Puedes leer este artículo en español aquí.

I am a light traveler and 99% of the time I only bring a carry-on and a handbag or backpack on my trips. As a result, I have become pretty efficient when packing. For instance, I once went on a business trip from Atlanta to Cancun and then to Toronto during winter, without returning home and with no checked bags. Yes, I managed to include both summer and winter clothes and shoes (several pairs) as well as casual and business attires. And I made it all fit in my hand luggage!

But sometimes you have no choice. That was the case when I traveled last November to France where I was going to be for 6 and a half weeks. Against my initial usual reluctance I concluded that this time I couldn't avoid having to check my suitcase. Even though it was a carry-on size, it was so tight and heavy that I figured it wasn't worth risking to get a back injury from pulling and lifting so much weight the whole trip.

Since the flight I took from Atlanta (ATL) to Paris (CDG) was not a direct one, I made sure I had enough of a layover so I didn't have a to stress about having to run from one terminal in order not to miss my connecting flight. Naively, I also thought that would give the airline enough time to transfer my suitcase from one plane to the other.

Of course, that had been the case if my suitcase was loaded to the plane in ATL in the first place. I'd find out upon my arrival at CDG that my suitcase had actually stayed in ATL and it was coming on the next direct flight. And just like that, I found myself in Paris, only with a small bag and the clothes I had on.

These are the 5 lessons I learned from this first for me:

1. Wear something comfortable and versatile. Plan strategically this aspect because, naturally, your priority is to be relaxed during the flight, especially if it's a long one. Additionally, though, you should wear something that can be worn in different settings. I was glad I was wearing pants and low-heeled boots because I had to do a lot of walking under the rain the next few days. I also had an umbrella in my handbag.

2. Track your bag. Use the tracking app provided by your airline. Although it will not make your suitcase arrive any faster if it's delayed somewhere, knowing right away about it will certainly save you the time you could have wasted waiting for it by the belt otherwise. Instead, you can go ahead and contact the airline representative immediately to file the respective complaint.

3. Bring basic toiletries and some basic clothes in your handbag. That travel-size kit that was meant to be your emergency go-to (toothbrush, toothpaste, deodorant) will sure be handy in this situation until you're able to buy some regular toiletries. It was a life-saver in my case. You'll also be grateful if you brought some underwear and an extra t-shirt in your handbag (it may come handy as pjs).

4. Immediately buy what you'll need for at least two days. Even if they tell you the bag will be arriving on the next flight, that doesn't mean they will deliver it to you on the same day, or the next for that matter. I only got my suitcase 6 days after I arrived! Airlines usually will reimburse expenses related to the loss of your luggage, so find out what your airline's policy is (mine had a limit of $50 per day for a maximum of 5 days). Most important, keep all receipts and make sure you turn in your complaint with all corresponding proofs to Customer Service by their deadline (regularly 30 days).

5. Don't waste your energy and time worrying about it. After you have filed the complaint, let the airline handle it. I'm not saying to forget about following up, just don't waste your time calling the airline 5 times a day, once will do. Why not go on with your plans and make the most of your trip instead?

I know it's not fun to go through the experience of not having your luggage when you arrive at your destination, especially if it happens away from home, but I hope the above recommendations are useful for your upcoming travels.