compulsive shopping

I Can’t Stop Buying Luggage Tags

Photo: Fox Photos/Getty Images

Last year, after a two-and-a-half-week trip to Asia, someone took off with my rolling suitcase at Heathrow Airport. Pretty much my entire life’s worth was in it (or at least it felt that way: My favorite clothes, that Tom Ford lip gloss I splurged on, and the handful of new knickknacks I picked up while abroad. Even worse, the luggage itself, a large inky-black Rimowa rolling suitcase, was practically brand-new (I bought it as a gift for myself a few days before the trip, along with a smaller, matching carry-on).

I did eventually get it back, but the experience left me spooked. I travel often, both short trips and long haul, and I knew I needed some sort of luggage tag — especially since my black Rimowas are status suitcases whose functional, nondescript design is the model for a lot of less expensive, nondescript black luggage. Still, I needed that tag to be just right. I wanted something as equally sleek as my suitcases, but also eye-catching and functional, so they were never again hauled away by one of the thousands of other black-rolling-suitcase owners like me.

I didn’t end up just buying one tag, though — I bought several, whose prices run the gamut, and all of which I rotate based on my travel plans. There are colorful options for when I’m flying a popular route and suspect a lot of other passengers will be carrying luggage similar to mine, personalized leather ones if I’m off to a swanky hotel and want to impress, some that include my full address, and others with just my initials. Read on for my complete collection — and a few more I’m thinking of adding to it — any of which will go a long way toward preventing a dreaded suitcase switcheroo.

Luggage tags I’ve bought

This might sound melodramatic, but this tag was a push for me. My aesthetic tends to be simple, and I don’t normally like loud prints or contrasting colors. But the more I thought back to that moment when my luggage was momentarily hijacked, I knew it was precisely because there was nothing loud, nothing of note differentiating my case from the swarm of others like it. This solves that problem, and features two sleeves: One for a card scrawled with my home address, and the other where I can slip a card with the address of wherever I’m traveling to.

This twofer has a lot going for it. First, I love that I can have matching tags on my main bag and its mini me (the varying sizes are a thoughtful detail). The black croc feels luxurious; it’s a welcome upgrade of the other, simpler black-leather tags I own. Each comes with an address card that’s disguised by a flap, keeping my personal information slightly more concealed. And the gold hardware makes them stand out from other all-black tags.

When my bag got nicked, the guy who accidentally took it found me after rifling through the innards, unearthing a branded water bottle from a Thai hotel I had stayed, calling that hotel, and sweet-talking an employee into giving him my email address — far from a foolproof tracking system. After that, I became dead set on tags that housed easily accessible contact information. Like the tags above, this Tumi number comes with an address card I can slip into a sleeve that’s covered by a leather flap, but the flap actually has a button closure, so it really can’t flip open in front of strange eyes. Plus, its subtle pebbled-leather is more in line with my simple aesthetic.

I technically didn’t buy this tag; it was more of a surprise gift. During a stay at a high-end hotel in the English countryside, I left my bag with the concierge for a few hours before checking out. I didn’t really look at it again until I got home, where, while pulling my bag from the trunk of my car, I noticed it had been outfitted with this sweet leather tag — which the hotel had embossed with my initials (and a stamp of its logo). Genius. Because it’s so personal (and colorful), this tag is great to throw on my suitcase before any trips where I expect to encounter look-alikes.

Sure, this is a little kitsch — but that’s exactly what drew me to it. As I scoured the internet, it was hard to find any luggage tags that weren’t pitch-black or navy. This gray color is a bit more unique and, when coupled with the contrasting stitching (it comes with a needle and thread), it doesn’t really get more bespoke. A note: Not on the High Street is an Etsy-like marketplace based in the U.K., so expect shipping fees and longer delivery times for international orders.

If you’re not looking to spend a ton, this inexpensive set of tags can’t really be beat. Use them and abuse them — they are incredibly durable, and great for long-haul trips. Sturdy but not stiff, each also comes with an address-card sleeve disguised by a flap that snaps closed.

Handmade in Tuscany, this leather tag comes with a 25-year warranty, which means I know I’ll manage to lose it long before it wears out. Even though it’s comparable in size to many tags on this list, it has a heftiness to it that feels nice, and its black color somehow stands out among all the other black tags on the luggage conveyor. There’s a hidden snap that opens to reveal an address-card sleeve, but you have to supply the address card yourself.

This is actually the first style of luggage tag that I bought. I wanted something simple that matched the branding of my new suitcases. But since Rimowa doesn’t actually sell luggage tags (it only gives them out with purchase of certain pieces, and mine apparently didn’t qualify), I had to turn to eBay. This tag also has a flap-protected sleeve for address cards.

Luggage tags I want to buy

The future — for my luggage tags at least — is made to measure. In the spirit of the Not on the High Street tag I already own, this hand-stamped, handmade number will easily add a little individuality to my nondescript Rimowas. Though, because its leather ties look a bit dainty, I’d probably restrict it to my carry-on. And brand it with my name or initials, as fun as saying good-bye to Becky may be.

Okay, maybe my collection’s future isn’t all made to measure. Why another Smythson? Because, in my opinion, no one does travel like the heritage British brand. The Mara is a classic shape — and different from that of the other two tags I own — and I think the navy croc print is elegant without being over the top. This tag stands out in the best way, and I suspect that it’s one I’d have forever (as long as nobody swipes whatever suitcase I put it on, of course).

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I Can’t Stop Buying Luggage Tags