For our trip to the US, Yvette made a travel bag for each of the kids to take onto the plane. In it there was a selection of storybooks, activity books, pencils etc. The Bookworm's bag was hot pink, and Bendy's luminous lime green: deliberately done so that they were easily identifiable and not easily overlooked.
However... on our return trip from New York, we occupied the two seats adjacent to the window in the last 2 rows of the plane. I was with The Bookworm, and Yvette with Bendy. Our flight was delayed in New York due to a storm, and as it was underbooked, it was diverted to Los Angeles to collect more passengers instead of flying direct to Papeete in Tahiti. So the flight was several hours longer than expected, and we arrived in Papeete at about 2am. We were exhausted, and the kids were too - though both had slept on the journey.
We checked into our hotel and had a lovely relaxing two days thankyou very much, looking out over the coral-fringed lagoon towards Moorea. All the more enjoyable knowing that my work colleagues were at a boring conference and I was on a South Pacific Island.
Our departing flight left Papeete at about midnight. We had the kids take an early nap while we packed our stuff. I was out dealing with a frustrating cheese emergency (maybe a later blog post) when Yvette was overcome with a nasty sinking feeling. She searched everywhere for Bendy's green bag, but it was nowhere to be found. We scratched our heads to think of the last time we'd seen it, and Yvette came to the sick realisation that she had tucked it under the back seat of the aircraft prior to arrival and left it there.
Bendy hadn't missed it yet, and we couldn't tell her just yet with more than 8 hours travel to go. We rang the airline in Tahiti - nothing handed in or found - and also enquired at the airport when we were checking in. There was absolutely NOTHING identifying the bag as ours - no luggage tags, name etc. because we expected to always have it in our possession. That made it even more difficult to describe to airline staff. We were really, really hoping that the lime green colour would make all the difference. We were told to check the luggage claim in Sydney, as that was the destination of our original flight. No luck there either.
I went around to the lost luggage office and filled out the paperwork, not really holding out much hope for ever seeing the bag or the $150 worth of books it contained (some of which were gifts).
About a week later, Yvette received a call from the lost luggage office at Sydney airport. The bag had been found, and would we like to come and collect it? It made Yvette's day! The following weekend we paid the exorbitant parking fee and went and collected it. We had to go to the storage area where the lost and severely damaged baggage is held, and it was a real eye-opener. We've had checked luggage damaged before, but some of the bags we saw were literally smashed to pieces. It was quite a shock - luggage is not cheap!
Well, the bag was safely returned to Bendy, who was overjoyed to see it, and we learned a few lessons ourselves: know where all your belongings are before you exit a plane; label ALL luggage, even if it is going to be with you all the time; and travel only with carry-on luggage if possible; make sure you luggage is distinctive - the lime green colour saved us; and to avoid being the owner of one of those smashed up bags.