Want to pack light but don't know where to start? Let's find the perfect size bag using this quiz!

20 Cringeworthy Luggage Nightmares You Just Need to Read

luggage nightmares

A bad luggage experience has the power to completely sour a trip. I totally understand that; I’ve been there myself! Yet I can’t stop laughing at some of these luggage nightmare stories (I’m sorry!). Some are just too insane.

Have a read, a laugh (in a sympathetic way of course), and try to focus on the lessons in the process. Would any of these stories affect the way you pack and view luggage handling when you travel?

>> Of course you can avoid many of these luggage nightmares by going carry-on only and packing smaller, lighter and smarter.

Run Over By a Truck

“On the way to Cancun once, my suitcase was actually run over by some kind of truck. It split the hard part of the suitcase and ripped up the soft part. Someone had tried to duct tape it together–and that’s how it arrived (very late) on the belt: A duct-taped, broken thing with clothes spilling out. I actually had to chase some of my underwear and a shoe on the conveyer since it had fallen out during the ride.”

Kayt Sukel

Wine Drinking Thieves

“I was headed home from the south of France after a summer abroad studying. Flight on Delta/AirFrance Marseille To Jacksonville, Fl via CDG and ATL when none of my luggage made it on the flight from CDG to ATL. Bizarre at first because I had a 7hr layover. Plenty of time, one would think. I filed claims, made calls and nothing for 2 weeks until I received a voice mail from CDG baggage claim asking what they should do with my luggage. Of course the message was in French. Thankfully, I spent the summer improving my French. A few days later my luggage arrived at my door step. Well, parts of my luggage.

I originally checked 1 suitcase, 1 fully stuffed Hockey size duffle bag and 3 cases of red, white & sparkling wine. What showed up was 1 suitcase 1/2 filled, 1 duffle lacking in contents and 1 case of wine. The thieves were kind enough to put a few white, red and 2 bottles of sparkling wine in the one and only case delivered.

I had taken pictures and a detailed list of what I had packed. I had insured everything but somethings I cant replace like certain wine, clothes, paintings etc. That wasn’t the first time it happened and I’ve since documented everything that goes into my luggage.”

-Sondra C.

No Luggage Left Behind

“I was headed to Madrid for a 6 week backpacking trip, but I was on a shoe-string budget. I bought a 1-way ticket from Boston to New York and another 1-way ticket from New York to Madrid. My flight from Boston to New York was delayed and when I got to New York my bag was missing. Because I bought two 1-way tickets, the airlines were unable to help out, as the first one got me to my destination and the second one didn’t care that I was missing my bag. After lots of tears and begging, I spent the night at the airport and found out the next morning that my missing bag was still in Boston. Since my flight to Madrid was on a low cost carrier, their next flight to Madrid was 3 days later. So I flew back to Boston, picked up my bag, and my parents drove me to New York 3 days later so I could finally fly to Madrid! They were willing to get my bag to New York, they just couldn’t guarantee when.”

-Emily Dziedzic

We Left the Messenger Bag

“After stocking up on a bunch of items, we arrived in Bali with 6 bags total. After getting through customs and finding our ride, we were finally headed home. But at least 30 minutes after we left the airport, my husband noticed his messenger bag was missing. This was the the bag that contained all the important stuff in it, like passports, credit cards, camera, MacBook, iPad. We turned around and went back to the airport, calling the airport and anyone else who might be able to help. We also realized that he left the messenger bag at the customs conveyor belts, which has to be the best place in the airport to lose something important. After running through the almost deserted airport, we finally found a customs officer who brought us to his office and had our bag, and luckily everything was still in it.”

Amber Hoffman

Where’s my dog?

“One time on a layover in Atlanta, the airline somehow forgot to load my dog onto my next flight. When I got to Atlanta, my dog wasn’t there!”

-Rebecca Stevens

Locked Out

I’m a great believer in having locks on my zips for my back pack… Then I go and lock myself out of my own bag! Doh! Luckily I had a pair of nail cutters and was able to cut a hole in one of the pockets and get my keys out! Haven’t done that one again… Yet!

-Gina Cambridge

Everything But the Dress

“My mom flew out to California to visit my brother back in the mid 80s. She brought along my homecoming dress that she was going to alter for me so I could wear when she got back. The luggage got ripped open on the flight home and everything was ruined except for my homecoming dress which was pure white lace.”

-Kathryn L’Amoreaux

Shopping Spree

“My mother went on a trip with my sister and I, with a checked bag and a carry on. She shopped. When we went home, she had three checked and two carry on, my sister, who had started with a checked and a carry on, had three checked(two of which were Mom’s), and I had started with a carry on and had three checked (none of which were mine). This was when the first bag was free. I think Mom could have bought another ticket for what she paid in baggage fees, and it almost didn’t fit in the car when we got to our home airport. Moral of the story: watch your shopping!”

-Paula Geisik

Mystery Solved

“Flying back to Spain with a budget carrier after visit to UK, with absolutely stuffed full hand luggage. Security screened my bag 3 times, supervisor called over and asked to open my case. Of course once unzipped everything burst out. Then security found the Y shaped item that showed on the screen which they were concerned about… a potato masher, the Y shape was the metal sides and the plastic mashing bit didn’t show on the security screen. They thought it was some sort of taser. Once found the security guy held it up for everyone to see… Then I had to try and cram everything back in the case.”

-Sandy Fry

Underwear Hunting

“I was traveling from Pennsylvania to Texas and had a suitcase packed for the two month stay. When I got to Texas I had to wait about 2 hours to get my luggage, it had fallen off one of the ramps outside and then again inside and burst open everywhere. I was underwear hunting for another good hour and an earring from a set my husband got me for our anniversary was lost forever.”

-Alina Gatrell

lost luggage nightmares
Lost luggage is a nightmare.

Cold, Sick & Nothing to Wear

“My bags got lost somewhere in between Indonesia and New Zealand for three days. I was very sick with malaria, it was winter in New Zealand, and the only warm thing I had to wear were the jeans I travelled in. Luckily, I eventually got the bags, and I learned a lesson in packing a spare outfit in my carry on!”

Bonnie Etherington Eastwood

Whiskey Sour

“My backpack once came off the belt absolutely soaked in someone else’s bottle of whisky. I smelt like an alcoholic for a while…”

-Survey Respondent


“Left our suitcase in the parking lot at the hotel.”

-Survey Respondent

Nowhere to Be Found

“American Airlines also once told me my luggage was completely lost and not in the back room full of lost luggage. After trying to convince them for a full 20 minutes to just let me look around they let me in – only to find that my luggage was literally right inside the door. Ugh.”

-Survey Respondent

A Smaller Waistline

“I was flying with a really cheap airline in Europe and they didn’t have a plastic bag for me to put my hiking-type backpack in. When I met my poor bag on the other side the whole waistband had broken right off. Thankfully it was my second to last flight, we didn’t have a lot of walking to do, and it was repairable when I got home.”

-Survey Respondent

Layers, Layers, Layers

“I had to wear 3 layers of each clothing item (think 3 bras, 3 underpants, 3 t-shirts, 3 pants) because I was 18kg over in my luggage allowance. Very hot and sweaty until I could strip off once on board!”

-Survey Respondent

Something Smells Fishy

“My husband and I flew to Arizona for the weekend and when all the luggage started coming out on the belt I thought, “What is that smell?” Shrugged it aside and thought – let’s grab our bag and get out of here, but when we were rolling the bag away the smell was following us. Apparently, someone had checked in a box of fish they bought at Pike Place Market in Seattle and it leaked all over numerous pieces of luggage. It was AWFUL! We had to throw out our suitcase right there in the airport. Airline said it’s not the first time that this has happened on a flight from Seattle. They gave us a loaner suitcase, paid for a new bag and had all of our clothes cleaned.”

-Ossie Benitah Roycroft

Sole Survivor

“A group of teachers and students from my school traveled around Germany, Austria, etc. this spring break and 31 of their 32 bags were lost. They didn’t get them back until a week after they got back to GA.”

-Angela Burgess

Jet Fuel on Everything

“Lufthansa poured jet fuel all over my backpack (which then got all over everything I was wearing when I tried to carry it) and their baggage company refused to replace it. After many phone calls, Lufthansa ended up replacing it themselves.”

Kristin Repsher

Home With the Wrong Bag

“One time my daughter’s suitcase got claimed by someone else! The airlines don’t help with that and we finally found the person who had her suitcase – which I don’t remember how now- but we had to drive about 45 minutes to a stranger’s house and pick it up. Icky to think somebody else had her stuff!”

-Donna Russell

So what can we learn from [most of] these stories here? I think the biggest point is just realizing that luggage is pretty much never safe unless it’s with us. Every time you check is another chance that something might go missing, get broken, get picked up by the wrong person, or some other stressful event.

>> If you like this post, you might also enjoy other types of luggage nightmares. And you can help alleviate packing stress, to avoid these issues, by using this guide.

Do you have a luggage nightmare you’d be willing to share?

Avoid these luggage nightmares!

Written by Brooke

I run the show at Her Packing List and love packing ultralight. In fact, I once traveled for 3 entire weeks with just the contents of a well-packed 12L handbag. When I'm not obsessing over luggage weight, I'm planning adventures or just snuggling with my pet rabbit, Sherlock Bunz.

Add your voice & leave a comment!

Gear We Use

speakeasy hidden pocket travel scarf ad
Speakeasy Hidden Pocket Scarves


Splice Jaisalmer Reversible Tunic
Splice Reversible Jaisalmer Tunic


Eagle Creek Compression Packing Cubes
Eagle Creek Compression Packing Cubes


tom bihn 3d organizer toiletry bag
Tom Bihn 3D Organizer Cube


Sea to Summit Ultra-Sil Daypack - Fits in the palm of your hand!
Sea to Summit Ultra-Sil Daypack


Turkish Travel Towels


Travel Resources

HPL Learnables

HPL Packing Method – Learn to pack your lightest bag ever in this revolutionary packing course by HPL founder, Brooke.

Book Your Trip

Viator – Enhance your trip experience by booking from thousands of tours across the globe.

Booking.com – Search for hotels, hostels, and apartments using this one resource. Use it for flights, car rentals, and airport taxis as well.

Trusted Housesitters – Save money on travel accommodation by becoming a housesitter. Housesitters often have extra duties, like caring for pets and gardens.

Reader Interactions


  1. Lady Light Travel says

    Wow! Almost all of these scenarios could have been avoided if people packed lightly and only took a carry on. That’s one thing I like about Her Packing List – the focus is not merely fitting it all into a carry on, but traveling as lightly as possible. If you don’t check it they can’t lose it.

    • Kathryn says

      To be fair, carry on isn’t always possible. I’m preparing for a 6 month+ trip and thought I had it all together to take a carry on bag then realised I have to take essential medication to cover the period! And, of course, it all has to be in the original packaging for customs.

      • Lady Light Travel says

        Did you know that your doctor can prescribe blister packs that contains all of your medications? They are separated out by morning, noon, evening, and bedtime dosages. The packaging normally isn’t covered by insurance but isn’t a huge cost. The blister packs have the medication stickers just like pill bottles. It’s easy to see if you missed a dosage.
        Have your doctor prescribe one for you. One commercial name is Webster-pak.

        • Kathryn says

          Thanks. I have seen them but I’m not sure if they’ll reduce bulk. I have to go to the pharmacy and get my meds next week so I might have a chat her about the best way to reduce bulk, maybe a few months worth in one pack or something. Otherwise, I’ll repack them.

      • Sandra says

        Totally agree. It depends on the kind of travel and time. I am heading for 6 to 12 months working in Africa and there is no way I could just pack a carry on. I tried to pack all my stuff in my Osprey fairview 55 lt and it’s just not gonna happen. I usually travel super light but this time I need to take clothes for working in the field, hiking boots, sleeping bag and even though I try to have most of my toiletries in solid form (shampoo, body soap and conditioner) I also need some liquid products and enough of them for my stay. I use vegan products and know I will not find them where I am going. I also need to take a Gps and knife and a safety razor and some specific stuff that would not be accepted in cabin. But I will try my best to pack as light as possible.

  2. Clare Gichard says

    Two stories:
    1. Once at Heathrow I waited and waited for my case, but the one still going round on the carousel was almost identical to mine. The kind baggage attendant checked it and found that it belonged to a journalist with a London newspaper, from which they got his phone number. So he had to come back to the airport with my case, which he had taken without checking.
    2. Another time, also at Heathrow, I was the guilty party. I came off the transfer bus from Gatwick and it wasn’t until I was about to check my case in for the flight to Singapore that I realized the case wasn’t mine. So I had to rush back to the Central Bus station with it to exchange it with the other by now very unhappy passenger. However, neither of us missed our onward connection.
    Moral of the story: if your case looks very similar to other do customize it, if only with a garish ribbon tied to the handle. Even better, travel hand luggage only, which I am about to do for the first time, and for a 5-week trip.across four countries.

    • Brooke says

      Ah both of those stories would have been so stressful! Good luck on your trip with carry-on only! Report back if you have time 🙂

  3. DebbsSeattle says

    I hate checking bags. 1: it slows me down lugging them or schlepping them for 2 weeks… 2: they can get lost… 3: I never end up wearing it all. 4: I still forget things… 5: I still buy things. When I do check, I split the load such as 1 dress in carry on and another in check. A jeans in carry and one in check. Wear the most overall useable shoes. Layer your travel clothing…tank, tee, cardigan. I also have packed a small carryon inside a large check. This allows me to bring back all that tourist crud and use the small as a second carry on

  4. Fiona Ludbrook says

    Only one baggage guff.
    I once tried those plastic anti tamper seals you have to cut off.
    On arrival at my hotel, I realised I had to cut the ties off, rather than unlock them.
    What with? The days of having so much as a pair of nail scissors in my purse were over!
    A call to reception had a waiter deliver me a knife, suitable for the purpose.
    In this instance, at a 5 star hotel I had to tip 5 star style twice, to deal with something I should have been aware of when I checked in and requested my luggage be unsealed before it was delivered to my room, or accompanied, initially by a knife wielding bell hop!
    Both staff were very happy with the tips they received!
    These days I favour luggage with built in coded locks!

  5. Linda Walls says

    Thought I’d leave you a reply on worst suitcase disasters my husband night our daughter went to Grand Cayman on vacation with one suitcase and one carry-on for all of us for a week. You had no problems getting there and had a wonderful time. It was the evening when we were packing up to prepare for the next day that our suitcase had ripped where the zipper meets the main part of the suitcase. You could zip up the suitcase but it wasn’t going to stay closed. When you have three peoples week long clothes in one suitcase we had to scramble and find somewhere we can get another suitcase. We asked the front desk and they sent us over to a thrift mall. They didn’t have any suitcase or duffle bags. But the people were nice enough to send us to what I refer to it as a local Sam’s club. After checking out of the hotel and our clothes literally throw in about the trunk, I was able to go to this Sam’s Club type place and ask if they have any suitcases. Of course they sold them in sets of two or three. I found a set on wheels that actually was reasonably priced, bottom, and spent the next 20 minutes in the parking lot with my husband loading everything from the trunk into that suitcase by rolling it up very tight. We still have those beautiful suitcases today. They were hard side rolling spinners and white. No one seems to have them when we travel so it’s ideal to identify one’s luggage and they have held up fantastically. It makes me think the next time I travel with family take a duffel bag and place in the suitcase just in case.

Leave A Reply