I used a $29 Apple AirTag to track my luggage on 2 buses and a plane and I'll never travel without one again

·5 min read
The Airtag on my dress in my luggage
Brittany Chang/Insider
  • I bought a $29 Apple AirTag to track my luggage while I traveled in July.

  • My carry-on was unexpectedly "valet checked" on my Delta flight and knowing its location eased my anxiety.

  • I'll never take a flight without an AirTag again.

For the sake of efficiency, I have never liked checking my luggage at the airport.

My luggage next to my foot.
Brittany Chang/Insider

And there's no better time to prefer carry-ons over checked bags: Lost luggage claims have surged 30% this summer as anecdotal missing baggage horror stories have inflamed the internet.

Heathrow luggage
Mark Wayt, who landed at Heathrow on Saturday, said every luggage carousel had hundreds of bags lined up.Mark Wayt

Source: Insider, Insider

Unfortunately, besides practicing the art of patience, there's not much you can do if an airline loses your belongings.

A picture showing a line up of luggage at Heathrow Airport in London, in Terminal 5.
Heathrow T5.Adam Kent

So before you travel in the next few months, it's probably a good idea to think of ways to mitigate the chances of losing your luggage.

Luggage starts to pile up at Pearson International Airport on June 10 2022.
Luggage starts to pile up at Pearson International Airport on June 10 2022.Steve Russell/Toronto Star via Getty Images.

Both airline employees and seasoned travelers have recommended using an Apple AirTag to keep track of luggage amid this "wild west" of a travel season.

Apple AirTag
The silver part of the AirTag is a cap that unscrews to reveal the battery.Dave Johnson

Source: Insider, Insider

And this advice has already been heeded by many air travelers — Google searches for AirTags have steadily climbed over the last three months.

An Airtag on a black backpack
Artur Debat/Getty Images

Source: Google Trends

One traveler even told Insider's Abby Wallace that she used her AirTag to find her lost luggage carrying $10,000 worth of belongings.

A picture showing abandoned luggage in Heathrow's Terminal 5.
Luggage are piling up at Heathrow's Terminal 5.Adam Kent

Source: Insider

That story was enough to convince me to AirTag my luggage. So I decided to try this hack during a recent three-day work trip where I had to travel via a flight, two long-haul bus rides, and several Lyft rides …

A peter pan bus.
Brittany Chang/Insider

… which were all "perfect" opportunities for me to lose my bag given my chronic bad luck.

The view from the back of an Uber
Brittany Chang/Insider

Before this lost baggage debacle, I had never felt compelled to try out Apple's infamous AirTags.

My hand holding the Apple AirTag box.
Brittany Chang/Insider

I don't often lose my belongings. And before this trip, I associated AirTags with its controversial use for "unwanted tracking" more than its actual function of locating missing items.

My hand holding the opened Apple AirTag box.
Brittany Chang/Insider

Source: Insider

But after traveling with my AirTagged luggage, I'll probably never take a flight without the small round Apple token in my bag again, even if I'm just bringing a carry-on.

My luggage next to my foot.
Brittany Chang/Insider

A single $29 AirTag was easy to acquire: It can be ordered online and either picked up the same day at a nearby Apple store or shipped to your home.

My hand holding the Apple AirTag box with the bar code on the rear.
Brittany Chang/Insider

I opted for the former. And because I preordered my little device, I was able to pick up my order within 10 minutes of walking into the Apple store in Soho, New York.

My hand holding the Apple AirTag box by the Apple store in Soho.
Brittany Chang/Insider

When I got home, I probably spent more time unboxing my AirTag than actually setting it up.

My hand holding the opened Apple AirTag box.
Brittany Chang/Insider

All I had to do was pair it to my iPhone, label it as "luggage" …

A screenshot of my airtag being labeled as luggage.
Brittany Chang/Insider

… tuck it into my packed carry-on bag, and I was ready to go.

The Airtag on my dress in my luggage
Brittany Chang/Insider

From there, I was able to track my AirTag — and subsequently my luggage — through the Find My app.

A screenshot of the location of my AirTag
Brittany Chang/Insider

During my trip, I miraculously never had a moment of panic regarding the location of my bag.

Latrice Rubenstein said there was a "sea of luggage" at Dublin Airport when she arrived.
Latrice Rubenstein said there was a "sea of luggage" at Dublin Airport when she arrived.Alexey Varganov.

On my two long-haul bus rides, my four-wheeler luggage was stored with all the other passengers' bags in the storage compartment.

A peter pan bus with the luggage storage locker open.
Brittany Chang/Insider

And at my first stop, my luggage was either always next to me, in my hotel room, or checked with the concierge at the hotel's front desk.

A screenshot of my luggage in Washington DC
Brittany Chang/Insider

While I trusted the concierge wouldn't lose my bag, it was still nice knowing I had the ability to track its location while I was out and about.

A screenshot of my luggage in Washington DC
Brittany Chang/Insider

The closest I came to worrying about my bag was when I boarded my regional Delta flight from Nashville, Tennessee back to New York City.

A hand holding a Delta valet check ticket next to a luggage.
Brittany Chang/Insider

Before I boarded, I was required to "valet check" my carry-on bag, presumably due to the lack of space in the small overhead bins.

The pick up area for the valet checked luggage on a Delta flight.
Brittany Chang/Insider

I don't know where the airline stored my little luggage after I parted ways with it.

The pick up area for the valet checked luggage on a Delta flight.
Brittany Chang/Insider

And I wasn't reunited with my belongings until after I deplaned in New York and grabbed my luggage from a locker-like space on the passenger boarding bridge.

The pick up area for the valet checked luggage on a Delta flight.
Brittany Chang/Insider

While I was worried my carry-on-turned-checked bag would get lost in the shuffle of luggage, I felt at ease knowing I had the ability to locate it at any time.

A screenshot of my AirTag being set up
Brittany Chang/Insider

And that's been my general takeaway from this experience.

A screenshot of my Airtag location
Brittany Chang/Insider

During my three-day trip, I was never faced with the possibility of lost luggage.

A screenshot of my Airtag location
Brittany Chang/Insider

But having the ability to track my baggage's location at any time, especially when I had to valet check it, eased my other baggage (anxiety).

A screenshot of my luggage on the bus in NJ
Brittany Chang/Insider

And while AirTagging your belongings won't prevent an airline from misplacing it, the tech could at least help expedite its return, according to anecdotal stories floating around the internet.

A key ring containing an AirTag attached to a rucksack inside the Apple Store George Street on April 30, 2021 in Sydney, Australia.
A key ring containing an AirTag attached to a rucksack inside the Apple Store George Street on April 30, 2021 in Sydney, Australia.James D. Morgan/Getty Images

Source: Insider, Twitter

And it's that ease of mind that has convinced me I’ll never travel without an AirTag in my luggage — checked or carry-on — again.

A screenshot of my luggage in Washington DC
Brittany Chang/Insider

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