Family Travel With AirTags

I’m about to do some family travel with Apple devices and AirTags, and I’m wondering what the best strategy would be for using AirTags for individual items (purses, luggage, camera bags, etc.). Everyone is in the same family group and will have their device (iPhone) with them.

Since, AirTags pair with specific iPhones, all family group members will be able to see where the devices are but not the AirTagged items, paired with those devices. Is there an advantage to having everyone have their items, or should all, say, suitcases be put on one member’s iPhone?

In 2014, my wife and I had both of our bags lost on a flight to Rome, Italy. We recovered the bags 10 days later but only by going in to the storage room at the airport and physically looking through hundreds of bags. AirTags would have told us the bags were there the next day. They would only let one of us in to the secured area, so I would have had to take both phones in to be able to find the bags, if AirTags had been available then.

I’m interested to hear what others have done and any recommendations.



AirTags are great. They are designed for individual use but you could use them as you suggest. I personally am fine with everyone in the family having their own and I don’t want or need to know or have access to where their keys/purse/wallets/etc all are. I am just grateful that I can find my keys/wallet/etc.

While my two boys have them, my wife and daughter do not. I am not sure if this will spark some gender studies research project at some juncture, I suspect it will,

I think when it comes to group travel, frequently one member of the family is the person across all the arrangements, they could do it, or assign the task to someone in the family group. One advantage the other approach might have (a bag and tag for each person) is that you would have multiple routes to identifying where the baggage has gone. Spread out the phones and maximise the search…

My wife and I each have our own AirTags. We are both using Family Sharing. That doesn’t allow us to track the other’s stuff, but it does allow us to turn off stalking warnings when we travel with an AirTag belonging to the other one. If we had one item that both of us wanted to track independently of each other, we’d just drop in a 2nd AirTag, our car for example.

For our bags, we each just use our own AirTags. Has never been a problem so far.

In fact, just two weeks ago when we flew back home from a short trip to Europe, tracking on arrival at SFO was so good, I could tell just by comparing her AirTag signal to mine, that our bags, despite having been checked in together, did not end up in the same cargo hold. I knew there was a lot of iPhones in and around SFO, but that there are so many and GPS homing works so well that you can tell your bags are in two separate LD2s on a 763 (not that large of an aircraft after all) was to me quite impressive. :slight_smile:


My wife and I and our adult son flew to France this summer. We decided each of us would place an AirTag in his or her checked suitcase. Like you we were unsure of whether to centralize the tracking on one phone or distribute to each person. We decided each person should track on their own phone. If any of us had not been comfortable on how to do it, we would have tracked on my phone, but everyone was fine with keeping an eye on his or her luggage. It’s kind of fun watching it in Find My as you wait at the gate and while on the plane. Is it going to make it? Part of the travel adventure.

We all agreed to share our locations the whole time we were in Europe, trading away privacy for security, so there was no additional privacy that would have been foregone by centralizing the tracking, but as I say, we decided each traveller would track their own bag.

My wife figured it was around 50/50 odds our luggage would be lost. I, on the other hand, was pretty sure that lost luggage reports are overblown–there aren’t many news reports about luggage that made it. So I doubted we would have any issues.

Our son travelled home as planned a week before we did. Our return flight was via Calgary, Alberta, and as we took off from there I saw my suitcase didn’t appear to be on the plane. My wife’s looked also to not be on the plane, but hers was in a slightly different location out on the tarmac. At first we thought it was just because there weren’t any iPhones near the baggage trains, but, uh, no, our bags didn’t make it on.

At our final destination we reported our bags lost right away but hung around for half an hour just in case. We ended up letting the others waiting for their non-existing bags that they, like ours, were likely still in Calgary.

My bag arrived at the airport a day late, and my wife’s two days late. It was great knowing where our bags were before the airline did, and they were happy we could use our AirTags to walk straight to each of our suitcases (in two separate locations in the baggage area at our airport).

Anyway, to your question, I think you and the other posters here are thinking about the right factors: ease of recovery, privacy in the family, the fun of doing one’s own tracking (if one finds that kind of thing fun), and tech ability of each of the travellers.


If you feel the need to change who of you that tracks an item: My wife and I have some keys that we swap tracking on.

Luggage actually being “lost” (not just delayed by a day) isn’t all that common. Which is why the nightmare stories make headline news.

The most frequent reason your bag doesn’t arrive when you do is that the airline put your bag on another plane. Occasionally by mistake, but more often because your flight’s baggage hold was full and your bag got bumped to a later flight. In my experience, it will arrive within 24 hours. Maybe sooner, depending on how many flights remain between your endpoints that day.

In addition to AirTags, another useful feature is your airline’s mobile app. I don’t know about all of them, but the United app has a bag-tracking feature. They will tell you where your bag is (which plane, which airport, etc.). I have used this to confirm that my bag got on the same flight with me. And when it was placed on a later flight, I knew which one it was on and when that flight was scheduled to arrive. So I could intelligently decide whether to wait at the airport or go to my hotel and have the airline deliver it the next day.

BTW, this might be of interest: The Airline Most Likely to Lose Your Luggage - CNET


It’s not long ago roughly 1 in 5 bags checked onto US carriers did not make it onto the same flight as the booked pax. That in itself is not that surprising (just remind yourself of what a zoo a place like LGA used to be — some would claim still is), but what I always thought intriguing about that was the higher order effects such a rate entails.

With this kind of rerouting/misrouting risk, you can imagine that rerouted bags were sometimes not checked onto flights that they were rescheduled to take (or they were accidentally loaded onto the wrong flight) so they eventually had to be rescheduled again. This led in extreme cases to bags that spent days or weeks being rerouted/reloaded until they finally found their way home. I remember reading a nice piece on that in The Economist on actual paper back in the day – one bag having been in this cycle for months, not really lost, just kept getting put onto the wrong flight or missing its scheduled flight. Of course these are very few incidents among millions of properly transported bags, but nevertheless, it’s interesting to consider that there is (or at least used to be) a small set of luggage that was essentially in a perpetual checked state, going on in circles around the globe perhaps in some instances even reaching places the owner themself had never traveled to.


Looks like Richard’s wife was right, though, given the definition of lost they were using.

We had our luggage delayed by over a day on an Air France flight to Santiago. They gave us 200 dollars each at the airport in Chile to pick up new clothes. Our suitcases were delivered the following day to a hotel in Antofagasta, another town an additional flight away. If ever you get to choose, I’d recommend Air France, even when they get it wrong, they get a lot of things right.

It most certainly still is. Even though there was what was promised to be a major redesign and rebuild, pretty much all they have done to date was add a lot more ridiculously overpriced stores and crappy overpriced restaurants. From what I’ve heard, they still could have used even more gates as well as more charging stations for mobile phones rather than price gouging retailers. Parking is still horrendous, as are seating bays before boarding planes. And last I heard was LGA should be totally finished by the end of spring, but the date keeps getting pushed back.

I hear that. Back when I was still working in Europe I flew a lot with AirFrance and KLM – like at least once every week. I was always pleasantly surprised by the good manner they treated me whenever there was any issue with missing luggage or delays.

I was never quite sure how much of that was due to my platinum status in their FF program or just the fact that they have really great customer service. Either way, to this day I still like flying AF/KLM. I appreciate JetBlue and how they try to uphold some level of service despite the prevalent race to the bottom in American air travel, but overall in the States we still have a long way to go to reach truly great levels of customer service in aviation. Flying for example in Japan with ANA or JAL is an outright treat compared to taking UA out of ORD. But then again, I find most of what I experience in Japan a treat, so maybe it’s just me. :slight_smile:

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My wife spent years on the phones and at the HQ of a major US airline dealing with luggage. Helping customers and working on the tracking systems. Mostly “lost” bags. The stats in general are that 3% of the bags don’t show up with the passenger. This is true across most all the US airlines. But that doesn’t mean that 3% of the bags on any one flight don’t get there. Because a plane change can make ALL bags not show up on time for that flight and wreak the stats when 30 other flights have all the bags show up.

And that stat includes both bags that show up a few hours late or that seem to vanish.

And some bags vanish because someone else takes it and then can’t be bothered to return it and just puts it in the trash. (Most lost bags are “black 22” on that chart.) At times with everything that was in it. (I wrap a bit of yellow electrical tape on all my bags to make it obvious to me and anyone else this is my bag or not their bag.)

The problems in Europe this past year were in many cases due to short staffing at the airports. And the reasons varied by country.

Personally, I think the trackers are great.

Our family travel rules.

  • Check only what you must.
  • Carry on what you can. (Without being a jerk.)
  • Understand the folks in the baggage office almost never get to deal with someone who is in a good mood. Be polite to them and most times they will work hard to help you out.

In general, the airlines wish there was a way to totally ignore checked baggage. It is a total PITA for them.

Buy us a beer sometime and my wife and I will tell you some stories.

Oh, yeah. TEAR OFF old luggage tags. Those bar codes are for routing and will cause the automated systems to send your bag to where they were supposed to go on your PREVIOUS flight.


LGA is very much land locked. A new gate to handle even a small commercial jet takes up a LOT of space.

LAX has the same issues. My wife had to deal with the hassles of getting planes to gates there for a while.


Thanks to everyone who posted a reply here. We kind of got off topic, but it was a good exchange of information.

As to my use of our AirTags, everyone is going to do their own tracking.

Thanks again,


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LaGuardia is water locked between the East River, Flushing Bay and Bowery Bay. If there was any more land they would have been able to build more and longer runways. LGA is stuck with just two short ones. This is why they cannot handle overseas flights.

Mayor Fiorello is probably turning over in his grave about what has been updated to be a big multistory shopping mall. I live about a 20 minute drive away from LGA if there is no traffic.

Well, I guess you have to have something to do while waiting for your flight that has been delayed - which seems to be happening more often these days.

But that’s another thread…

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There is an Apple LaGuardia app available via the App Store, and a Kennedy app too.

In addition to this, Jet Blue does sometimes seem to have more plugs for USB chargers on rear cabin seats than other airlines, probably even more in newer planes. And at JFK airport, they are the first airline terminal when you are arriving from the Van Wyck Expressway by car, cab or bus; this helps save time and aggravation.

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