This summer, we made the tactical error of visiting extended family in Europe. As the trip approached, we noted with growing concern headlines of airport chaos, long security lines, and mountains of lost baggage. Then a friend we had been planning to meet in Amsterdam chose to drive 12 hours from Warsaw rather than risk a two-hour flight. Two days before our flight out of Schiphol — and possibly influenced by the fact that we managed to leave both our phones in a seatback pocket the year before — a local friend strongly recommended we buy some AirTags for our luggage, just in case.
I may be the last person on Earth to realize you can use trackers to keep track of things, but I have to admit the premise is solid. All the stores nearby were out of AirTags, but I found a three-pack on CoolBlue for 140 euros. That’s almost twice as much per AirTag as the $99 four-pack sold in the US, but still worth it, we figured, given the horror stories. They were delivered the next day via cargo bike messenger.
After a very early wake-up call, a three-hour wait in the security line, and a cross-terminal sprint, we made our flight — barely. As my heart rate slowly returned to normal, I pulled up the Find My app, hit the Items tab, and was able to confirm that all three of our AirTagged bags were aboard, too.
We arrived home exhausted with all our children, all our bags, both our phones, and, hey, three new AirTags.
While we didn’t need to track down our luggage this time, the AirTags did at least give us one less thing to stress about. Here’s how to set up, rename, and reset Apple Air Tags if you want to use them for your luggage — or diaper bag or cargo bike or whatever. You could stick one in your car to help you find your parking spot. Hide it under your bike bell to track your bike. Put it on a dog collar. They seem pretty useful.
How to set up AirTags
There’s almost nothing to setting up an AirTag the first time. Just pull the plastic battery tab and bring the AirTag close to your iPhone. You don’t need to download an app; setup is built into iOS. Give each AirTag a name and memorable emoji, then put it on the item you want to track. That’s it.
You can buy all sorts of first- and third-party AirTag holders, but attaching the thing tracking my bag to the outside of the bag didn’t seem like a good idea, so I just stuck ‘em inside our travel crib and two suitcases.
How to rename Apple AirTags
We didn’t need to keep tracking the luggage once we were home. Renaming AirTags is simple: open the Items tab in the Find My app, select the tag, and scroll down to Rename Item. Goodbye, Travel Crib tracker; hello, Backpack tracker.
There’s no such thing as Family Sharing for AirTags; each tag can only be associated with one Apple ID at a time. There’s good reason for that. AirTags can and have been used to spy on and track people without their consent, including by their family members. AirTags are supposed to alert people nearby (eventually!) if they detect that they’ve been traveling along with someone other than the person they belong to.
Your own AirTags won’t alert you if they’re traveling with you, so it’s easy to see how an AirTag shared within a family group could still be used to track someone in that group against their will. Hey, real quick: don’t track people without their consent. (That includes your kids — I thought about putting AirTags in my kids’ backpacks, and I still might, but not without asking them first. Kids are people!)
While the restriction on sharing AirTags makes total sense, it did mean I was the only one who could see where our bags were during our flights and layovers. It also means I had to reset one of the AirTags before my spouse could use it to keep track of her keys.
How to reset Apple AirTags so someone else can use them
In theory, all you have to do to give your AirTag to someone else is to remove it from your account. Open Find My, hit the Items tab, select the AirTag, and hit Remove Item. The new owner should just have to bring the AirTag close to their Apple device to set it up. In theory.
This didn’t work for me. Sometimes you have to reset your AirTag the hard way. Apple has you perform a complicated dance of unscrewing the battery cover, taking out the battery, putting it back in, putting the cover back on, and pressing down until it beeps. Do that five times, and the AirTag should be ready to pair again. This is both surprisingly easy and surprisingly complicated; I’m a bit disappointed there was no incantation involved. I guess you could add your own.
Speaking of the battery cover, AirTags use standard CR2032 batteries. I was half-expecting them to be fused closed, like AirPods. It’s so nice to get a pleasant surprise once in a while.
AirTags are surprisingly handy, and although I’m still a little peeved at paying nearly double the going rate for mine, I do find uses for them. And if I ever decide to fly in an airplane again, you bet your little pack of pretzels I’ll use them to track my luggage.