Can Tiles and AirTags help you avoid holiday hell? It’s complicated

Before you put AirTags or Tiles in every piece of luggage it's important to know their limits

Apple AirTag
(Image credit: Apple)

I love AirTags and Tile trackers. I've lost count of the number of times they've stopped me from forgetting my car keys and my bag. And looking at the news reports of understaffed airports losing luggage or piling it high in all kinds of places, it looks like they're the perfect solution to lost, misplaced or mistakenly grabbed suitcases and other travel essentials. So can these little trackers help you avoid holiday hell?

The short answer is yes, but also no. It's complicated. Here's why. 

There are limits to what your Tile or AirTag can do

The problem isn't the technology. Both kinds of trackers are brilliant, using Bluetooth LE and in some cases, Ultra Wideband too to locate your possessions with incredible speed and accuracy. 

That's fine if you're in baggage reclaim and it alerts you that someone's accidentally picked up your suitcase, or if you've boarded and need reassurance that your bags made it too, or if you're prone to leaving backpacks under a bench when your bus or train arrives. But it's not any help if your airline has accidentally sent your luggage to the wrong place, or if it was never put on your plane in the first place. In that last example, all it can really do is tell you that you don't need to hang around the destination airport waiting for your bag and that you might need to come up with a plan B to replace everything you'd packed.

There's another issue too, which is that not all the features of your tracker work everywhere. For example, AirTags' precision finding depends on UWB, and that isn't available in places such as Argentina, Nepal or Pakistan. That means you'll be stuck with Bluetooth, which only has 30-40 metres of range. And in the case of Apple the Find My network, your AirTags connect to is dependent on there being lots of Apple users nearby, so more obscure destinations may not have much coverage. Of course, this isn't an issue if you're heading to Fuerteventura or Florida, but it's a consideration if you prefer to holiday far from the madding crowds.

Should you tag your travel luggage? Absolutely. It's a great way to ensure you don't leave anything behind, such as your backpack in the airport food court, and it's handy if like me you tend to get anxious about whether you've forgotten anything. But until Apple or Tile combines them with drone propellers, they don't do anything to actually bring your luggage or backpack to you. All they can do is tell you where they were, or currently are. Actually getting hold of your lost luggage is still down to the airline: right now, there isn't really an app for that.

Writer, musician and broadcaster Carrie Marshall has been covering technology since 1998 and is particularly interested in how tech can help us live our best lives. Her CV is a who’s who of magazines, newspapers, websites and radio programmes ranging from T3, Techradar and MacFormat to the BBC, Sunday Post and People’s Friend. Carrie has written thirteen books, ghost-wrote two more and co-wrote another seven books and a Radio 2 documentary series. When she’s not scribbling, she’s the singer in Glaswegian rock band HAVR (havrmusic.com (opens in new tab)).