Last Updated on November 24, 2021 by Nellie Huang

Have you ever lost your luggage? I’ve just returned from a fun weekend in Budapest traveling with no luggage. Here’s how it went.

With over 13 years of travel to 100+ countries under my belt, I’ve become quite an expert at packing light. I always travel with just a small carry-on backpack — even on long-haul journeys — and the only time I check in bags is when I’m traveling long-haul with baby Kaleya.

As my motto goes, “the less you carry, the happier you are.”

But traveling with no luggage? That’s a whole different story. Last week, I took on the Lost Luggage Challenge with Money Supermarket. They sent me to a destination of my choice — with just one catch: I was only allowed to bring my passport, phone, charging cable and some spending money.

Traveling with No Luggage in Budapest

Traveling with No Luggage

I love challenges, especially travel-related ones. Plus this didn’t sound too difficult.

After all, it wasn’t the first time I’d lost my luggage. Once my backpack got lost on my way to Mongolia and only arrived just before I left for the steppes (phew!). In Nepal, my backpack also got lost in transition but thankfully I got it back in two days with some help from the hotel. My backpack went missing when I flew back home from Jordan and only showed up one month later — completely emptied of its contents.

But this time, I left everything at home on purpose, with just my passport and iPhone to get me through. No hand carry, no toiletries, no clean underwear; I didn’t even bring my usual work-related tools like laptop and SLR camera.

I did however bring my husband Alberto and baby Kaleya along as my cheering team. They had their own luggage, packed with only their stuff (I promise I didn’t cheat!). With four days in Budapest with no camera, no electronic gadgets, no clean clothes — how  difficult could that be?!

weekend in Budapest

My Experience in Budapest, Hungary

The worst thing about losing your luggage is having to spend time shopping for some essentials. I hate wasting time in a mall rather than going out to explore. Thankfully, we were just in Budapest for four days so I really didn’t need much and it was easy to find them in the bustling city.

On our first morning in Budapest, we headed straight to the LIDL supermarket next to our Airbnb in Budapest city center. The apartment we were staying at already had shampoo and soap, so I just had to pick up a toothbrush, toothpaste and some foundation.

Then we meandered down to Váci Utca, a pedestrianised shopping street that runs parallel to the Danube River. It’s packed with touristy souvenir shops but you can also find the popular chain retailers like H&M, Zara, Mango and Nike.

River cruise on the Danube - traveling with no luggage

Budapest Day 1

For clothing options, I only had what I wore on the plane: a comfortable t-shirt with baggy harem pants, a thin denim jacket and comfy loafers. They could easily last me for three days, but I decided not to be a hippie and get some spare clothes anyway.

In an hour at H&M, I picked up a new dress, pyjamas, a pair of bikini (for a soak at the famous thermal baths in Budapest) and some clean underwear. I’m a fast shopper and don’t like to spend too much time trying and choosing on clothes, so after a quick trip to the shops, I was all set for the trip!

We were really lucky with the weather — it was sunny and balmy, and the temperature was just perfect. I had a jacket with me for the windy evenings but other than that, I didn’t need anything else. I also wore my old outfit for three days (without washing) since I didn’t sweat in them and they still felt clean.

hot spring pool in budapest

A Weekend in Budapest

The rest of our time in Budapest was spent exploring the city: we went on a cruise the Danube River, wandered around the Central Market, explored the St Stephens Basilica and Parliament Square, and drank in the spectacular views at the Citadel. There was plenty to see and experience in Budapest — that thankfully didn’t require my lost luggage.

We made full use of my new swimwear by going to two different thermal baths and soaking up some sun: one was the famous Szechenyi Thermal Baths that was rich in history and very lavish in its architecture, the other was the kids-friendly Palatinus Strand located on the nature conservation area of Margaret Island. 

Szechenyi Thermal Bath - Budapest traveling with no luggage

How Did it Feel to Travel with No Luggage?

Traveling with no luggage was actually quite liberating. I usually travel with my big SLR camera and laptop (essential tools for travel bloggers!) so it felt good to carry so little for a change. Surprisingly, I didn’t feel any withdrawal syndrome from not having all my electronic gadgets — on this trip, I just used my iPhone as my camera and didn’t need anything else.

On our last day in Budapest, we had to check out of our Airbnb apartment in the morning even though we had an evening flight. But because I was traveling with no luggage, we only had one small suitcase (with Alberto and Kaleya’s stuff) to lug around town which made it much easier and more comfortable to explore the city.

As for shopping, I actually only spent one morning buying my essentials. It took much less time than I thought it would, and I also bought less stuff than what I would have brought. To minimise my expenditure and time spent on shopping, I did have to re-wear some clothes but it was fine since I didn’t stink! It would have been different if the weather was sweltering hot or extremely cold.

View of Budapest while traveling with no luggage

How Much Did It Cost?

Luckily I’m not someone who needs a lot of essentials — not toothbrush or anything that can easily be replaced, but rather things that are specific and hard to find, like medication, dietary supplements or contact lenses (Thank god I did laser eye surgery!). If I was traveling solo, I would also have to buy a bag to carry the things I bought, instead of just stuffing them into Alberto’s bag.

I think I made a great destination choice for this challenge: Budapest is cheap and has a great selection of international shops. It was easy to find shops just steps from our apartment. When I lost my bag in Mongolia, I had to scour the only mall in town and spend a fortune getting gear that I needed for hiking and camping.

For this challenge, I ended up spending only €48.50 on the essentials – which is really quite little. That said, I’m quite a minimalist and don’t really need much things when traveling. Some girls may need specific hair products or plenty of outfits to change, but I’d rather save money and go without sunscreen, facial cleanser or comb for a few days.

budapest river bank

What I Bought:

  • Toothbrush – €1.50
  • Toothpaste – €1
  • Foundation for face – €4
  • Dress – €12
  • Bikini- €13
  • Pyjamas – €7
  • Underwear – €10

TOTAL: €48.50

Some of the items I bought while traveling with no luggage

No Luggage, No Stress

All in all, traveling with no luggage turned out to be easier than I expected. Granted, I was very lucky and didn’t run into any difficulties unlike the other bloggers in the challenge. Like I said, I’m a less-is-more kind of girl and don’t need things to have a good time while traveling.

If you do need your belongings, don’t get too stressed up about losing your luggage. You can find most things you need on the road any way and always make sure you have travel insurance before setting off (read my article on how to find the best travel insurance for you).

What to Do When You Lose Your Luggage

If your luggage is lost or left behind, the first thing you do is go to the helpdesk for the airline you flew with, and ask for the Property Irregularity Report (PIR).

It’s relatively easy to fill in, you just need to provide descriptions of your luggage and your address in the country for them to locate you. The airline will then provide you with a tracking code and telephone number to call and find out the whereabouts of your luggage.

It can be a little frustrating if you’re at an airport with inadequate facilities and staff who don’t speak your language, but be patient and try your best to communicate properly. It can also be useful to get your hotel or tour operator to help and track your bag.

Most bags are traced and returned within a few days. It won’t be classified as “lost” until it’s been missing for 21 days (it’s “delayed” until then). Some airlines will pay for essentials such as toiletries and a change of clothes – but check before you spend. Always keep your receipts.

If your bag is declared lost, the airline will be liable to pay out for the luggage under the Montreal Convention, which typically means you get up to approximately USD1,450.

The airline could ask for a list of what was in the bag, as well as receipts.

If you have travel insurance, you may actually be able to claim for more than the amount the airline offers. If so, you could claim for the difference, minus any excess payable under the policy.

St Stephens Basilica - traveling with no luggage

My Personal Tips

To avoid having to spend a lot on buying essentials in the event of a lost luggage, here are some things you do on your next trip:

  • Buy travel insurance regardless of where or how long you are traveling. Besides being able to claim for lost luggage, you can also get compensation for injuries, thefts and other incidents.
  • Take a photo of all your important travel documents, store them on your phone and back them up in the cloud.
  • Download guidebooks, apps, books, magazines, and TV shows on your phone or iPad to while away your time while you wait in the airport and fill in your forms.
  • Bring essentials in your carry on so you at least have your important items (like medication), basic toiletries and a change of clothes if your bag does get lost.
  • Choose your airplane outfit carefully – comfort should be your priority and go for layers even if you’re going somewhere hot (in case the temperature drops at night). I also recommend wearing proper walking shoes rather than sandals or flip flops in case the weather changes.
  • Make sure your checked in bags are well labelled – as people do pick up the wrong bag from time to time! 
Disclosure: MoneySuperMarket sponsored my trip to Budapest as part of the Lost Luggage Challenge. As always, I reserve the right to write what I like and all opinions expressed are my own.
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