Fact: Apple AirTags are the best gadget I've bought for my cruises in 2022 and I will never travel again without them.
I've joined the legion of the converted, a group that has formed during the Great Airline Delays and Cancellations of Summer 2022. After a disastrous luggage experience coming home from an Alaska cruise ending in Vancouver, in which it took six days to retrieve my checked bag, I knew something needed to change.
I could become like my more packing-adept colleagues and try to get everything into a carryon bag. Nah, not happening. I like having fit options and there's no way I'm going anywhere without a hair styling device. And as some of my summer trips and cruises were longer and spanned multiple climates -- the British Isles, Scotland and the Baltics -- I was having trouble squishing everything from sweaters to summer dresses into one bag.
Enter Apple AirTags. These small tracking devices, which you insert in your luggage, send out signals via Bluetooth that are detected by nearby Apple devices. The devices send the location of the AirTag to iCloud, which you can access on your phone through the Find My app. Your labeled AirTag will show up on a map that shows you exactly how far away it is.
A tracking device would have saved me a ton of back-and-forth calls with airline baggage departments during my Alaska flight fiasco. My husband and I bought a pack of four tags for a recent Baltic Sea cruise on Oceania Marina.
Although we had the AirTags, a spate of news stories, complete with photos of piled "lost" luggage in European airports, scared us into trying to get away with carryon's for our flights from Newark to Copenhagen. We did everything we could to fit 10 days' worth of clothing into small bags.
No dice. When we arrived at the TAP Portugal gate at Newark, the flight attendant told us firmly that our bags would have to be checked. I refreshed the Find My app several times until it showed my carryon in the same location as the plane.
As soon as we landed in Lisbon for our connecting flight, I opened up Find My again. There was my bag, safe in Portugal. I watched in real time as the bag moved across the terminal during our relatively short connection.
Allowing me to "see" my bag as we traveled gave me fantastic peace of mind -- and confidence that I'd arrive in Copenhagen for my cruise with my luggage intact. Thanks, AirTags!
Upon landing, we walked through Copenhagen airport, confident because of our AirTags that our luggage would arrive promptly on the carousal. I gave a smug look to the piles of unclaimed luggage I passed. That wouldn't be us.
I spoke too soon. Bags from our flight rolled arrived, yet ours failed to show up on the carousel. After a 45-minute wait, our Oceania rep directed us to the lost luggage counter.
The rep scanned my luggage claim slip into a machine. "It's not here," she said.
I grabbed my phone and pulled up the Find My app. "Yes, it is," I told her, showing her the screen. The luggage icon showed my suitcase in the airport, about a quarter of a mile away. "The bag is right here."
Puzzled, she studied my screen, then picked up a phone. We stood watching my screen. The bag icon seemed to be moving our way.
"It's on its way," the airline rep confirmed. "It's coming up now."
Better late than never. Sure enough, our bag came onto the conveyor -- nearly an hour after we landed. We tried not to throw a smug look to the airline rep as we left for our pre-cruise hotel, luggage in hand, thanks to AirTags.
While we were most concerned about making sure our bag landed in Copenhagen with us, there were a few times that we checked in on our luggage Apple AirTags, just for fun. We watched the icon move with us onto the transfer bus to the cruise port. And when we boarded the ship, we were able to see exactly when the bag ended up in our cabin.
All in all, having the Apple AirTags gave me a peace of mind that I don't normally have with my luggage. Particularly as the airlines work through their staffing and flight issues, an investment in AirTags -- we bought four for $89 off Amazon -- is a reasonable one.
Are you sold yet? (I promise I don't own Apple stock). Here are some additional tips for using Apple AirTags.
Label and Icon Your AirTags Appropriately. On our trip, I was traveling with two AirTags, one in my luggage that was checked and one in my handbag. Having different names for them, along with icons, meant I was easily able to differentiate between the two.
Enable and Disable Notifications. If you turn this feature on, you will receive alerts when you leave your room without the item. Once you're on your ship and have safely stashed your unpacked luggage under the bed, you might want to turn the notifications off if you find them annoying.
Use the Precision Finding Feature. Within the Find My app, there are several ways to track your bag in case it does get lost. One of them is "Find Nearby," which comes with a GPS map that will help direct you to the bag (although if you're in an airport, you're probably not going to walk outside to collect it).
Check the Batteries. The Apple AirTag battery lasts about a year. If you were an early adopter in 2021 and are heading out on a 2022 trip, make sure your battery still works and get a replacement if it's running low.
Look into Other AirTag Accessories. Once you start using AirTags for your luggage, you might want to branch out and use them for other frequently lost items. You can buy keychains that hold an AirTag, wallets that come with AirTag slots and even dog collars, so you always have tabs on your pooch.
We understand that not everyone has an Apple iPhone or is operating within the Apple system. Here are some luggage tracking alternatives to consider:
Tile Mate. We had a Tile tracking device on our key chain long before Apple came out with AirTags and this BlueTooth device still works well. The battery lasts three years, which is much longer than the Apple AirTags. One thing we don’t like is that you need a subscription to Tile Premium to use features like Smart Alert, which are standard on Apple AirTags.
Samsung SmartTag. For people with Samsung Galaxy phones, the Samsung SmartTag is the AirTag equivalent. Galaxy has a Find Network similar to what you have with Apple, and also gives you step by step directions on how to find
Updated August 24, 2022