Not too long ago I took a trip out to Colorado to see my brother, sister-in-law, and new baby niece. The trip got off to a rocky start. A few days before I left, I came down with a cold. That made flying somewhat painful. Upon arrival, it meant I wouldn't be able to hold my new niece, which was even more painful. Nevertheless, I was excited to see my family who met me in baggage claim. And then we waited...for a bag that never came across the conveyor belt.
Now I know what you're going to say... all the smart people carry on their luggage. That way, you don't risk having your luggage lost. You're right. That's a great plan, if you can get away with it.
As an entrepreneur and avid photographer, my carry on space is always occupied by equipment (laptops, cameras, lenses, flashes, chargers, and the like). There's no way I'm checking my laptop or my camera, so checking a suitcase full of clothes is actually the safer play for me... until I don't have my clothes.
So there I was a traveler from Charleston, filing a lost bag report in Denver. I've lost bags before on flights. They are usually found and delivered wherever I'm staying by the end of the evening or, on rare ocassions, the next day. Even when my luggage was misplaced on a flight to Africa, it was returned within a day.
I always tuck a toothbrush in my carry on, so at least my oral hygiene was intact. I borrowed shampoo, conditioner, and pajamas and went to bed somewhat miserable as all my cold medicine was in my luggage, and I was way overdue for a next dose. I woke up to find it snowing outside. Yup. Snowing. It had been in the 70's when I left Charleston, so I was wearing jeans and a t-shirt. We headed off to a luncheon that I did not feel appropriately attired for. And I longed for my luggage.
When it hadn't arrived by day two, my brother took me shopping. I bought toiletries, makeup, and cold meds. I think it ran me somewhere around $50 bucks. By the end of the day, we were making a plan to go clothes shopping the next day if the bag still hadn't been found.
It's true. You can borrow clothes and other items if your bag is lost, but it's the items you don't think about... like clean underwear... that you really miss when you don't have your luggage. I'm comfortable borrowing a whole lot of items, but underwear? You have to be really comfortable with someone to borrow their underwear.
The whole time, the airline just seemed really "unsure" where my bag was. At one point they called me and told me it had been located, only to call me back an hour later letting me know they couldn't confirm it was actually my bag. Suddenly, on day three, it appeared from the depths! It was delivered to the house with a slightly underwhelming apology sticker from the airline. Where had it been this whole time?
I was relieved to have my bag back, as we were headed up to the mountains at the end of the week. I was thankful I didn't need to go clothes shopping, but immediately started Googling luggage trackers to see how much it would have cost to potentially prevented this debacle. I was surprised to find the devices weren't all that pricey.
Most luggage trackers also require a GPS service tracking fee to track your bags, but some companies offer these at a discount for an extended period or lifetime service. You can also just try the tracking service for a month or a year, and ditch it if you don't like it. I have a feeling these services are very similar to roadside assistance programs in terms of sentiment. You wonder if they are a reasonable expense, until you're broken down on the highway and desperately need a tow.
A quick browser search will give you an abundance of information on options and provide up to date pricing. As a quick reference, here are some of the more popular options on the market currently.
LugLoc is a GSM/Mobile based option which has bluetooth compatability as a back-up. This device also has an airplane mode and is FAA and TSA compliant. LugLoc also boasts a longer battery life than many trackers, so you can feel at ease if you are on a long or international flight and away from your luggage for a while. The company offers a 30 day free trial following purchase of their device which runs approximately $70. Tracking is $4.99 a month, $19.99 for 6 months, or 29.99 annually.
Trakdot Luggage Tracker is a mobile/GSM bluetooth compatible tracker with a mobile app for iPhone or Android platforms available at around $45. It, like the LugLoc and many other models, has a smart flight mode which turns the device off while you are flying and reengages it when you land. The company offers a free trial period once you purchase the device. When the free trial expires, you can purchase tracking service for $20 a year or $50 for a lifetime purchase.
The Waldo GPS Tracker by Smart Unit allows you to track your luggage anywhere in the world that a cell phone GEM/GPS is available. It also has a smart airplane mode which will deactivate the device while flying. It will alert you if someone else picks up your luggage accidentally at baggae claim, and contains an anti-theft system that sends an alert if your luggage is opened. The device runs just over $70.
Tile Smart Trackers were not designed to be luggage trackers, but as a way to locate belongings that are typically misplaced (keys, wallet, phone, bag). They can however be helpful in keeping track of your bags as you travel as long as your bag remains close by. They are bluetooth compatible but are not GPS trackers. This is a good option to make sure you are not separated from a checked bag or to assist you in finding your checked baggage coming off a baggage claim carousel. They just aren't great if your bag got sent to Houston and you are in Kansas City.
The GLCON Luggage Tracker with bluetooth tech is an Amazon favorite in the space. The Spy Tec STI GL300 has been popular for personal and vehicle GPS tracking (ie - if you'd like to keep tabs on more than just your luggage and want to track where your kids are for instance). Those options are worth checking out as well.
If you opt against luggage tracking, make sure that your carry on bag holds whatever is most handy or irreplaceable during your trip (that bridesmaid dress, gifts for loved ones, or the laptop that contains the report you have to finish before your trip is done). I'll admit, I've started stuffing a change of clothes in my laptop bag, along with an extra pair of underwear...just in case. Happy traveling.
Sources: Expert World Travel, Paw Tracker.
Audra Gibson is a Christian, photographer, surfer, and a lover of teriyaki steak bites. She enjoys live music, doesn't like to be cold, and she's a bit of a cheese snob. Traveling Ink was her little brain child and she's very happy that you're here. She'd be oh so happy to recommend her favorite tours and attractions in town, help you with a team building event, or organize a day (or week) of fun for you and your group.Website: www.audragibson.com