To Lock or Not To Lock

eagle-creek-travel-safe-lock-tsa-redTo lock, or not to lock, that is the question.

I now what you’re thinking. We onebaggers don’t check  luggage.  They never leave our sight.

Or do they?

When was the last time you had to gate check your bag? Wasn’t it taken from your sight? And what about the overhead big? Do you watch it every minute?

Sadly, those are two places where the occurrence of theft has been increasing. There have been cases of crooked baggage handlers who not only open regular checked luggage but gate checked bags as well.

And as for the overhead bin,  if someone gets up to get something from there, do you watch their every move or do you assume they are getting something from their own bag. Gangs have been known to buy discounted tickets on short haul flights just to rob passengers. And there was even one Air France flight attendant who was caught stealing from numerous flights.

And if that wasn’t enough, there have even been cases of passengers reaching down underneath their own seat to pilfer the bag of the person sitting behind them.

While locking a bag may not stop a determined thief, it will definitely slow down or stop an opportunistic one. They are looking for easy pickings and a lock prevents it.

Sure, there are videos on YouTube showing you how to open up a locked bag, but again, these are the rarities.

The type of lock doesn’t matter–combination, key or card. Whichever you prefer. (If it’s a combination lock I’d suggest getting the type where you can set the combination. This way, you can set all your locks to one combination so you’ll have an easier time remembering.)

I’d also suggest getting a lock that is TSA approved if you’re flying in the U.S. These type of locks can be opened by TSA with the use of a special key and may prevent them from being cut off. The lock package should say it’s TSA compliant but you should also look for either of these symbols:


When to lock is also important. My suggestion is to keep them locked when they are out of your sight, but make sure they are unlocked when going through security.

If you’re still truly against locks, how about the use of a carabiner or even twist ties? Almost anything will help to slow down or prevent an opportunistic thief from robbing you.

One other thing……this may be going overboard, but when you get up to go to the loo, you might want to think about taking your seat bag, full of your electronic toys,  with you.

In case you haven’t guessed, I lock my bags. I’d rather have peace of mind rather than try to find a new computer halfway around the world.


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4 Responses to To Lock or Not To Lock

  1. gafer says:

    A bag with a lock can also be used as an in-room-safe for your valuable electronics and other items while you’re down in the hotel gym or out at dinner. Again, a determined thief will still win but it will slow down dishonest hotel staff.

    I would also suggest using a lock with 4 dials instead of 3. A 3 dial is only 1,000 combinations. You’d be surprised how quickly these can be randomly cracked. It takes less than 20 minutes to dial in every possible combination. Now a 4 dial is 10,000 combinations and therefore would take 10 times as long. Hotel staff and other would be thieves typically don’t have the hours it would take to crack your combination.

  2. Maggie says:

    I live in Asia and there have been numerous stories of gangs travelling around the region on cheap flights solely for the purpose of stealing from overhead bins. Travellers here tend to travel with lots of cash and expensive ‘treasures’ so it’s very profitable for the thieves.

    As gafer suggests, I have 4-dial locks and one that has 4 letters – one has to consider that these thieves are mainly from one country and a lock requiring a four-letter English word will, hopefully, have them moving onto easier fare.

    IMO, it’s about deterrent. Have your bag look like the most difficult option to get into as thieves are after the quick and easy mark.

    So do I lock my carry-on? Hell yes!

  3. hamster says:

    I don’t bother with locks on bags. Why?

    When the zipper is the biggest point of security weakness, a lock is just lipstick on a pig.

    Now, for some suitcases without zippers, like an old pre-zipper Rimowa, or a Pelican case, then perhaps a lock can deter thieves. When I DO gate-check (which is rare), I use a Pelican 1510. I slap on a brightly colored cable-tie just prior to gate-check as a “tamper-evident” seal, more than anything else. All valuables are with me on my person. In general, my bags are worth more than what is actually in them.

  4. Paula Bag Lass says:

    I use a card lock.

    I lock my bag once I’m through security and it stays locked until I reach my destination. Any other travel (train or bus), my bag is locked even though it is with me at my seat.