In all honesty, I rarely check in my bags, unless I’m embarking on a longer trip. But when I do, I always secure my luggage with luggage straps.
The reason? On a particular journey some time ago I received my hard-side suitcase in a rather unpleasant state. When I went to the pick-up point to retrieve it, I found its contents were (embarrassingly) strewn along with the luggage carousel. That happened because I overpacked the suitcase and the zipper broke from the pressure. Since then, I’ve learned that it’s better to be safe than sorry.
In this article, we’ll tell you everything you need to know about luggage straps – are they allowed, should you use them, how to use them, and more.
What Are Luggage Straps, And Why Do You Need Them?
Well, it’s kind of in the name. Luggage straps are thick straps made from a durable material that you bind around your packed suitcase before check-in.
You’re probably wondering why you might need a luggage strap. After all, the most efficient suitcases should be built in a way that you don’t really need more accessories for them. But the sad fact is that most suitcases aren’t the most efficient, and not all of us can afford the bags that are. Often some additional accessories, like luggage locks, suitcase covers, straps, or smart trackers just make sense for the more prudent traveler.
And the primary purpose of a luggage strap is what a forward-thinking person looks for. As I realized from personal experience, your suitcases can give out when you least expect it, so it helps to be prepared. Luggage straps work as a safety measure in case of a broken zipper. Zippers can often break or open if they are worn down or the case is overpacked, especially on hard-shell suitcases. Luggage straps will keep all of your contents from spilling out, so you’ll avoid losing belongings and any potentially embarrassing displays at the luggage carousel.
But luggage straps have other convenient uses:
- Colorful straps make your suitcase easier to spot. Personally, I own bright green luggage straps. Some might avoid this choice for aesthetic reasons (lime green isn’t everyone’s favorite accessory color). However, I think that in combination with my black checked suitcase, the overall look isn’t that bad. And even if it is, brightly colored luggage straps make it much easier to spot your belonging on the luggage carousel, squeezed between a sea of black suitcases. No more straining your eyes for what feels like decades or potentially passing your own bag. Time is money, so consider these straps an investment. Another option would be to get a bright luggage cover, which would also keep your suitcase from bursting, but they’re a bit more expensive than straps.
- Some straps are meant to secure two or more bags together. Struggling to move around your three-piece luggage set? Well, there’s an easy solution to this. Get some regular luggage straps and strap your suitcases together in one piece, so you don’t have to pull each one separately.
- Some straps have built-in TSA combination locks for additional security. Although most of the cheaper suitcase straps are closed with a plastic push-button system, the more expensive ones come equipped with built-in TSA combination locks for added security. If the straps are secured tightly and spanned through the handles, they’re actually not that easy to remove. However, I don’t think that they offer too much security as the straps can be easily cut open. It just makes the job for the thieves slightly harder.
Are Luggage Straps Allowed?
TSA hasn’t stated any policies that restrict luggage straps. At least none that we could find. Luggage straps can be used on checked and carry-on suitcases, as long as the straps can be taken off by the TSA agents. For instance, there are some straps available with combination locks. You should make sure that these locks are TSA-approved, which means that the TSA agents can open them with a unique key.
When researching information about luggage straps, I noticed that a lot of people are confused about whether they’re allowed on checked suitcases or not. For instance, several travelers stated that sometimes Air France might ask you to remove the straps before checking the bag. Although this happens rarely, some airlines might not allow luggage straps. In that case, you should remove the straps and continue normally.
Sometimes, people leave some parts of the strap hanging, that can get caught up in the conveyor belts. In these cases, the baggage handlers will most likely cut the strap off and throw it away. That’s why you should make sure to secure all loose ends.
Luggage Strap Types
There are at least three main types of luggage straps, so let’s go through each one separately.
Regular Luggage Straps
A regular luggage strap is a single thick strap of varying material with a (usually) plastic clasp with which to ‘lock’ the strap around your suitcase. Regular luggage straps can be used in different ways, depending on the kind of bag you are using and how securely you want to bind your luggage.
X-Shaped Luggage Straps
These are luggage straps that come in two’s and are crossed over one another to ensure maximum security of your luggage. X-shaped straps will keep everything relatively in place in case a clasp or zip is to break unexpectedly.
Bungee Cord or “Add a Bag” Type Straps
“Add a Bag” luggage straps are fairly easy to explain, and very convenient products too. These straps not only keep your bag secure, but they allow you to connect your handbag or a smaller check-in bag to the top of your suitcase. This keeps them both safe and also lets you check in two pieces of luggage as one (assuming their combined weight is below your limit). Hitting two bags with one stone!
How to Use Luggage Straps
Essentially, luggage straps are really easy to use. You just have to make sure to pull the strap through the handle, so that it doesn’t accidentally fall off.
However, the way you use luggage straps actually differs between different luggage strap types. Let’s look at each type separately.
How to Use Regular Luggage Straps
- Start by placing your suitcase vertically on its wheels;
- Wrap the luggage strap around the width of your suitcase, making sure to wrap it through the side handle;
- If you don’t have a side handle, wrap the strap around the height of the bag, by pulling it through both top handles;
- Before locking the strap, adjust the length of the strap so that it sits securely;
- Lock the strap, making sure that it’s a tight fit (though not too tight, to avoid potentially damaging your case) and that the strap is pulled through a handle.
How to Use X-Shaped Luggage Straps
- Start by wrapping the strap around the height of the suitcase, making sure to pull through all handles;
- Pull the strap through the metal triangle, so that it forms a ninety-degree angle;
- Continue wrapping the strap around the width of the suitcase, making sure to pull through the side handle;
- Before finally clipping the straps together, make sure to adjust the length of the strap so that it’s a tight fit;
- Secure the push-lock system and check if your strap sits tight enough.
How to Use “Add a Bag” Type Bungee Straps
- Clip the strap around the top handle of your suitcase;
- Retrace the retractable handle fully;
- Place your handbag on top of your suitcase. If the bag has a rear strap, make sure to wrap it around the retractable handle;
- Pull the bag around the retractable handle and adjust the tightness of the bungee, making sure that your handbag is secure.
Are Luggage Straps Worth It?
In my opinion, luggage straps are pretty important and more critical than a luggage lock. The simple reason being that they are actually useful in protecting the fragile contents of your bag in case of a broken zipper. With luggage locks, you only make the job for thieves slightly harder, so they’re only partially effective. A luggage lock does nothing else to prevent damage to your belongings.
Of course, if you’re traveling with a high-end suitcase, like Rimowa, luggage straps might not make that much sense. Rimowa suitcases are exceptionally well made, so the chances of the zipper bursting open are slim. For cheaper suitcases below 200$, I’d recommend getting luggage straps. If you want to be extra careful, however, purchasing a reasonably priced strap won’t hurt.
That, and there are also some additional benefits, like having more security with an additional TSA lock, or making your bag easier to spot on the luggage carousel. One thing to keep in mind is that on the chance that you lose your luggage, airport services will ask for distinguishing features of your suitcase(s). And voila, that’s where the luggage straps come in! While there’s an admittedly small chance of this happening, there certainly is a chance, and unique straps should speed up the rescue process. Another benefit is that some straps can be used to secure several bags together, which makes it easier to roll them around.
I’ve only started using luggage straps since my checked bag burst open. It was an unpleasant experience that could have been avoided with a cheap luggage strap. While we all learn from past mistakes, a little foresight can help you avoid these mistakes altogether.
Read Next: Do Packing Cubes Really Save Space?
Where to Buy Luggage Straps
You can find luggage straps in almost any luggage store. Retail and online.
For instance, you can find luggage straps in some of these retail stores:
- Best Buy;
Or in these online stores:
And to be frank, no place is particularly the best, unless you’re looking for something specific.
One thing to note is that usually, luggage straps are more expensive in local stores than online, but the same goes for almost any item. Also, you can order some more specific straps online, like ones with personalized embroidery, TSA-approved locks, and some particular ones, like the Travelon Bungee strap.
If you have Amazon prime, I’d go with Amazon, as the shipping is really fast and often their prices are the cheapest.
What Are the Best Luggage Straps?
There are various types of luggage straps available. Each one is made with a slightly different purpose. Personally, I have the x-shaped straps in bright green, and they’re pretty good. They cost slightly less than 10$ and overall, I’m happy with the purchase.
However, some options are more superior and better built than others. For instance, the TSA-approved straps offer more security, and x-shaped straps are less likely to fall off. I’ve written a short description of each kind and the main benefits that they provide.
These luggage straps are the most affordable ones and do the job just right.
They’re universal, meaning that they’ll fit most suitcases. To be precise, they’ll fit 20 – 32-inch luggage, which covers the whole spectrum. Another benefit is that these luggage straps are colorful and bright, available in bright blue, venom green, bright orange, and pink colors. It’ll help you easily differentiate your suitcase from others.
The only thing that I don’t like is that they’re not made in an x-shape. To wrap them around the width and the height, you’ll need to get two straps. And because they’re not connected, the strap is likely to fall off. Especially, if your suitcase doesn’t have any side handles.
Also, some people have experienced minor quality issues with these straps. For instance, the plastic clips can break easily, or the fabric itself can start tearing.
I like these luggage straps better than the single-piece ones. They’re priced similarly, and the x-shaped design makes the straps less likely to slip off. I own these straps, and I’m satisfied with my purchase.
I have a bright-green option. However, these straps are also available in black, bright blue, orange, pink, and yellow. Although they do come with a built-in luggage tag, I prefer to use the luggage tag that’s on the back of my suitcase.
Note, that these luggage straps are only suitable for 20-28 inch suitcases. Some checked bags are larger than that, so I’d advise you first to measure your suitcase.
Although this luggage strap is slightly more expensive, it’s also better. The Samsonite luggage strap has a built-in TSA-approved combination lock for additional security. Although I don’t think that this strap provides too much protection, because once the lock is locked the strap can still be loosened enough to open the suitcase, I still believe that the combination lock is useful. The regular straps are opened by squeezing both sides and can quickly open up while your bag is checked. With a combination lock, this shouldn’t be a problem. Also, this strap is much sturdier compared to regular ones.
This luggage strap isn’t x-shaped, so you’ll have to wrap it through the side handle or the top handle, to secure it in place. It’s meant to be used by wrapping it around the width of your suitcase, and it will fit most suitcases because the length of the strap can be adjusted between 42-72 inches.
The Travelon bungee straps differ from all other straps mentioned in this list. The difference lies in their purpose – They’re not made to protect against broken zippers. Instead, they’re great for securing smaller items on top of a suitcase, for instance, a jacket and a handbag.
The idea is simple. Secure one end to the top handle of your suitcase, put your handbag on top, and secure the other end around the retractable handle.
A handy item to have if you’re traveling often with many layovers.
If you’d rather have something special, you should check out these luggage straps.
For just a few dollars more you can get your name and surname engraved on the luggage strap. In total, you’re limited to 18 characters and spaces of your imagination.
The strap itself is pretty simple and can be adjusted to 35-64 inches in length. This length could be too short for 28 inch and larger suitcases. I’d advise measuring the total diameter in width before ordering this strap, just to make sure that it will fit.