Best Smart GPS/GSM Luggage Tracking Locators 2018
Have you ever gotten off the plane at your destination only to learn that your luggage wasn’t there? You can rely on the airline to find it, or you can start every trip with a luggage locator in your bag to track where it is, in real time, anywhere in the world. You can tell the airline exactly where it is, and monitor the progress as your luggage is reunited with you. We review TrakDot, LugLoc, SpyTec and SmartUnit trackers, from under $40 to under $100, not including service plans.
The price of a luggage tracker is worth the cost in lessened anxiety and power of knowing where your belongings are. A tracker can also help with speeding up the process of getting your bags back to you since the airport doesn’t have to do an internal, manual trace; Trackers can also help in resolving any claims for missing or stolen items.
Not so fun facts: Over 26 Million bags go astray each year from planes and airports around the world. Nearly 75,000 suitcases are lost or stolen everyday. About 3 out of every 1,000 passengers have lost their luggage through airline / airport mishandling or outright theft.
First is the luggage tracker reviews, and then more information about how these work. All the trackers on our list are FAA / Airline Flight Compliant, as of the current regulations.
A quick preview of the cost of ownership since all these trackers also need a service plan:
The Trakdot Luggage Tracker, Flight Baggage Tracer ($39.97) is about $60 with a 1-year plan, $80 after 2-years, or $90 for lifetime usage.
The LugLoc Luggage Tracker ($52.60) is about $83 after 1-year, $113 after 2-years and $143 after 3-years; Or if you go with a per-trip-type-payment, after 5 trips your cost is about $78, after 10 trips $103, after 20 trips $153.
The Smart Unit Luggage Tracking ($89.99) is about $100 after years 1 through 2, $110 for years 3 through 4.
Let’s go …
The Trakdot Luggage Tracker, Flight Baggage Tracer ($39.97) uses GSM location (e.g., cell tower triangulation) technology and has it’s own integrated SIM card for worldwide communications. It uses two “AA” batteries (make sure to use Alkaline, not Lithium Ion) and is good for about 200 hours of usage between battery replacements.
Trackdot recommends the Duracell CopperTop Alkalines.
The Trakdot has automatic shut-off and restart to comply with FAA regulations. When the airplane lands, the device comes out of sleep mode and triangulates its location based on nearby cell towers. It is smart enough to match a location to a specific airport, and will send you a text letting you know where it has arrived. Hopefully, your luggage is at the same airport you are! The text will also give you a status update on the percentage of battery life is remaining. Keep in mind that you are responsible for all SMS / Text Message charges.
Now that your luggage is at the airport, you can head to the baggage area. Turn on the Trakdot app to pinpoint your luggage with Bluetooth 4.0. You’ll get a directional arrow and a rough distance indication to lead you to your bag.
The device itself is very straight forward with an on/off button and an LED light.The different colors indicate the device’s status.
- Green: The device has successfully registered with the network.
- Red: The device is currently not registered to the network.
- Blue: The device is currently in sleep mode and will retry to connect to the cellular network.
It’s iOS and Android Compatible. Both the app and the Bluetooth will work on any relatively new smartphone including iPhone 4S and higher that are running iOS 7 and higher, and Android Devices with Android 2.3 (Gingerbread) and higher.
For the worldwide SIM card communications, you can choose either a $20 annual fee or a $50 lifetime fee. The first year is included free with the initial purchase of the device (although this is subject to change at any time, as are the fee structures). The Bluetooth tracking is free. This is comparable to the other trackers we have seen.
It comes with a 2 year limited warranty and free lifetime technical support.
The size and weight are great at 2.3 x 3 x 0.8 inches and just under 12 ounces.
Total cost of ownership is about $60 with a 1-year plan, $80 after 2-years, or $90 for lifetime usage.
Available through Amazon, Trakdot Luggage Tracker, Flight Baggage Tracer ($39.97)
Here is a 1m23s video from Trackdot:
The LugLoc Luggage Tracker ($52.60) works worldwide using GSM location (e.g., cell tower triangulation) tracking to give you an accurate location. It has a built-in SIM card for the triangulation and for sending the location data. The rechargeable battery is good for about 15 days of use. Just charge it back up with a USB cable and your ready for your next trip.
To comply with FAA / Airline regulations, as well as to prolong the battery life, the LugLoc has automatic shut down at take-off and turn on at landing features. When your luggage arrives at the airport, the tracker gets a location position based off the nearby cell towers, sends you an alert and updates the app on your smartphone so you know where it is. With their mapping technology, LugLoc guarantees that they can tell you at which airport your luggage is at, and hopefully its the same as where you landed.
You can then use the “Proximity Mode” with Bluetooth tracking to get a precise location for your bag.
There is a red button on the device you can press for a system check, and 3 LED lights above – Green, Red, Orange. When lit these indicate:
- Green – Connected to GSM network
- Red – Not connected to GSM network
- Orange – Flight mode (GSM in off)
If the device is plugged in, the Green LED is on when the battery is fully charged, and the Red LED is on while it is still charging.
Pressing the system check button will also send you a test message to confirm the location and the signaling is working properly, both from the device and on your smartphone. A great feature for doing an end-to-end test, and to give you the peace of mind that your tracker is working.
LugLoc comes with 30 days of complimentary GSM tracking service, and the Bluetooth locating is always free. Then, simply pay as you go and only when you need by using the mobile app:
- 1 month of unlimited, automatic tracking $4.99
- 6 months of unlimited, automatic tracking $19.99
- 1 year of unlimited, automatic tracking $29.99
This is one of the smallest, and the lightest, trackers on the market at 4 x 2 x 3/4 inches and 3.5 ounces.
It comes with a 1-year money back warranty guarantee – if you aren’t satisfied, you can return to LugLoc for a full refund of the device price.
If you are an infrequent traveler, the $5 / month (which is basically a $5 per trip) fee can make the LugLoc very affordable. After 5 trips your cost is about $78, after 10 trips $103, after 20 trips $153.
Total cost of ownership is about $83 after 1-year, $113 after 2-years and $143 after 3-years.
Get one before your next trip from Amazon, LugLoc Luggage Tracker ($52.60).
Here is the 1m52s promo video from LugLoc:
The Smart Unit Luggage Tracking ($89.99) also called “Waldo” by the manufacturer, uses the GSM positioning system for identifying which city / airport worldwide your bag is in, and Bluetooth for the closer range location. The battery is rated for about 7 days of typically use, and can be recharged with mini-USB cable. A nice touch, this tracker is available in Blue, Black and Red.
As with the other devices, this is FAA / Airline compliant. The tracking locator device turns itself off when it is checked in and then reactivates on its own when the plane lands.
It has a similar size and weight as the other trackers, 4.8 x 3.2 x 1.6 inches and 4 ounces.
The service plan is a very reasonable $10 for 2 years, and the Bluetooth tracking is always free.
Total cost of ownership is about $100 after 1-year, $100 after 2-years, $110 for years 3 through 4.
You can purchase from Amazon, Smart Unit Luggage Tracking ($89.99)
A 2m35s overview video from Smart Unit:
We’ve been asked about using the Spy Tec STI GL300 GPS Tracker ($49.95) for luggage tracking, since the GPS provides a very accurate location. Unfortunately, this is NOT FAA / Airline compliant as it does not have an auto-off feature to shut it down while the plane is in motion. Airlines are quite serious about the turning off or putting electronic devices into “airplane mode” during take-off and landings. The Spy Tec GL300 doesn’t comply with this, so best that you don’t try it for luggage tracking.
It also has a costly $25 service plan, since it uses a T-Mobile cellular connection for all the data logging and communications. You can save up to 1 year of location data, and create customized reports.
Since there has been a lot of interest in this device, here is the quick run-down of it’s features and capabilities.
As mentioned above, it uses GPS, similar to what you have in your smartphone and car navigation systems. Unlike the luggage trackers, this can be set to near-continuous location updating with positioning as often as every 5 seconds. This is great for tracking people (whether they are your children or your employees), vehicles and your assets.
The rechargeable battery will last up to 2 weeks, and if you need longer there is an optional 6 month battery available.
The website / app lets you to set geographic boundaries around locations (geofencing) and be notified when someone or something moves outside these areas.
It is relatively small (about the size of a match-box) and lightweight – 0.9 x 1.5 x 2.7 inches and 8 ounces.
For sale on Amazon, Spy Tec STI GL300 GPS Tracker ($49.95).
A 3m53s explanation video from SpyTec:
How Trackers Operate
There are basically 3 types of technology used for tracking devices – Bluetooth, GPS (Global Positioning System) and GSM (Global System for Mobile communication) / GPRS (General Packet Radio Services) . Each has it’s benefits and drawbacks. The most robust trackers use a combination of two, or ideally all three, of these to provide the best location information.
Bluetooth generally has a maximum range of about 300 feet, and works best in a radius of 50 feet. This is useful to get a pin-point, specific location of the tracking device (and your luggage) to within a few feet. With Bluetooth, its also possible to set alerts to know if you luggage is moved, as well as “fences” to know if it goes outside of certain range. The former is great to sound an alarm if someone tries to walk off with your case, and the latter for when you walk away accidentally forgetting your bag. Yeah, it happens! Especially during a layover after a 14-hour red-eye international flight. Bluetooth provides both the location service by way of signal strength, and the communications to your smartphone.
GPS can give you a location for anywhere in the world since it uses orbiting satellites to get position information. Like the maps function on your smartphone, GPS will get you to within under 30 feet of an address, and this is the same for how closely you can track your luggage. So you’ll know if the bag made it to your airport, but may not be able to immediately tell if its in the baggage area, still on the plane or on the cart in transit.GPS gets you the location information, but you still need a way to communicate this to your smartphone.
GSM / GPRS trackers rely on local mobile / cellular network towers to determine a location. It uses a triangulation type method to determine where the tracker is relative to the surrounding towers. With at least 3 towers, and a strong service, a tracker can be position located to within 200 to 500 feet. This is the least accurate method. It also requires that the tracker have a SIM card (similar to your mobile phone), which most providers will charge a fee for data communications. Note also that GSM / GPRS is not supported in Japan and South Korea.
Flight Safe Modes
Because the use of many of our personal electronics is prohibited during air travel, the best luggage tracker models have taken flight safe / air-plane modes into account. To meet these regulations set up by the FCC and FAA, these luggage tracking devices have included a specific set of features to comply with these rules.
You turn on the device when you put it in your bag. Then your luggage is placed inside the baggage compartment of the plane. When the plane lifts off, the device puts itself in safe mode or turns off altogether. Then, when the plane lands at the airport, the tracker turns itself back on, alerting you to its location.
This is often accomplished with a chip called an “Accelerometer” which can measure three or more axis of motion to determine when it is in motion. Mathematical algorithms are used to crunch the readings from the accelerometer to decide when to put the device into airplane-mode, and when it’s safe to bring the device back up to full functionality again.