The 8 Best Luggage Trackers
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8 Best Luggage Tracker Alternatives
Luggage Tracker Buying Guide
Losing your luggage while traveling can be torture. The loss of valuables and important travel documents can ruin a cherished holiday or an important business trip. The agony of having no idea about the whereabouts of your luggage can be quite severe. No matter the amounts of precautions you take, you may never be able to prevent baggage loss, especially at airport transits completely. But with the advent of modern mobile technology, you can at least improve your chances of zeroing in on your lost luggage location using smart devices called luggage trackers.
Here is a list of some of the top luggage trackers sold online, arranged in no particular order:
What Are Luggage Trackers?
They are compact devices that you can use to tag your luggage and locate them in the event they get lost or misplaced. These devices use modern communications technologies like Bluetooth, GSM, and GPS to trace your lost luggage. The rapid improvements in miniaturization of tech in recent years have led to their evolution. Luggage trackers are usually armed with inbuilt batteries and a transmitter and receiver to keep track of your luggage.
There are a lot of tracking devices in the market these days. Not all of them are marketed as dedicated luggage trackers. Many are multi-purpose tracking devices that can be used to keep tabs on anything from your TV remote, to your pets, kids, cars, senior citizens and of course, your luggage as well. The general purpose trackers may not have some of the advanced features of dedicated luggage trackers.
To better understand the differences in utility and quality of different trackers, we need to first look at the underlying technologies they all use.
How Luggage Trackers Work
All you need to do is securely attach a tracker to your luggage and activate the system. Almost all tracking devices use a mobile app interface to take care of the tracking process. If and when the luggage gets misplaced, you can log onto your iOS or Android device and try to identify its current location.
Luggage trackers these days use any one of the following technologies to locate your belongings:
- Satellite-based GPS/GLONASS technology
- Mobile GSM communications technology, like 3G or 4G networks
- Bluetooth communications
- WiFi networks
The more sophisticated tracking devices tend to use a combination of some of the above technologies. This enables them to improve the chances of locating your lost luggage, should any one of the technologies fail. The most common combination is GPS+GSM, which means that you can reliably track your luggage across the globe since both those technologies have widespread global coverage. This gives them an advantage over tracking devices that use just close range tech like WiFi or Bluetooth.
Different Types Of Luggage Trackers
GSM Luggage Trackers
These trackers use cell phone technology to zero in on your lost luggage. The process is pretty much identical to what law enforcement agencies would use to triangulate the location of a cell phone based on its proximity to particular cell towers. Such trackers either come with a built-in GSM SIM card, or an option to insert your own SIM card.
When you use a built-in SIM, you usually have to pay for the future use of the SIM. This cost is usually factored into the price of the device, much like in the case of eBook readers like the Amazon Kindle Paperwhite. When the tracker doesn't come with a SIM, the charges you pay will be dependent on your network provider's plans.
These trackers have the advantage of being able to work in any locations with GSM cell network coverage, including inside airports. But then again, it will not work in countries without GSM networks, like Japan and South Korea. Also, you will not be able to get the exact location of your luggage, just an approximate area based on the nearest cell tower.
TrakDot and LugLoc are two of the more popular dedicated luggage trackers that use GSM, in conjunction with other techs like Bluetooth and WiFi.
Trackers that come with GPS chips have global coverage, often better than mobile towers. And they also offer pinpoint accuracy, which is not something GSM trackers can provide. But GPS has one fatal flaw: the signal can get blocked very quickly, by any obstruction between the device and the sky. So anything from trees to buildings can reduce the ability of the tracker to connect to the GPS satellite and radio in its location. So the efficiency of the trackers might be severely reduced in places like airport building and terminals.
GPS only tracker are useful if your luggage gets misplaced in an outdoors situation, in remote areas where cell towers offer little or no coverage. Dedicated GPS trackers like the SpyTec STI GL300 provide this kind of service, often with monthly subscription charges.
While the other two are long range solutions, Bluetooth-based trackers are short range location trackers that need you to be within 30 meters to be useful. While this can severely reduce its efficacy in an airport or overseas luggage situation, some devices do try to get around this in innovative ways.
For instance, Tile Mate is a very popular multi-purpose tracker with millions of users in the US. It harnesses the power of this userbase to get around the distance limitations. If you lost luggage with the Tile Tracker finds itself in the vicinity of other Tile users, its signal will be relayed to your app through their Tile devices. The success rate depends on the number and spread of Tile users in the area where you lose your luggage. So it is not a very reliable option, especially during international travel.
Ideal Luggage Tracker Recommendations
The choice of the perfect luggage tracker for your purpose depends on several factors, like budget, and travel destination, and whether it includes air travel.
Best Budget Luggage Tracker: Tile Mate Anything Finder
This compact tracker is very versatile and easy to use. If you and your lost luggage are in the same airport, Tile Mate can help you locate it with ease. It's incredibly cheap and many users end up buying multiple Tiles to keep track of anything from their remote, to key chains and even their dogs. Just don't expect this to help you if your airline sends your luggage half way around the world though.
Best Long Range GPS Tracker: SpyTec-STI-GL300
If you want an outdoors only solution, usable in places with poor GSM network, this is the best GPS-based solution out there. It has a compact form, smart battery manager, and the ability to show real-time tracking on Google Maps. You pay a fixed monthly fee, with no contracts or activation/cancellation fees. It can be used with virtually anything, from luggage to cars, pets and even elderly relatives suffering from conditions like Alzheimer's.
Best Long Range GSM Tracker: LugLoc Luggage Locator
Both TrackDot and LugLoc provide quite similar tracking capabilities based on GSM networks. But regarding overall performance and versatility, LugLoc narrowly wins out due to the inclusion of a built-in rechargeable battery. If replacing AA batteries after every two weeks does not seem like a major hassle to your, TrackDot can be a fantastic option, with global range, full mobile connectivity, and email and SMS functionalities. It is just that LugLoc provides all this, as well as a more convenient rechargeable battery.
An ideal all rounder luggage tracker would incorporate GPS, GSM, Bluetooth and WiFi/NFC capabilities. But then, such a device would probably have a larger form factor and reduced battery capabilities, not to mention increased service charges. As it is, GPS and GSM trackers provide reasonable tracking capabilities. But as of now, the performance of all these trackers are a bit of a hit and miss, especially at larger airports, and underground cargo handling facilities which may not have optimal GSM/GPS coverage.
So don't expect miracles when you buy a luggage tracker. Consider it just a due diligence on your part, something that can significantly improve your chances of retracing lost luggage. In that regard, they are totally worth the price, since you are not completely in the dark when you have a tracking app to look at, and hopefully coordinates to narrow your search area.