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If you've a suitcase that looks a lot like many others, perhaps this will help you find it when collecting your bag after a cruise or off a flight.

This small little unit (and moderately priced) will beep to help you find your suitcase.

 
 
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ETA's Luggage Locator

A handy way to find your luggage
 

Affix the larger receiver unit (on the left) to any suitcase.  Then when you press the button on the smaller transmitter unit, the receiver will beep, to help you locate your suitcase.

 

 

A possibly interesting and useful idea - a radio controlled receiver that you put on your suitcase.  When you're trying to find your bag, simply press the button on the transmitter.  If the receiver is in range, it will let out a loud beeping and flash a blue light to help you find your bag.

Perhaps useful if you're at an airport where bags come off on two carousels rather than one, or when looking for your bag among many other bags in a big long line of already unloaded bags, the Luggage Locator is reasonably priced at $19.95.

A 'Pro' version allows the transmitter to broadcast to multiple receivers simultaneously - this is the more useful option for most of us, because most of us travel with more than one bag, especially if we're not traveling alone.  It is priced at $29.95 plus $14.95 for each extra receiver.

ETA Luggage Locator - What You Get

The Luggage Locator, made by ETA, comes simply packaged, but with everything you need.

Inside the package is the receiver unit to be attached to a suitcase, the transmitter/control unit that you keep with you, a battery for each unit, and two wire cables that can be used to affix the units onto, eg, bag handles or whatever else you wish to keep them with.

The receiver unit takes a regular AAA battery.  The smaller size transmitter takes a 27A type 12 volt battery.  This is about half the length of an AAA battery.

A simple sheet of instructions is also enclosed.

The Luggage Locator comes with a one year limited warranty that excludes airline damage.

What is Does and How it Works

Using the unit is simple and straightforward.

Using the metal cable tie, affix the receiver unit to the handle of your bag.  When you're checking your bag, slide the power switch on.

The cable tie is made out of plastic coated steel and has a threaded connector to open or close its loop.  If you screw this tightly shut then the receiver is, for sure, very securely tied to your suitcase handle.

Be sure to keep the transmitter unit with you.  And then, when it comes time to collect your bag, turn the transmitter on, push the transmit/locate button, then listen and look.

If the receiver unit (and therefore your bag) is within about 60' of you, it will detect the signal from the transmitter and beep when it receives it, helping you to then find your bag by listening for the beeping.

The beeping lasts for about four seconds, and when you press the transmit button on the transmitter, it transmits its signal for about 3 seconds, to give the receiver plenty of time to detect and 'lock' onto the signal and unique code within the signal.

Differentiating your Luggage Locator from everyone else's

Each transmitter and receiver have their own specific code, so when you press the transmitter button, only your receiver is activated, not those of everyone else around you with Luggage Locators too.  At present there are over 25,000 different codes being used, so the chances of you and someone else being at the same carousel at the same time with the same coding on your Luggage Locators is very minimal.

The second helpful thing to ensure you find your receiver and your bag is that each Luggage Locator pair is given one of four different beeping tunes.  So if there is a second or third person next to you also searching for their bags, hopefully their Locators will be beeping differently to yours.

Differentiating your luggage from everyone else's too

One helpful use for the Luggage Locator is to identify your bag from the sea of other similar bags as they come onto the carousel.  The chances are yours will be the only bag that starts beeping when you push the transmitter; so no longer do you have to be pushing and shoving to see the bags, and you never have to have the embarrassment and bother of grabbing the wrong bag (it is always a very heavy one) then having to heave it back onto the conveyor again after realizing you took the wrong bag.

The Luggage Locator Pro

There is an exception to the concept of the 'one receiver/one transmitter' pairing.  This is the unit known as the Luggage Locator Pro - a unit that combines one transmitter with potentially more than one receiver.

This is useful if, for example, you and your spouse are traveling with, between you, four bags.  Rather than having to buy four Luggage Locators, and having four different transmitters, each working with a different receiver you could buy a Luggage Locator Pro (with one receiver and one transmitter), and then add three more receivers to the unit, with all four receivers being activated by the same code from the Luggage Locator Pro transmitter.

This greatly cuts down on gadget clutter, and saves you a small amount of money as well.

The Luggage Locator Pro costs $29.95 (compared to the $19.95 cost of the standard Luggage Locator) and each extra receiver costs $14.95.  If you want to have two receivers, it is cheaper to buy two regular Luggage Locators; if you want to have three or more, the Luggage Locator Pro becomes more useful.

ETA say that they have slaved as many as 60 receivers to a single Pro, so it could also be useful if you manage groups, although imagine the cacophony with sixty beepers all sounding off at the same time.  For normal people with something under ten bags, clearly a Pro unit would be a good solution.

It is possible that, in time, receivers could be damaged, broken, or lost - the Luggage Locator Pro seems to make it easier to simply buy new receivers as and/or when needed.

Range

The unit is described as having a 60 foot range.

There are actually two issues when determining the range of the unit.  The first part is 'How far apart can the receiver and transmitter be with the receiver still picking up activation signals from the transmitter?'.  The second issue is 'How far away from me can the receiver be and still allow me to hear it beeping.

Receiver - Transmitter distance

The transmitter sends an encoded message to the receiver in the approx 450MHz frequency band.

Like all radio frequencies in these types of frequency bands, range is influenced by physical obstructions.  If there is no physical obstruction, such that there is a visual path from transmitter to receiver, then the effective range is easily twice the quoted range of 60', and I've tested it outdoors working fine at distances greater than 200'.  If you have yourself between the transmitter and receiver, the unit works marginally at 120' and reliably at 90'.

I tried also a test to see how far the receiver would detect a transmitter signal with obstructions inbetween, but gave up at 30' and three walls - the beeping was no longer audible much further than that, which leads on to the second factor in the unit's practical working range.

Audible alarm distance

There is no use having the receiver detecting your transmitter signal if you can't then hear the receiver's beeping response, telling you where to look for your bag.

The distance at which you can hear the receiver beeping will of course depend tremendously on how noisy an environment you are in.

It is much harder to test for what distance you can reliably hear the receiver beeping, because there's no consistent standard for ambient/background noise around you.

In the real world, and noting the long range to activate the receiver, it seems the distance you can hear the receiver is going to be the limiting factor to its effectiveness, and choosing a 60' nominal range is probably a fair sort of number to use.

Using the Unit

As I moved further away from the receiver, I noticed that it would sometimes take longer to respond to the transmitter signal.  So - first suggestion - hold your finger on the transmit button for several seconds at a time.

I also noticed, as the distance increased, that sometimes the receiver would not detect a transmitter signal if - in addition to any other obstructions - I had myself blocking the signal too - ie, if I was facing away from the receiver, and with the transmitter in front of me.  So, second suggestion, when searching for your bag and receiver, hold the transmitter away from you and turn around regularly so as to beam the radio waves directly in all directions.

Perhaps the most important thing - third suggestion - when searching for your bag, is to hold the transmit button down then to go walking around, listening intently for the receiver's beeping.  Maybe your bag is here, maybe it is there, maybe it is in the process of being carried away by someone else (!) and maybe it is somewhere where you can't hear its beeps, so keep walking around.

Try and remember to turn the receiver off after you retrieve your bag - and also try and remember to turn the receiver on when you check your bag in the first place, too!

After some thought, I ended up instant gluing my receiver's on/off switch in the 'on' position, because I was slightly worried that it might get bumped off during the various handlings of the bag between checkin and final bag receipt at the other end.  This also makes it harder for me to forget to turn it on and off - what I do is normally carry the unit with the battery taken out and the battery compartment door removed.  I keep the transmitter, receiver, battery, and battery compartment door all in a ziplock bag; and so when activating the receiver, it is close to impossible to forget to put in the battery and cover it with the sliding door.

Battery Life

The transmitter unit uses a non-standard 27A type 12V battery.  It is unclear what type of life this battery will give, but happily it is also not very relevant.  You only need to turn the transmitter on for a minute or two when seeking out your suitcase; the rest of the time, the transmitter can be turned off.

The receiver takes a standard AAA battery, and battery life is of more importance for the receiver.  This is because you will turn the receiver on when checking your bag, and it will stay on until after you have retrieved the bag at your destination.  Potentially you could have the receiver turned on for 15 or 20 hours at a time if you are on a series of long international flights.

The receiver battery is rated at 100 hours by the manufacturer.  When the battery level is getting low, the blue light on the front of the receiver will flash.  I'm not sure how many remaining hours of battery life there are when the light starts flashing, and it is probably a less than desirable thing for you to have an electronic device with a flashing blue light on the outside of your suitcase in these hyper-sensitive to security times.

The unit tested to indeed have a battery life in excess of 100 hrs, and (as electrical and radio engineers would expect) is still sensitive and receives signal with no problems even when the battery life is dropping.  Note that the range of the transmitter/receiver combination is more strongly influenced by the battery state in the transmitter rather than in the receiver.

With AAA batteries being a dime a dozen (well, 50c or less each) my suggestion is to replace the receiver battery prior to every trip or perhaps every other trip if you travel regularly and can remember if you need to replace the battery again or not.  That way you know that you'll have enough battery life to help you through flight delays and other issues, for the completely multi-segment journey.

Where to Buy the Luggage Locator

The Luggage Locator and Luggage Locator Pro from ETA are both very new, having been released for the first time earlier this year (2008) and as a result they still don't have very good coverage in stores.

Annoyingly, we weren't able to find a single website that sells both the regular Luggage Locator and also the enhanced Luggage Locator Pro.  If you want just the regular Luggage Locator, that can be found at Magellan's.  If you want the Luggage Locator Pro (our recommendation), that can be found at eBags.

Summary

This is a handy little device at an affordable price point, making it great as a gift for the frequent travelers in your life as well as a nice little indulgence for yourself as well.  It is easy to understand and use.

$19.95 for the regular unit, or $29.95 for the expandable Pro version.  We prefer the Pro ourselves due to its ability to expand to manage more than one bag/receiver per transmitter.

As long as you won't feel self conscious making your bag loudly beep on the carousel, the chances are you'll find this a good little gadget.

 

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Originally published 29 Aug 2008, last update 02 Jul 2017

You may freely reproduce or distribute this article for noncommercial purposes as long as you give credit to me as original writer.

 
 
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See also

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