You’re a good vigilant traveler. You’ve packed your bags and secured them with a TSA approved lock to protect its contents. It’s all good, right? Keep believing that if it makes you feel better, but everything I just described could actually make you more of a target for theft. To begin with, locking your bag only provides you with a false sense of security. Unless you’re one of the few remaining travelers who still have hard-sided luggage with uniquely keyed locks on the latches, you’re probably more vulnerable than you think. If you have a bag with a zipper, it doesn’t take much to get into your bag and not even leave any evidence that it happened, all it takes is a ballpoint pen. By placing a lock on your bag, you’re telling thieves and unscrupulous baggage handlers there’s something worth stealing in that bag, even if there isn’t. But you also don’t want to just leave it unlocked and risk a zipper becoming accidentally opened or someone putting something in your bag. So what can be done?
You’ve probably read this a thousand times: don’t put valuables in your checked luggage. Keep it with your carry-on or ship it ahead. Of course, if you’re checking a Yves Saint Laurent, Rimowa, Tumi, Bottega Veneta or other high-end luggage, your bag itself is worth stealing, making it very impractical for air travel. But if you’re like most people using a Samsonite, Travelpro or other inexpensive bag, it’s best not to lock your bag. Instead, the TSA recommends using a small nylon zip tie to secure the zippers. It keeps your bag closed while making it less of a target. In most major U.S. airports, if the TSA needs to inspect the contents of your checked bag, and it’s secured with a zip tie (or a non-TSA-approved lock), they’ll cut it off for inspection and re-secure your bag with one of their bright yellow zip ties to let you know it was opened. All you need to remember is to bring some nail clippers to open your bag.