How to check in luggage at the airport

When it comes to check in luggage, timing is everything. However, there are some other useful travel tips that you should know about. And once you learn them, your trips will become more comfortable and less stressful.


When and where do you check your luggage at the airport

Make sure you arrive at the baggage checker at the airport earlier, especially on busy days (e.g. before the winter holidays). To play it safe, you should check in luggage two hours before a domestic flight. For international flights, you should show up even earlier and find out where do you check bags at the airport up to three hours in advance.

Either way, make sure you don’t check in luggage at the last minute. Sure, you’ll make your flight, but your excess baggage may not. And, if you miss the airline’s deadline for completing the baggage check in, they may not assume liability for damaged or missing luggage. It doesn’t matter if we’re speaking about American airlines or other flight companies, this applies everywhere.

Being on time is (almost) everything. You’ll soon learn that the answer to “is it safe to check your bag at airport?” also depends on your actions on the day of the departure.


preparing check in luggage
Packing your check-in suitcase for the airport bagage check, respecting TSA guidelines

How to prepare your checked luggage

When you get your plane tickets, keep in mind that the chances of missing luggage can increase or decrease depending on the type of flight you book. Therefore, it’s safest to book a nonstop or direct flight, where you never change the aircraft. However, the risk for baggage disruption increases when you have an online connection and you switch aircraft with the same airline. The riskiest, of course, is when you have an interline connection and you must change both aircraft and airline. So get used to airline travel lingo and choose your plane ticket wisely to keep your checked baggage as safe as your carry on bag!

Then, before you even start packing your check in luggage, verify the weight restrictions for your flight. Different airlines and even different classes of travel come with different rules for checked luggage. If you uncover them before you pack your bags and respect them, you will avoid paying extra for your baggage.

Want to save money on checked bag fees?
Keep an eye out for flight tickets with included checked luggage or first checked bag free.


How do you check in luggage at the airport

When you head over to the check in desk, have your documentation ready. Depending on your itinerary, no matter the airports, they will ask for your ID/passport and, if necessary, your visa. Most airlines will issue your boarding pass for free once you check-in luggagr, while others may charge you unless you checked in online, obtaining an electronic boarding pass in advance.

As soon as you’re ready to give your luggage away, verify the aspects you may have missed until then: search there aren’t any straps or hooks left hanging outside your travel bag. Those can get caught in the baggage processing machine and damage your bag.

Once you hand your check in luggage, the airline company will weigh your bags. If there are no extra baggage fees to pay, they will move on to attaching baggage information tags with the destination on each piece of luggage. You will receive the corresponding stubs that you will use as claim checks at your destination.

Make sure you get a stub for each checked bag. Each of them has a three-letter code that corresponds to the IATA airport code of the place you’ll be landing, plus your flight number. This way, baggage sorters know on which plane to put your bags on and where they’re heading. Checking your bag tags twice before your checked luggage goes down the baggage handling system’s conveyor belt is smart and also increases your overall security while traveling.

For security purposes, don’t throw those stubs before you get to the baggage claim after your flight. Keep those pieces of paper/stickers until you’ve claimed your bags and verified their contents at your destination.

If your bags need to be checked again during your trip (e.g. interline connection without airline agreements), make sure you remove any tags from your luggage before it’s time to go through everything again. If there are multiple tags on your bags, it may confuse the baggage handlers. They may send your check-in luggage to follow other itineraries than your own.

What to learn how to pack your carry on luggage the right way?
Check my ultimate cabin baggage packing list!


Check in luggage tips by…

Mirela Letailleur The Travel Bunny

Mirela Letailleur is a Romanian travel blogger living in the South of France. She writes on The Travel Bunny travel blog about affordable travel in Europe, creator of unique free travel guides, local travel expert. Problem solver. Wannabe coffee guru.

Read more about Mirela Letailleur

To learn more about check in luggage, you should also read
How to pack checked luggage the right way
How to respect the baggage allowance and avoid checked baggage fees