Holiday travelers are going to want to add one extra thing to their packing list this peak travel season: luggage trackers. While the past couple of years has seen air travel at its lowest points, folks have been readily taking to the skies again as COVID numbers began to drop earlier this year. The only rub? Some hiccups along the way with ensuring their cargo arrived to their destination safe and sound. According to the Department of Transportation’s most recent Air Travel Consumer Report, in May 2022, over 237 bags were mishandled—i.e. damaged, delayed, stolen, or otherwise lost—a whopping 180% increase from the same period last year.
As frightening as those numbers are, those with checked bags can rest easier knowing that a cheap luggage tracker in the sub-$30 range can help them keep tabs on their precious travel bags wherever they go. Buying a luggage tracker should really be a no-brainer for anyone who’s checking luggage that’s even remotely useful or worth some amount of money. A five-pack of underwear, some old clothes, and extra toothpaste may cost next to nothing, but can it ruin a whole trip to have a full suitcase worth of your stuff spinning out into the ether? Certainly. It’d probably ease some anxiety knowing where it’s heading, especially if your airline isn’t being much help in locating it.
Just leave the little device in your bag, and if (when?) it goes missing, you’ll be able to locate it lickety-split. If you’re getting the gnawing feeling that something’s amiss—a sensation multiple people have reported as holiday travel kicks back into high gear—they’re worth every cent. Even the best tracker, though, won’t miraculously teleport your missing items to you. You’ll still have to navigate the infuriating bureaucracy that is airport security to reunite with your lost goods. But hey, at least you’ll know they’re not floating out the middle of the ocean. Peace of mind typically costs a whole lot more.
The Best Overall Luggage Tracker
Apple debuted its AirTags in April of 2021, and they quickly became popular thanks to their ability to track your lost items. Slightly larger than a quarter, AirTags help you track your missing gear—like a wallet, jacket, or backpack—through a Bluetooth connection. If you lose something with your AirTag affixed to it, you can use your phone to trigger a sound effect letting you know its location; the only caveat is that the missing item has to be within 800 feet of you. But given you’ll be using your AirTag to track your lost luggage—which is probably miles away—that feature isn’t as relevant.
Hundreds of millions of people own Apple devices, though, and those strangers’ gear will actually help you find your stuff. When someone else’s iPhone is near the AirTag, encrypted Bluetooth technology will help you locate your lost stuff in the Find My app. Plus, an AirTag has a battery life of one year, so you don’t have to worry about it dying on you while you’re on the search. And although it’s an Apple product, AirTags sync up with Androids too, provided the product in question has the corresponding Tracker Detect app. (For the real neurotics, Apple also builds in a safety feature to let you know when an unfamiliar AirTag has been following you for a long time.)
3 More Luggage Trackers We Like
Tile became a standout name in Bluetooth tracking way before Apple released the AirTag, and the water-resistant Mate works in very much the same way. It boasts a Bluetooth range of 250 feet, and when it’s farther away than that, it’ll bounce off of other Tile devices to help you approximate its location. Its battery life is around three years long, which is a huge bump up from the AirTag’s. You don’t need a Tile subscription to tap into the network of Tile users, but an optional Tile Premium membership offers perks like a Smart Alert—for when you leave something behind—and a $100 reimbursement fee if Tile can’t find what you’re looking for.
This is essentially the AirTag but for Samsung Galaxy users. Its Bluetooth range is 390 feet, and you can tap into the Galaxy Find Network to find your stuff when things are out of range. There’s a Samsung SmartTag+ that costs $10 more and has a very cool feature that lets you use augmented reality to give you step-by-step directions to your tracker. The only downside, as you might expect, is that SmartTags are made exclusively for Galaxy users so they’re largely useless to everyone else.
Dynotag’s tracker relies solely on good Samaritans. (Trust us, they still exist.) You can’t track it remotely, but if someone else finds it they can scan the QR code, which will trigger an email sent to you with the tracker’s whereabouts. It’s essentially a teched-out version of an old-school luggage tag, and unlike the other options on this list, it doesn’t require batteries.