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Best Luggage Locks for Piece of Mind

Don't attempt air travel without these TSA-approved locks.

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Travel locks
A lock should be mandatory travel equipment for all your luggage. Pixabay

St. Augustine said the world is a book and those who don’t travel read only one page. While we love traveling to fascinating destinations, no one likes to have their belongings stolen. Any deterrent is a good deterrent. Making it as difficult or time-consuming as possible for a thief to gain access to your items is often the difference between some great memories or a spoiled journey.

Many different people may have access to your luggage on a given trip – baggage handlers, TSA scanners, drivers, valets – even hotel staff who can come and go freely from your room. The old adage your parents told you remains true: better safe than sorry.

Over a 13-year period, the TSA fired more than 500 officers for alleged theft. In another four-year period, the TSA received more than 30,000 claims for missing valuables, at a total property loss of a staggering $2.5 million. Most of those claims were for items packed in checked luggage. Another benefit of luggage locks is they will keep zippers from coming open and your belongings from spilling during baggage handling.

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The message is clear: Luggage locks are your suitcase’s best friend. And yours. Keep your valuables on your person or in a carry-on you never let out of your sight. For everything else in your checked luggage, use one of these recommended luggage locks. It’s a lot more enjoyable when everything you packed gets to and from your destination along with you.

SURE LOCK TSA Compatible Travel Luggage Locks, Inspection Indicator, Easy Read Dials - 2 pack

Pop-up signal

Protects belongings with sturdy stainless steel and detects if your bag has been opened. Amazon

You’ll know if the TSA or anyone else has opened your bag with the Sure Lock’s button that pops up to alert you. This is important so you can check your belongings right at the airport instead of discovering later on something has been lost. If your baggage was examined, TSA agents must re-lock it or they won’t be able to remove their key. Made of a super-strong steel alloy that is rust-resistant, the Sure Lock is one of the most durable luggage locks to withstand the rigors of travel time and again. High contrast white on black numbers make the combination easy to see, even when you’re bleary-eyed from long hours. Four-inch long cables can wrap around most types of luggage and carry cases, and you’ll get two of them in this duo pack. The most common items stolen in travel are wallets, purses, cell phones, and laptops. We recommend keeping these with you at all times and not putting them in your checked luggage.

TSA Approved Cable Luggage Locks, Re-settable Combination with Alloy Body

Multi-use options

You can lock up four times the bags with these federally approved devices. Amazon

Surprising as it seems, valuables are often stolen out of overhead bins on airplanes. This happens mostly on international flights where the environment is darkened and passengers are asleep for long periods of time. That’s why locking any carry-ons you place in overhead bins should be a regular practice – maybe even the one you keep directly under the chair in front of you. A safety lock will prevent anyone from rummaging through it while you sleep. You can keep four separate items secure with this set of TSA-approved luggage locks. These, too, are made with four-inch sheathed steel cables to fit a variety of bags or carry-ons. It’s easy to set the 3-digit combinations and you can change them as often as you like. This product will also require TSA agents to re-lock your suitcase after opening it or they can’t remove their own master key. A button on the lock lets you know your bag has been opened. With four in a pack, you can use these to secure other items like gym lockers or briefcases, even when you’re not traveling.

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Master Lock 4688D Set Your Own Combination TSA Approved Luggage Lock, 1 Pack, Blue
Bright colors make your bags easy to identify. Amazon

Spot your luggage right away when it comes off the conveyor belt with this bright blue device from Master Lock. If you have the same style bag as another traveler, you won’t get them mixed up. Don’t be deceived by the diminutive size of this lock. Its flexible vinyl-covered cable fits right between the zipper-pulls to keep your zippers securely locked tight during travel. Also works on backpacks, tool chests, or gym bags. It’s TSA approved so agents won’t cut the lock to inspect your bag. You can set your own three-digit combination and change it at your discretion. Did you know airport workers who’ve gone through the process of background checks to work in secure parts of airports, don’t have to go through security checkpoints when coming on and off their shifts? Some airports are taking steps to change this policy and tighten security among workers.

TSA Approved Luggage Lock - 4 Digit Combination Padlocks with a Hardened Steel Shackle - Travel Locks for Suitcases & Baggage

Thieves beware

In bright shades of yellow, purple, or red, these broadcast to onlookers that your bags are protected. Amazon

Four digits make it that much harder to crack your combination and keep your goods safe. Hardened zinc alloy material is rugged and won’t dent even if your luggage gets rough handled, and the steel shackle is as sturdy as it sounds. TSA agents will have to re-lock your suitcase with this design, and the bright red and white symbol shows that yours is TSA approved. It locks onto most zippers, purses, computer bags, backpacks, briefcases, and carry-ons, so you’ll definitely utilize this set of two. As a bonus gift, you get a mini screwdriver keychain with both a flat and Phillip’s head. An alarming statistic: JFK International Airport was once described as a “flea market for airport employees,” with reports claiming more than 200 items are stolen from passengers’ checked luggage every day. Don’t make it easy for them.

Samsonite Travel Sentry 2-Pack Key Locks, Brass

Tough and durable

No need to fiddle with numbers or combinations, these offer more traditional protection but are still TSA-friendly. Amazon

Use your key to open these sharp-looking brass locks from Samsonite that come in a set of two. You’ll get two keys for each lock – one for regular use and one to store as a backup. No struggling with small combination buttons or hard-to-read numbers when it’s time to open your suitcase after a long day. They’re TSA-approved and display the bright button to let agents know. Shiny double brass construction is tough and durable to endure many trips and transfers. Fortunately, some travel crimes aren’t so well thought out. A TSA screener once stole a CNN camera and then resold it on eBay. He got caught because he forgot to remove the CNN stickers before posting them publicly. In another instance, a former Miss USA wanted some peace and quiet so badly that she stole someone’s noise-canceling headphones. Serenity now!

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Kelli Brandenberger is a contributing writer to Islands, an award-winning brand founded in 1980 that speaks to international travelers who have an affinity for the Caribbean and beyond. The website showcases destinations, resorts, cruises, and recommendations by the Islands’ staff. elli is a writer and editor who spends as much time as possible near the water. Her favorite Caribbean destinations are found in Roatan, the US and British Virgin Islands, and secluded mountain resorts of the Pitons in St. Lucia.

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