How Safe Are Luggage Locks? Plus 6 Checked Bag Commandments

 luggage locks

First thing first.

Using a TSA/CATSA luggage lock while traveling from, through or to the USA or Canada is not mandatory.

You can actually use any lock at all. BUT if your checked bag needs further inspection, and it’s not openable with the master key for the approved locks, it will get snipped. So if your gonna use one, make sure you pick one that has that “accreditation”.

But before you do, some further information on the matter.

TSA hacked master keys
@Johnny Xmas‏

In 2014 the Washington Post released an article that included high-resolution photos of these TSA master keys. It was a major oversight that was quickly realized and the images were pulled.

Unfortunately, it was enough time and visual information for 3D printer plans for the master keys to circulate. Making it possible for anyone with a 3D printer technology to whip up a set and run their own ’inspections’.

Strike 1 against safety…

In fact, let’s get this question out of the way right now.

Luggage locks are a small step above no lock at all.

This is probably not shocking news as we’ve all seen what a luggage lock look like. How impenetrable can those tiny shackles be? They can’t be hard to pick or discretely snip with wire cutters to a seasoned thief…

Forget the lock. It’s not even a part of the equation. Let me explain with a video demonstration:

😳 It’s not a pretty sight to see how effortless it is for someone to pop into your luggage with nothing more than a ballpoint pen?! And to leave the scene like they were never there at all. It’s a bummer that some people will violate other fellow human beings personal belongings this way.

The truth is stuff gets stolen. Theft isn’t uniquely a travel issue as you’re well aware. But there are travel security precautions that can make you less of a target.

…And a luggage lock isn’t at the top of the list (but we did include it just not for the reason your thinking!). Without further ado, let’s take a look at the:


1. Know Thine Luggage

luggage tag

In the off chance your luggage doesn’t make it to your final destination, you want whoever finds it to be able to contact you. Make sure your name address and phone number are clearly printed somewhere on your checked bag.


2. Respect Thy Treasures

travel packing

Leave grandmas heirloom at home.

Expensive jewelry, priceless or irreplaceable items should never set foot in your checked luggage. If your bag gets lost in transit or something disappears you want the worst case scenario to be you have to buy new socks and underwear. Not explain how the family treasures got lost.


3. Preserve Thine Identity

passport holder

Government Identification, passports, your boarding passes, and any essential documents should always be packed in your carry on. Leaving any of the above in your checked luggage is just tempting fate.


4. Remember Thy Cash Stash

travel money belt

Never, ever, put cash, credit cards or your bank cards in your checked baggage ever. Stash that on your person, ideally in more than one place (more tips on that here).


5. Honor Thine Technology

travel laptop sleeve

Your tech is fragile and expensive. Two things you need to avoid at all costs when packing your checked bag.

Laptops, electronics, and your tech can be heavy in your carry-on but wouldn’t you rather a sore shoulder than the pain of having to replace a stolen computer?


6. Securith Thine Zippers

TSA luggage lock

Ok ok, we know. We just went on about how luggage locks do not prevent theft. And that is true. But, we do support the misunderstood luggage lock to keep your zipper closed. Suitcases take a beating in transit and a luggage lock WILL prevent your zipper from shimmying open.

Another pro tip, and possibly a superior solution, are to stock up on colored zip ties (aka cable locks) and secure your zippers that way.
luggage zip ties

They can easily be snipped off by airport security if needed and if you use the colored ones you know someones been rummaging through your stuff (what are the chances security will be stocking rainbow zip ties?).

Being safe is thinking smart, knowing how the process works and how to minimize your risk. No matter what you do, for the greater good of security, checked bags are subject to inspections. So pack by the commandments!

What are your thoughts on luggage locks? Do you use one? Let us know with a comment below 🙂


2 Responses

  1. Best advice is to never check bags. It is entirely possible- and liberating even- to travel with only a carry-on and a small daypack. It does require you to purchase clothes designed for travel that are lightweight and easily washed- leave the jeans at home!

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