Here’s what to do if you leave something on a plane

There’s nothing as hectic as a traveling day. We all know the drill: from the moment your alarm sounds in the morning, your mind swims with last-minute errands to run, items to pack, and affairs to set in order before your flight. You misplace your phone every two minutes. And your wallet. And your keys. When you finally manage to hail a cab, you find yourself, predictably, in a traffic jam. Eventually, you arrive at the airport and reach your gate breathless, bitter, and boarding. Though you do make your flight, it’s too late to escape the effects of the chaotic day; in all your frenzy, you accidentally leave something on the plane.

At this point, you might feel like the world and the airline companies have joined forces to play a cruel prank on you—and you definitely need these travel secrets to minimize your stress. Rest assured, however, we’ve all been there, and there is a way to get your item back from the plane. Here’s what to do:

Go back to the gate

Julie McCool, travel expert and writer for Fun in Fairfax VA, suggests that “if you are still in the terminal near the plane you departed, and time allows, return to the gate and find an agent. Show your boarding pass to the agent and be as precise as possible about what and where you left the item (under the seat, in the seatback pocket, etc.)” Since gate agents can contact the cleaning crew or flight attendants who are still on the plane, this is the most direct way to retrieve your lost item—one of many secrets airlines won’t tell you. Plus, handling the situation at the gate means that you can walk off with your item—rather than waiting for it to be returned in the mail.

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Get help at your connecting gate

If you have a connecting flight and no layover time to return to the gate you deplaned from, go speak with an agent at your next gate. Again, make sure to show the agent your boarding pass, describe where you left the item, and provide your contact information so the airline can mail your item to your home or final destination. Most people don’t realize the gate agent for their connecting flight can be extremely helpful in these situations—just like people don’t know about these hidden airplane features. That being said, McCool says it’s important to “keep in mind they might be too busy boarding your next flight to make calls for you.”

Go to baggage claim

You may be wondering what you should do if you have already left security by the time you realize your item is still on the plane. Don’t worry, you can still recover your belonging. In this instance, Cassandra Brooklyn, travel expert and owner of EscapingNY, suggests that you “head over to your airline’s baggage department, where you can fill out a claim form. You can also ask the baggage department staff to call your gate to see if your item has been returned to the gate podium by the crew or cleaning staff.” If your plane is still at the airport, chances are the flight attendants or cleaning crew onboard will be able to help.

Call the airline

In your frazzled flying state, you may not even realize that you’ve left something on the plane until you return home and find yourself needing the one missing item. If this is the case, the first thing to do is get on the phone. Cassandra Brooklyn suggests calling “the airport’s baggage department to see if the item has been turned in to the airport’s Lost and Found. Next, call your airline to file a missing item report.” Hopefully, one of these two calls will lead to success, and you’ll be reunited with your belonging in no time. However, if the item has not been turned in to baggage claim and the airline representative cannot help you file a report over the phone, Brooklyn suggests submitting an online claim for your lost belonging.

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Soft pretzels

“A big old soft pretzel is not a meal,” says registered dietitian Marjorie Nolan Cohn, owner of MNC Nutrition in Philadelphia. Those fluffy carbs might smell enticing, but carbo-loading before a long flight will leave your tummy rumbling again by takeoff. Look for something with protein and fiber that will keep you satisfied until you land, or better yet, pack a meal from home. Nolan Cohn recommends making a sandwich at home to save money or packing leftovers like pasta salad or grilled chicken in an old, washed plastic container, such as a cottage cheese tub.


Guilty pleasures

Try not to lump your waiting time at the airport in with the “treat mentality” of the rest of your vacation, says registered dietitian nutritionist Libby Mills, founder of Dig In Eat Up. “Even though it might be the kickoff to vacation, you want to save those calories for something unique when you arrive,” she says. Skip the specialty coffee drink and stick with plain coffee if you need a caffeine fix, or leave room for ice cream at the beach instead of gobbling a bag of cookies at the airport. Don’t miss these other 15 secrets to staying healthy on vacation.



You’ve seen yogurt touted time and time again as one of the healthiest snacks you can get, thanks to its satiating protein. But that fruit and yogurt parfait isn’t the healthy and fresh choice that it seems. “Yogurt has its halo over it as a healthy food, and obviously it is, but in context of what additives are in it,” says Nolan Cohn. By the time you turn plain yogurt into a sugary flavored yogurt topped with granola and fruit (which, unlike fresh berries, is full of added sugar), it isn’t a healthy choice anymore, she says. Skip the parfait and choose a regular yogurt from the fridge, or try these 19 nutritionist-approved travel snacks you can buy anywhere.


Sugary yogurts

Even yogurts that aren’t covered in granola or chocolate chips can be a stealthy sugar bomb. Fruit-on-the-bottom varieties are “not really fruit—it’s more like jelly,” says Nolan Cohn, and the dessert-like flavors and toppings can have almost as much sugar as the treats they’re named after. A cup of unflavored Greek yogurt is a safe bet, but if you need something less tart, vanilla varieties tend to have a bit less sugar than the fruity ones, she says. Try these other 13 healthy tricks for actually losing weight on vacation.


Granola bars

Granola bars are often designed to look like a smart choice, but there’s more than meets the eye. “Some are like candy bars in a really strategic marketing package to make it look like something way healthier than it is,” says Nolan Cohn. Granola bars can be packed with added sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, and other decidedly unhealthy ingredients, especially if they’re covered in a waxy (and melty) coating. That said, a shelf-stable, portable snack is convenient when you need to take the hunger off during your travels, so hunt down an option with 12 or fewer grams of sugar, she says. Check out these other 10 ways to eat healthy on vacation.



A cheap, low-calorie cup of coffee might seem like the perfect treat while you’re waiting, but you might regret it once you’re seated. “Coffee has caffeine and can agitate the nerves, which might not make for the most relaxing flight,” says Mills. Plus, if coffee goes through you fast, you could end up making multiple bathroom dashes, she points out. Try a calming herbal tea instead, Mills suggests.


Large bar tab

While a glass of wine as you wait for your flight won’t do much harm for most people, you’ll want to keep your drinking to a minimum. Not only could it dehydrate you before an already dehydrating plane ride, but alcohol isn’t good for deep sleep. You might crash quick, but the alcohol will wake you up and keep you out of deep REM sleep as your liver works it out. “A less restful trip, especially if you’re going overseas, may be counterproductive to enjoying yourself fully when you arrive,” says Mills.


Double-decker sandwiches

You might not have too many choices at a quick-grab sandwich station, but keep your calories in check by avoiding excessive fillings, says Mills. “If it has triple layers of meat or bread, that’s a tipoff that you’re getting triple servings,” she says. “‘Crispy,’ breaded,’ and ‘fried’ … are words on a menu that are tipoffs of an extra serving of carbohydrates, plus the extra fat.” 


Water bottles

You might not want to rely on the bottled water from the airport terminal—and not just because of its sky-high prices. Normally we’d never discourage some good-for-you hydration, but hear us out if you have a small bladder. “You’re guzzling water before getting on the plane, then sharing a toilet with how many people?” says Nolan Cohn. Because hydration is important, especially when you’re stuck in a dry plane cabin, she recommends sipping extra water the night and morning before your flight so you aren’t dehydrated when you board. Especially if your flight is more than a couple hours, though, don’t ignore your thirst in the name of avoiding the bathroom, she says.


Anything your stomach isn’t used to

When you’re about to sit in close quarters for hours on end, you’ll want to avoid foods that don’t tend to sit well with your digestive system. Steer clear of foods that normally might upset your stomach, such as certain types of fiber or greasy foods. “A hamburger and French fries or fried chicken before you get on a plane might not be the best idea,” says Nolan Cohn. “They have a higher potential for triggering diarrhea or GI issues.”

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Send out an S.O.S. on social media

It may surprise you to learn that one of the most efficient ways to contact airline representatives is through social media. According to McCool, “most airlines have support staff who monitor social media accounts and they are often quick to respond to a polite request for help.” If you have already left the airport and can’t get an airline representative on the phone, McCool suggests tweeting first and posting on the airline’s Facebook page second. “Make your initial social media request more general, since it is going to be public,” instructs McCool. “Say something like: ‘I left an item on a flight at Dulles Airport today. Can you help?’ The support person will usually respond with the correct contact info or ask you to send a direct message (which is private) with more details,” McCool explains.

Road-trip to Alabama

Hopefully one of these recovery channels can help reunite you with your lost possession—and you never make this mistake, or any of these other errors you should never make on a plane, again.  However, “if all else fails, and your item is never found, consider a trip to Unclaimed Baggage in Scottsboro, Alabama. This giant store is where lost items from airlines get a second life,” says McCool. The isles are lined with forgotten clothing (cleaned and pressed), misplaced electronic devices (wiped of all personal information), and random lost treasures (ranging from unclaimed snakeskin to snowboards). While you might not be able to find your exact item in this store, you might find a good replacement. At the very least, a road-trip to this eccentric store will help you see that you’re not alone—no one is immune from the traveling craze!

The post Here’s What to Do If You Leave Something on a Plane appeared first on Reader’s Digest.

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