airports · Uncategorized · what to pack

Should You Watch Someone’s Luggage?

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It’s Travel Tip Tuesday! This week I’m addressing an issue that has happened to just about everyone, but you may not think much of it, even though it’s kind of a big deal: “Can you watch my stuff?”

So, should you? This question came up recently when a frequent traveler friend of mine was approached at an airport, where she was sleeping before her next flight, and asked to watch a stranger’s luggage. The “nice” answer is obviously, “ Of course! I’d be happy to! No worries! I’ll be right here making sure no one steals anything from your stuff!” But the right answer is “Absolutely not.” 

But we all want to be nice, right? We’re all in this travel thing together! We all want to go to the bathroom without lugging our carry-on and personal item along for the ride. It’s a lot easier to chase your kid around the airport when you’re not also laden with luggage. The reality is, however, that it is against every post-911 airport rule and regulation to watch anyone else’s items or for them to watch yours. As a small woman and a people pleaser, I find saying no to this question especially difficult, but keep reading to the end of this post for some very important examples of why it’s always a bad idea. In fact, here is a response from @AskTSA on Twitter:

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I love this service from the Transportation Security Administration (TSA)!

So what do you say? How do you politely say no and avoid coming off as the world’s highest flying jerk? You have some options! There are several statements you can make, so take a look at this list and practice a few before your next trip to the airport!

  • “No. I’m sorry, but it’s against TSA regulation.” This is perfectly true, and anyone who presses you on that issue will be the one coming off as a jerk. 
  • “My flight is going to board, so I can’t.” Even if your flight is an hour from boarding, it’s true that every flight has to board, including yours! 
  • “I’d rather not.” This is definitely the meekest response, but it’s true, and sometimes this is the best way to handle the situation non-confrontationally. Look the person in the eye when you say this, then immediately busy yourself with your phone, the book you’re reading, your knitting, or whatever else you were doing before they interrupted you to let them know you’re done with the conversation.

If someone presses you on any of these topics, 1) suggest that they ask someone else, 2) point out that if they can’t manage their own luggage they probably packed too much, or 3) simply get up and walk away. If they follow you, alert the first airport employee or officer you see. 

So what’s the big deal exactly? Why is it a bad idea? Here are some examples: 

  • What’s in that person’s bags? Do you know? Did you look? They may have gotten through security, but terrorists should not be stereotyped or underestimated—it could be the most unassuming person who was able to find a way to smuggle something past security. And now their bag is at your feet. 
  • Conversely, what is stopping a complete stranger from putting drugs, a weapon, or something else just as illegal in your bag after you ask them to watch it so you can step away and go to the bathroom?
  • I read recently that a nice person was waiting for her flight to board, said yes to watching a stranger’s things, and nearly missed her flight because the person was gone a long time! She thought she couldn’t leave the stranger’s bags because the gate agent said she was now responsible because she said yes, she would watch the bags! I don’t know that it’s true that you would be responsible someone else’s things, but why chance it? 

So, just say no! The first time might be difficult, but it gets easier after that! When was the last time you offered to watch a stranger’s luggage? When was the last time you asked someone to watch yours? If you have an applicable story, please share below! 

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