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Recently I wrote a tip on why you really don’t want to check a bag when you’re traveling these days. I gave my reasons, which you can read here. In the article, you can also read about how lost luggage numbers in the U.S. skyrocketed over the summer and how other travel experts are issuing the same warning.

It’s not surprising since there are so many more people traveling this year and there are far fewer workers. Many airports and airlines around the world are still struggling with staffing issues because once the pandemic hit, many workers got laid off, took early retirement or found other jobs. Currently, not as many people want to work in travel because of low pay and the risk of viruses. For those who do want to work, it takes time to get trained or retrained.

Speaking of COVID, when workers catch the virus, they’re calling in sick (as they should) but that leaves businesses in the lurch.

A story that came out today in the UK’s (not exactly respected) Daily Mail shows a mountain of unclaimed luggage at London’s Heathrow Airport. The story, titled: Heathrow’s great mountain of uncollected luggage gets BIGGER, says: “Airport admits it has an ‘ongoing issue with baggage system’ as thousands of suitcases pile up and passengers are told it could be days before they are reunited.” Below is a photo of the madness that I found on Twitter.

I know that not checking bags is much easier said than done, especially for those with little kids (ahem, I’m one of them). But if you are checking bags and you really want to know where your bags are, a good little trick a lot of frequent travelers use is to pop an Apple AirTag in the checked luggage. You can buy them at an Apple store or on Amazon for $27 for one or $97 for four. For those with Android phones you can use Samsung’s SmartTags. All are listed below.

I have an Apple AirTag in my carry-on just in case it ever gets stolen. I have so much personal stuff in there that is valuable to me but not to crooks. They might just grab the money and credit cards and toss the bag. Hopefully, I can track it down if, God forbid, it ever does get nabbed.

What inspired this post is a tweet from Rakesh Agrawal, a tech exec I follow on Twitter, that said “Always reassuring to know my bag made it. Worth the price of an AirTag. (Of course @delta and @united send you push notifications when a bag is loaded.) And he showed an image of the locations of his bags and car keys. (see below).

Rakesh is right that airlines have gotten so much better about tracking bags, thanks to technology. It’s prudent to always download the airline’s app to see if your bag has been loaded and unloaded.

But for incidents like Heathrow, where bags are piling high, which I’ve seen many times in the U.S. and other parts of the world, it’s good to know exactly where your bag is. You won’t have to go through the whole pile.

Apple AirTags or other similar tracking devices will also help when your bag comes out on a different carousel or if someone takes it by mistake.

Friend, reader and travel host Colleen Kelly wrote in with her own experience after reading this story and here’s what she had to say about when four pieces of her family’s luggage didn’t make it on their trip to Munich:

Now, luckily, me, traveling like you as a travel expert, I put a few extra clothes in my carry-on, pajamas, and some toiletries or anything that I may need if I got stranded for two days or so, so I was the only one that had what they needed.

I told my teens before I left to bring an extra pair of clothes etc., but being teens, they didn’t listen to mom. LOL! I even told my husband but he didn’t listen also. LOL again.

Anyway, we all (or they) learned a valuable lesson. Always pack back-ups in your carry-on in case your luggage gets lost.

The other thing I was kicking myself about is that we didn’t order the AirTags from Apple. The airline couldn’t find our luggage (it got stuck in Chicago where we are based and didn’t even get loaded onto a plane to Munich). That said, if we had the Airtags, WE could have tracked it!

My camera guy lost one of his equipment bags on a shoot in Ireland this fall and I should have learned from him. He had an AirTag on it and was able to track it through from the USA, through airports, etc. and then communicated with American Airlines where it was to help them locate it. Thank God he had an AirTag on his luggage.

From now on, we will attach an AirTag to every bag we check or better yet, as you advise, we probably will now do the carry-on! For the next trip, we are going to try to make that happen. Anyway, sorry for the long email but I just wanted to tell you, YOU ARE RIGHT!


30 Comments On "Why Frequent Fliers Use Apple AirTags or Samsung SmartTags When They Travel"
  1. Phyllis|

    I didn’t think we could check anything using lithium batteries. Has that changed. I love air tags and would definitely use them in checked luggage if allowed.

    1. Johnny Jet|

      Hi Phyllis,

      “while rechargeable lithium-ion batteries are banned from checked luggage, this doesn’t apply to the single-use CR2023 cell used by AirTags”

  2. JoAnn|

    Air Tags are great for luggage, but we also put one in a watchband case on our 7 y/o granddaughter at Disneyland last week. She loved the “watch” and we loved the peace of mind in the crowds.

  3. Ron C Ferron|

    Everyone talks about/recommends Apple AirTag’s, but I do not own an iPhone. Is there an Android equivalent?

    1. Johnny Jet|

      Yes! They have SmartTags and I will add it to the post. Here’s my affiliate Amazon link

  4. Tari Kelley|

    Hello Johnny Jet!!!
    I have been following you faithfully for a few years now, thanks to KFI and Leo Leporte!
    I am traveling soon to Paris/Italy via Delta, with our son and son in-law.
    I have decided to purchase (per your reliable recommendation) the “Air Tags” for our luggage that with a 2 week trip-really NEED to pack with luggage that cant be a “carry-on”.
    I noticed you said in your article the airtag is a “one time use”?
    Does that mean, future travel, I need to buy another new set of Air Tags?

    Thank You dear JJ for your expertise, friendliness, and constant travel info.

    Traveler Tari ~

    1. Johnny Jet|

      Thanks Tari! No, they’re not one time use. You can keep using them so just buy one for your bag.

  5. Earl B.|

    My wife and I are big believers in carry-on baggage. However, our normal (Monos Carry-on Plus) bags, which fit comfortably in just about any U.S. domestic overhead bin, are bigger than the allowed (and ridiculously small) carry-on size for flights to/from and within Europe. I am definitely buying AirTags for our upcoming trip to France/Belgium/Netherlands. Thanks for information!

  6. Joel|

    What is the technology being used here? How is this little tag connecting to the internet and broadcasting its position? I hope you are not telling people to buy a Bluetooth device that would be useless for tracking unless I was within 50′ of my bag.

    1. Johnny Jet|

      They’re using other peoples phones

  7. Steve|
    1. Johnny Jet|


  8. Don|

    Do you place the tags in a zipper compartment INSIDE the suitcase or clip it to an outside handle?

    1. Johnny Jet|


  9. Deb|

    On a trial basis, I tried placing the Airtag inside my luggage, but it did not seem to work well, at all. So, I purchased a product on Amazon, labeled: “Luggage Tag with Hidden Compartment for AirTag”. It was a bright orange tag made of soft silicone and with a blue and green planet earth symbol on one side and showing my name on the other side. I put the AirTag inside the protective molded luggage tag. I attached the tag to the handles on the outside of my luggage with the included steel wire Loop & Cable. The purchase also included an address card to be placed inside. (Note: before checking my luggage or boarding my flight, I ALWAYS made certain that the cable was tightly screwed on. Also, these AirTag/Luggage Tags are a bit pricey, as you only get one per order. But, they worked really well for me!)

  10. Alice Loeffler|

    JJ…This could help me when I go to Portugal later this year. But, I am confused. Will the Android Samsung tag work with my Android Motorola phone. I have searched hi and low, but cannot find an answer.
    Love your newsletters.

    1. Johnny Jet|

      Yes! When you get it. Test it. If it doesn’t work send it back to Amazon.

  11. joan ciccotto|

    I just bought my grandson and electric bike for $1000.00 I would like to get a tag and glue it somewhere on the bike. Would that work?

    1. Johnny Jet|


  12. Ruth|

    If I arrive in Europe and my luggage never left the USA, would I be able to tell using the Samsung Smart Tag plus with my Samsung Galaxy S21+? Thanks

    1. Johnny Jet|

      Yes! Here’s a tutorial I found on YouTube

  13. Ruth|

    Thanks for the info but I got ahead of myself, I have a Galaxy S20+. If I am correct, think it will only work with the Smart Tag not the plus version?

    1. Johnny Jet|

      I’m not sure since I’m an Apple user. Sorry

  14. Serb|

    I still have doubts on effectiveness of these things, as they work by using other people’s phones and requiring those people have the same smart tag app on their phone too.

    “If a Chipolo tracking tag is lost, their owner can mark it as lost in the app and anonymously alert all other Chipolo users to be on the lookout. Samsung SmartTags offer a similar feature where other Galaxy users can help you find the lost Smart Tag.

    The weakness for both is that in order to find the lost tag, another user with an active app on the phone must be in the vicinity of the lost item long enough for their phone to connect. This is fairly easy in heavily populated areas like cities but can be a problem in areas with less population.”

    Oh, and here is another alternative for Android phones that isn’t limited to Samsung phones only and is cheaper than Samsung Smart Tags

  15. Honolulu Lulu|

    ‘What is the technology being used here? How is this little tag connecting to the internet and broadcasting its position? I hope you are not telling people to buy a Bluetooth device that would be useless for tracking unless I was within 50′ of my bag.’

    ‘They’re using other peoples phones’


  16. John Harnett|

    So, if I have an Samsung Galaxy smart tag(s) on my luggage and am flying to Toronto and my bags end up in Heathrow, can I tell the baggage people in Toronto that they are in Heathrow?

    1. Johnny Jet|


  17. Jacky|

    Seems that samsing airtag does not work when airplane mode is on! I will not be turning off airplane when on vacation around the world anywhere. Airplane mode on, Wi-Fi on, you can get anything else to work. Any ideas??

  18. George Keller|
    1. Johnny Jet|

      Thanks! I read it earlier this week. They will do just what Lufthansa did. Overturn it.

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