Sea of luggage swallowed your suitcase? Think fast.

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Losing luggage via the airport is no fun. (Understatement.) It can throw your travels into a tumult, causing panic and distress for the duration. But there are a few strategies you can implement—both before leaving home and once you're at baggage claim and have realized the luggage is lost—that will help you handle this situation if it happens to you.

The most important thing to do once you realize your luggage is lost might seem obvious. However, plenty of travelers who lose luggage are in a state of panic, and they waste time before taking the essential first step, which is: Report the luggage lost as soon as possible.

If you don't file a report with the airline about your lost luggage, your chances of reclaiming the luggage decline sharply. Filing a report as soon as possible will begin a paper trail that will help you keep track of the process and, hopefully, recover your luggage. It will also kickstart the airline's system of internal tracking with the goal of locating your bag.

File the claim at the airport. There should be a station in the baggage claim area or an attendant nearby who can assist you and guide you to the baggage claim office. When making the claim, you will be expected to provide your flight number, contact information, and a description of the lost luggage. After filing the report, be sure to obtain a copy of the form for your records. Get a phone number or other contact info for the airline's lost luggage department so that you can follow up on the report.

There are also a few things you can do before leaving home that may prove useful in case of lost luggage.

1. Make a List

While packing for the flight, make a list of everything you've zipped into your suitcase so that you know what's lost, what you'll need to repurchase, and the value of the contents inside.

2. Snap a Photo

You'll also want to snap a photo of the interior and exterior of your suitcase before zipping it up and checking it at the airport. That photo will help jog your memory when reporting the luggage as lost. The airline will ask for a description of the suitcase, and you'll want to be able to describe the brand, style, and color as accurately as possible.

3. Add Some Style

Finding your lost black canvas rolling bag in the sea of black canvas rolling bags moving through the airport is—and this is another understatement—tough. Make it easy on those looking for your bag by adding an identifying feature to the luggage. Tie a ribbon to the handle or add a unique tag or memorable keychain to increase the bag's visibility and set it apart from the ocean of identical luggage out there. (Or, even better: monogram it!)

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Have you ever lost luggage while traveling on vacation or home for the holidays? What tips would you offer travelers facing a similar situation?