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Luggage locks...are they needed?

We have purchased a couple of those little combination luggage locks for our upcoming Rick Steve’s tour, with the intent of using them on our luggage, to secure valuables while the luggage is stored in our hotel rooms. Is this a good idea, or unnecessary? Thanks in advance for your inputs!

I like the little combo. locks and use them as you have described. I also put one on my zipper of my day pack/purse to thwart pickpocketers. I haven't been robbed yet!

Posted by
22018 posts

I lock my luggage any while I'm out of the hotel room during the day as well as when I'm in the process of switching hotels. It's a simple step and it would at least slightly slow down an opportunistic thief.

Having once unknowingly dropped the key into my suitcase right befor I locked the bag, I now carry two keys, kept in different sections of my purse.

Posted by
1357 posts

We have traveled quite often, both independently and on tours (including RS tours). We have never locked our luggage in our hotel room and have never had anything taken/disturbed.

Posted by
22169 posts

It is a 50/50. Some suggest that if you lock you tell them that there is some valuable is in your suitcase. I personally don't think it makes any difference. I think it is all fairly silly. The probability of room theft is extremely low but if it provides you with a comfort level then do it. When checking luggage we do use the plastic wire tie for all of our zippers. Not so much as theft prevention as making sure the bags stay shut while being handle by the airline folks. Remember once sitting in an airport watching a load of luggage on a cart going by with someone clothing slowly flying out of a bag because the bag was open. If security wants to take a peer, they can easily cut off the ties. And, of course, the only thing of value I have is an Ipad. Money, credit cards, etc. are always with me. So little value other than some clothes in the room. I would not worry but you might.

Posted by
9026 posts

Locks are useless if your bag has zippers. Just jabbing a ball point pen anywhere along the threads will circumvent the lock in two seconds. The most valuable item in my bag is my electric razor. If it gets stolen I won’t loose any sleep over it.

Posted by
2788 posts

In 16 trips to Europe we use TSA approved locks on our check-in suitcases but do not lock our suitcase in our bedrooms but then again we do not leave any valuables in our bedrooms. We travel light with only one 21/22" roller bag each plus a day bag each. We keep anything important in our money belts that we always wear correctly.

Posted by
10694 posts

I've done 11 RS tours and have never locked my suitcase in my room. If I don't take my iPad Mini with me, I put it in a packing cube and put it in the suitcase. I also don't take any valuables other than electronics (iPhone and iPad Mini). No expensive jewelry or other stuff. I have my money and passport in my money belt with my extra cards (yes even on tour) and my day money in my purse. And yes, the hotel and all the employees know you are part of the tour group and I think that makes things safer. They like the steady business the RS tours bring.

At the beginning my brother, SIL and I all had those combo locks with 2 loops on them. On the way to a RS tour in Ireland my SIL couldn't get her lock open in the Seattle airport (bless the staff at the Ex Officio store who had scissors and managed to get it off), then my brother's failed when he tried to get his open in the hotel (where they had pliers at the desk because they said it happens all the time). I got mine off and immediately threw it away.

I DO connect my suitcase zippers with a small caribiner just to keep the zippers from coming apart.

Many hotels have room safes but I don't trust them either. If you use them get your stuff out the night before you depart because it's always a flurry of activity then and you don't want to wait until then to have an issue getting it back open.

Posted by
2764 posts

Couldn't hurt, I suppose. However, I never use locks on my luggage. Hotel room break ins are extremely rare, and a thief could just take the suitcase and break the lock later. Suitcases are by definition portable. I think this is another case of being overly paranoid, but there's no harm in it.

All you really need is to put any valuables inside the suitcase, or anywhere else that is not in obvious plain sight. So don't leave the laptop on the desk or credit cards on the nightstand. Then the suitcase in the closet, under the bed, or basically anywhere in the room. I tend to bury my items under clothes so that if someone did open the suitcase they see clothes not an ipad, but even this is overkill to me.

Now those TSA locks for checked luggage might be worth looking into if you check bags. I've never used those either, and rarely check bags, but I have heard of theft from checked luggage.

Posted by
22169 posts

But TSA locks are ONLY useful within the US. They are a waste of money.

Posted by
1179 posts

I use them under the following conditions:

  • At security. I don’t want anyone going into my carry on but me. Locking my luggage keeps people out of my bag until I allow it. Let’s face it, it isn’t too hard to get temporarily separated from your bag at the security line.
  • In transit. That includes the overhead bin (like when I’m sleeping on the plane) and also while I’m traveling on public transit. It keeps opportunity thefts at bay. And most thefts in Europe are opportunity thefts.
  • In my room. I usually put electronics in my bag and lock it. Then I throw my bag In the drawer so it’s out of sight. Again, it’s about reducing opportunity.
  • In storage. I may need to leave my bag if my room isn’t ready, etc.

I’d like to point out some fallacies:

  • “It hasn’t happened yet”. Hasn’t happened doesn’t mean can’t happen. Theft (or lack of theft) is usually an independent probability, not a cumulative one. By the same logic you don’t have to wear seat belts if you’ve never been in an accident! It doesn’t work that way. Things change across time.
  • “It’s a small probability” Risk is about probability times impact. While the probability of theft is low, the impact due to theft on my trip will be significant. At a minimum, I’ll have to waste precious vacation time to go shopping and replace what I’ve lost. So while probability is low, risk is medium to high, depending on your trip and what you’re carrying.
  • “You can breach the zipper with a pen”. That’s true. Thieves rely on self healing zippers to cover their tracks once they’ve breached the zipper. But many bags now have a security ring on them. Clipping the lock to the zipper and security ring makes the zippers unmovable. That means theives can’t use the self healing feature of the zipper to cover their theft. You’ll immediately spot it, increasing risk to the thief.
  • “TSA locks are only good in the US”. For carry on bags, it doesn’t matter. You’ll always be with your bag so can always unlock it for any security officer. With that said, you’re using your bag well outside of the airport. At that point it is just a lock designed to protect your valuables.

Locks are a small expense and easy to use. The benefits they provide far exceed any hassle.

I use a small combination luggage lock. No keys to lose that way. I’ve had a cable lock fail on me. I had to borrow scissors from the Starbucks stand at Ataturk airport to cut it off. Yes, the scissors were inside the secure area.

Posted by
2343 posts

I only use the combination lock when I have to leave my luggage in a store room when I can't yet get into my room, occasionally when I leave the room if I have purchased something of value. I figure they're good to have.

Posted by
31627 posts

I always like to lock at least one of my packs when I'm out of the room, and use small combination FlexLocks for that. I also like to lock my checked backpack during air travel, as the on a couple of past occasions the zippers have worked themselves partially open during the trip.

Posted by
4535 posts

I agree 100% with Cindy H. And if you've already purchased the locks, why not use them? Will they prevent a seasoned thief from getting in your bag? No. But it limits crimes of opportunity and prevents the zippers from coming open accidentally. That's why I use them.

Posted by
5818 posts

My Sporttube ski box is a two piece hard shell assembly secured together (with skis and poles inside) with a special clevis pin. On two different occasions several years apart, TSA lost the clevis pin after opening the box to inspect the skis. The first time it happenend, my ski box arrived with a cable tie inserted where the clevis pin should have been placed on my return flight. I bought repalcement pins (two) and used one to secure the box, with the spare attached to the box. On my last trip earlier this year, TSA lost the pin on the outbound inspection and used my spare pin. The replacment pins cost $10 for 2 plus shipping.

Just wondering if you use a TSA lock, what the change of TSA misplacing your lock. Or worst yet, switch TSA locks using someone elses lock on you bag. Just wondering.

Posted by
3549 posts

Locks are useless. If it's valuable, either wear it daily or leave it home.

Posted by
1179 posts

Locks are useless. If it's valuable, either wear it daily or leave it home.

That’s a bold claim. Care to back it up with any data or reasoning?

Posted by
1125 posts

I use a locking gate carabiner to snag a couple of zipper pulls. This provides scant security but provides a bit a fiddling for a potential pilferer. I do this on my carry-on bag up in the bin. Also, I place my carry-on in the bin opposite my seat, not above it, so I can sort of keep an eye on it if someone opens the bin in flight.