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ASK JOURNEYS: Holiday travel sees huge jump in lost baggage

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It has been many years since I last visited Jamaica.

I've spent a number of weeks there over the years. Why I never returned is a mystery to me, as it was always a country I loved to spend time in, whether at the resorts around Goblin Hill, the beaches of Negril, or the more urban action of Montego Bay.

I just spent the last week there golfing with my son, introducing him to some of my old haunts, and discovering new ones with him on this trip. I look forward to sharing our experiences in a coming story on these pages.

Jamaica is the home of the all-inclusive resort and, with more than one option for non-stop flights from Manitoba, it's the perfect time of the year to be checking out their brochures.

QUESTION: As a frequent traveller there was a time when a checked bag of mine seemed to have gone astray about every six months.

With carry-ons I can't take items like razors along, and I hate those cheap things the hotels are willing to give out.

While I still try as much as possible to only go with carry-on pieces, I have an impression that the performance of airlines in this area seems to have improved, and I am thinking of starting to check bags again.

Am I correct in my conclusion?

ANSWER: There has been an improvement in the percentage of lost and misdirected bags.

But you may want to hold off starting your check-in bag process until after the holidays. Reports suggest that the percentage of bags lost during the month of December is as much as 35 per cent higher than the rest of the year. Likewise losses in January, during the winter sun destination season, are 43 per cent higher than normal.

The challenge is that Canada's airlines do not report these in the same way American carriers do, but in December of 2010 airlines relayed information that 4.7 bags per thousand were lost or damaged compared to the annual average of 3.47 per thousand.

Much of this is logical considering that it is the holiday season people travel with more bags than other times of the year, while January sees a dramatic peak in casual travel to sun destinations. It is in some of these countries airports where luggage handling may not be as effective as in other North American airports.

On another side note, it is regional carriers who report more losses than their mainline parents.

QUESTION: If I leave an item on the aircraft or if my luggage is not found immediately, what is the likelihood that it will ever be returned?

ANSWER: Some of the items left aboard aircraft would astound most people.

Cellphones and chargers are common. Laptops and eyeglasses rate a close second. But the more unusual include dentures, kitchen appliances, live fish in water, handcuffs and all nature of unmentionable personal items.

Airlines actually work very hard to return items left on board, and even harder to ensure luggage is located, returned and delivered as rapidly as possible.

In the States the Transportation Security Administration will keep items left at security for 30 days before they are turned over to a central collection facility for identification and eventual sale.

Here are some excellent points provided by experts to help ensure you are not one of those chasing after lost items.

On board the aircraft do not put anything in the seatback pocket as this is often where clean-up crews find valuable items.

Identify carry-on items with your name, including clothing, cellphones, and laptops.

Retrace your steps when you discover something missing and don't give up hope. Keep calling different options and be patient as often items are not processed for several days or weeks.

QUESTION: I am considering a spring trip to Greece. Considering their huge debt crisis and protests that were keeping tourists away, what are the chances of finding better bargains on accommodation?

ANSWER: The time is right to book your vacation now!

Across the board prices have dropped at least 10 to 15 per cent. While luxury properties have been able to hold prices at or near this level, the hotel industry reports that others have cut prices by as much as 40 per cent in an effort to get people to return to this truly amazing country.

There is some sense that these bottom line prices may not be necessary for all of next season but when it comes to buying and paying in advance for hotel rooms, there are attractive opportunities. The singular risk is that some smaller properties could be forced to close over the winter and your investment could be at risk.

But one way or another it seems clear that prices will remain lower than before the financial crisis hit, and tourists have a chance to see some of the most impressive icons in the world at a much reduced price.

It's also worth mentioning again that while the crisis affected all of Greece, the protests that gained world coverage were primarily centred in Athens. The islands, for the most part, carried on as though they were not connected to the more aggressive protesters who created the news.

Forward your travel questions to askjourneys@journeystravel.com . Ron Pradinuk is president of Journeys Travel & Leisure SuperCentre and can be heard Sundays at noon on CJOB. Previous columns and tips can be found on www.journeystravelgear.com or read Ron's travel blog at www.thattravelguy.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 17, 2012 D6

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