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By Andrea Drever

Content and Editorial Director


I still remember that hopeless feeling, standing at the empty baggage carousel at the Charles de Gaulle Airport. Everyone had gotten their luggage. Except me. With a quivering lip, I filled out the dreaded missing-luggage forms. Airport personnel told me, seemingly unconcerned, that I would probably never see my bag again.

Great.

After several days of walking around Paris in the same clothes (even in this fashion capital, replacements were hard to come by), my luggage was unceremoniously left at my hotel. It was a bigger relief than I could ever have imagined. And now that I’m planning another trip to France, I’m going to try and avoid this same scenario. I’m getting a luggage tracker.

Seems like a pretty easy task, but there are lots of them on the market and a few key factors to take into consideration. Basically, you have to choose your tracking technology: Bluetooth, GPS or GSM. Here’s the breakdown.

Bluetooth only tracks your luggage over shorter distances, though some devices that use it have an impressive range in open spaces, like airport terminals. These devices are considerably less expensive and usually don’t require monthly data plans.  

GPS (Global Positioning System) trackers use satellite technology to ping a bag’s location. Though they deliver the most expansive coverage worldwide, a big drawback is that the signal can be blocked by physical barriers, like buildings. And monthly data plans are generally required.

GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications) is the world’s largest digital cellular system. These luggage trackers work using cell tower signals, the same as mobile phones. But some countries, particularly those in Asia, don’t use GSM. That means GSM trackers need a different SIM card, which may incur extra fees, such as roaming. And monthly data plans are required.

In the end, I opted for the $35 Tile Pro. It’s a Bluetooth device that pairs with a smartphone app and tracks luggage up to 400 feet. Which isn’t far. But if my luggage does get lost, I can send out an anonymous SOS to get help from other users nearby. So, my Tile and I will be heading to Europe soon. Though to play it safe, I think I’ll still bring a few extra pairs of undies in my carry-on.

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