The summer travel season is in full swing. Planes and hotels are full, travelers face long queues, cancellations, crowds and many other travel nightmares. But perhaps most frustrating is when your luggage gets lost. You must somehow track down your belongings that were in the care of the airline and then wait for the reunion – while trying to enjoy the start of your long-awaited vacation. When it comes to travel nightmares, lost luggage is one of the worst.
To be honest, I’m great at losing things strategically – or rather, losing things in style. (I hope you appreciate the reference to Toy Story.) So when a product comes along that’s a perfect way to keep my stuff organized—especially when I travel—I put it in my holdall.
I was a big fan of Apple’s $29 item tracker called AirTag. The long-rumored AirTag product finally launched last spring, and while it’s not the first item tracker, it has two key features that set it apart from the rest and make it the ultimate travel companion: Access to the Find My -Find network and precision technique.
But what makes it so special? Let’s explain why.
The ultimate travel companion
The Apple AirTag is the perfect tool for your next trip. Its simplicity, functionality and size mean you never lose track of your bags on the go. The peace of mind that your luggage made it on your journey is well worth the reasonable price.
The most important thing to know about AirTag is that it operates on the Apple Find My network. This is the same network that supports Find My for all your Apple devices: iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch, Apple Watch, AirPods and Mac. It’s a tool that makes it easy to pinpoint exactly where your device is, and it even plays a sound for easy location.
It’s also the sheer size of the network that gives the item tracker an edge. The Find My network consists of over a billion connected devices. So if you’re walking around an airport and you have an AirTag in your luggage, devices that make up that network can ping it and locate yours on a map. In our tests, it was more reliable and faster to update than a competing Tile tracker.
In a fairly dense area like an airport — say Newark Liberty International (EWR) or New York–Kennedy (JFK) — the presence of so many devices allows for frequent location updates for your AirTag, allowing for more accurate location tracking. The opposite can be said for a rural New Jersey location compared to New York City. The more devices your AirTag can reach, the more accurate and up-to-date the AirTag’s location will be.
And yes, you need an iPhone to use AirTag. You set it up by holding it near your iPhone and using the onscreen prompts to name it and link it to your Apple ID. From a privacy perspective, Apple has now released updates to fix common problems with smart trackers and some of the larger stalking issues with the AirTag.
Currently, you’ll be notified if your iPhone finds an AirTag near you that isn’t registered, as well as a notification if you leave without an AirTag registered to you. Apple is working to speed up these notifications. With the Precision Search feature, Apple finds an unwanted or unregistered AirTag near you. Apple has also released a tracker detection app on the Play Store for Android that you can use to find an AirTag that might be near you without an iPhone. Apple will also make it clearer when setting up an AirTag that there are some negative use cases and ways to report them to the authorities.
During my first AirTag test, I flew from Newark to Palm Beach International Airport (PBI) and it was a pretty awesome test. I slipped an AirTag into the inside pocket of my suitcase and said goodbye as I checked in the luggage. I also had an accessory in a leather loop on my backpack.
In the Find My app on my iPhone, I was able to select Jake’s Baggage and view it on a map. I could see where my luggage was in real time—still outside of Newark Airport. And even though I didn’t physically have a view of my luggage, I had peace of mind that it was on its way to pick me up at my final destination.
And indeed, when I checked it at the gate a little later, the luggage was closer to the plane. As I climbed in and sat in my seat, rocking a pair of AirPods Max, I could see the luggage was safely under me and a little farther back in the plane’s hold—it seemed like I had a better spot than my suitcase. And while airplane mode is required on the plane, I could see the baggage AirTag updating in real time, even as we flew over the east coast of the United States.
Ultimately, it was the in-flight security that the AirTag gave me, and that’s much more than what I’ve had before when traveling. The $29 AirTag add-on effectively reduced my stress. And when it came time to disembark the plane and head through PBI to baggage claim, I kept track of my bags on the Find My app. It was a bit slower to update as I meandered through a fairly quiet terminal, but I could at least understand my bag being on the floor.
While I hoped the carousel would have been confusing enough to use Precision Finding, I was able to immediately spot my red away bag. Precision Finding uses augmented reality or AR to give you large directional arrows along with distances to find your AirTag on an iPhone 11 or newer. It’s pretty awesome and is a game changer for item trackers to offer such pinpoint accuracy.
If you’re looking to supercharge the AirTag as the ultimate travel companion, it’s worth checking if your airline offers its own baggage tracking services. For example, Delta will keep an eye on your bag and keep you updated through its app for Android or iOS. It allows you to track the bags attached to your itinerary as they are scanned at each part of the journey and make their way through the airport and onto the plane.
From dropping your bags off at check-in, to loading them onto the plane and then onto the baggage claim belt, AirTag combined with an airline’s baggage tracking app feels like a superpower.
The only downside to the AirTag? There’s no built-in key ring hole like the Chipolo or Tile trackers, which is a drawback. Keep in mind that while you’re spending $29 on the tracker, you’ll want to get an accessory that’s specifically made for travel.
If you have a bag or secure place to stow the AirTag in your luggage, you don’t necessarily need additional accessories. But considering it attaches to your luggage, we think it’s worth investing in a key fob or loop accessory. We’ve rounded up a wealth of AirTag accessories, from lanyards to keychains, and even some that you can customize.
One of our favorites is the Belkin AirTag Secure Holder, which physically clamps the AirTag in place and prevents it from falling out. It will cost you around $12.99, which is a lot cheaper than Apple’s leather keychain or leather lanyard.
The perfect AirTag accessory
When you travel with an AirTag, you don’t want to lose it in your luggage. Consider this secure AirTag holder and clip it to your bag so it doesn’t get misplaced.
While I haven’t physically lost my luggage with an AirTag attached, I’ve used it on a couple of trips and use one on my keys every day. If you’re good at losing things in style or have a habit of misplacing things – and have an iPhone – the AirTag makes a lot of sense. And while you’re doing those final packing checks before your summer trip, it’s worth spending a little more and getting an AirTag just for security.
And if you’re visiting family, you can get four AirTags for $99 if you fancy giving them away. If not, get one for $29.
AirTags for the whole family
If you want to make sure the whole family can track their luggage this summer travel season, consider a four-pack of AirTags.
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