. I have not had to leave my bag unattended in a rack on a train. I will be dealing with that anxiety this spring while in Spain.

MicroLock carabiners

Locking gate 'biner

Posted by
381 posts

I've stayed in places that don't have an in-room safe and when I stash "valuables" (extra credit card, copy of passport or the actual passport, sometimes some cash) in the room while we are out, I will lock items in a suitcase and tuck it away so it's not sitting out in plain sight in the room. I typically take a picture of the items and of the locked suitcase. Yes, the lock is easily broken but it gives me some peace of mind. On the flip side does the lock scream "goodies inside, open me up!"?

Posted by
18477 posts

That's a pretty interesting video; yikes!!!

I have my eyes pealed for people with ball point pens now.

I use a combo lock, but more out of habit. Maybe time to toss it away.

Posted by
2526 posts

I want to add yet more simple ideas. I too also as well will use a mini screw-gate carabiner or spring-gate carabiner or twist tie, but you can get just about as much of an effect with a bread bag tie, a large safety pin, or a key ring (just attach both zipper pulls of a bag's zipper to the same key ring, and that will add quite a bit of time to the sticky-fingered would-be thief. But, it also adds time for you -- is it worth it? The Nite-Ize slidelock s-biner is very tempting because it has useful camping applications, but so do the others, and those are all free.