Watching your checked luggage disappear into the ether behind the bag drop counter can cause anxiety. Will it make that tight connection? Get lost along the way? Or worse, will everything you packed inside stay there? While there's little that can help with the separation anxiety, there might be a solution to calm your nerves on the last worry — luggage locks.

For travelers who often align themselves with the “better safe than sorry” mantra, here’s a rundown on the pros and cons of luggage locks and which are best at keeping your suitcase secure.

Benefits of Locking Up Your Luggage 

Simply, they are a cheap and effective way to discourage any bad apples in the baggage department from treating your suitcase like a sample stand at Costco. And as a bonus, luggage locks also double as devices to restrict your suitcase’s zippers from inching apart during travels and preventing items from tumbling out along the tarmac.

But beyond the airport is where they may prove most valuable. Many travelers feel more at ease stowing their luggage in designated sections of crowded trains, buses, or at hotels when they’re sturdily secured.

Limitations of Locking Up Your Luggage 

Just by buckling up your baggage with a lock doesn’t ensure it’s in the clear. While luggage locks will certainly deter most opportunistic thieves, it’s not an ironclad defense. In the off chance your bag needs a secondary search, a lock will not prohibit TSA from opening it up for an in-depth dive. Fort Knox it’s not.

The extra security can also backfire if you happen to misplace the key or after a long-haul flight blanks your brain of the combo code at arrivals.


Related: How to Protect Yourself Against In-Flight Theft


Best Luggage Locks for Travel

When purchasing a luggage lock, the first feature you should look for is that it’s TSA compliant. That old rotary combination used to lock up your gym gear back in high school most likely won’t pass, no matter how you spin it.

Most TSA approved locks are labeled with a symbol that looks like a red diamond to denote that it’s up to code. Non-approved locks that the TSA’s universal master key is unable to open will be broken off, potentially leading to busted zippers and other damage if your bag warrants further inspection. So to keep your luggage in one piece, here are five styles of approved luggage locks to suit your case.

Key Lock

Lewis N. Clark TSA Approved Luggage Locks

Lewis N. Clark Key TSA approved mini padlock set

These traditional locks are a top-seller for a reason. They’re easy to use with no numbers to memorize. Just be careful with your key and keep it at hand.

Price: Starting at $7.35 for a 2-Pack on Amazon

Combination Lock

Forge TSA Approved Combination Luggage Locks

Forge TSA approved combination lock

Set it but don't forget it, this 3-digit combination lock is a popular choice among passengers who want the security of a sturdy lock without having to tote around an extra key.

Price: Starting at $10.95 for a 2-Pack on Amazon

Cable Lock

Sure Lock TSA Approved Cable Luggage Locks

Sure Lock TSA Approved cable luggage locks 

Nearly identical to a combination style lock, but built with a flexible cable construction to fit any zipper system or suitcase straps. 

Price: $12.95 for a 2-Pack on Amazon

Keycard Lock

Talonport TSA Approved Keyless Luggage Locks

Talonport keyless TSA approved luggage locks

Forget your combo more often than you’d like to admit? With a quick swipe, Talonport’s keyless card system will have your suitcase open without worries.

Price: $29.99 for a 2-Pack on Amazon

Strap Lock

ELASTRAAP TSA Approved Luggage Strap Lock

Elastraap TSA Approved baggage strap 

Keep your contents contained and your suitcase secure with an easy to use strap system from ELASTRAAP. 

Price: Starting at $18.99 on Amazon


Related: The 7 Best Anti-Theft Bags for Travel


Alternative Options to Luggage Locks

Inside many airports, you'll see baggage-wrapping stations, and while the wraps do provide another perimeter of protection from both crooks and cracks your suitcase might encounter. The amount of plastic waste is excessive. For a budget/eco-friendly alternative, opt for twist ties like you'd find sealing a loaf of bread or some biodegradable zips. Just remember to keep some nail clippers in your carry-on to help cut them off afterward if needed. Better yet, pose for a personalized luggage cover from SuitFaces and keep would-be muggers away with a humorous picture of yours.

If you’re in the market for some new luggage, Coolife and Samsonite both offer a wide variety of hard-sided options with TSA approved lock systems already built-in. For short trips that call for smaller bags to schlep. Have a look at our best anti-theft options that incorporate hidden zippers and compartments to keep your items safe from sticky fingers. 

Bottom Line

Luggage locks are a helpful way to provide a sense of security and add another impediment to keep bandits at bay. However, they aren’t a surefire way to guarantee your items will be safe. And can do more harm than good if you misplace a key or forget your combo. If you do decide that bolting up your baggage is best for some peace of mind, just make sure your lock is TSA approved.

Ultimately, whether you choose to lock your bag is up to you, but as a rule, always take essential items with you on-board in your carry-on. That includes medicine, travel documents, currency, or any other belongings you deem irreplaceable. In the rare instance, your checked bag weighs lighter off the carousel than it did at check-in


Related: Leave Something on the Airplane? Here’s How to get it Back


Featured image: PARINYA ART / Shutterstock

More Stories You'll Love