A Travel Bug® is a rectangular piece of metal that looks like a military dog tag. It is a trackable tag used in the game of geocaching, which involves hiding and seeking a container called a cache by using Global Positioning System (GPS) devices. Each Travel Bug® has a unique number assigned to it. The tag is transferred from cache to cache around the world. Its travel and location is logged in geocaching websites for owners and enthusiasts to monitor.
Most Travel Bugs® are made of aluminum or stainless steel and look like military dog tags. A bug drawing and unique serial number are engraved into the metal. The serial number allows the tag to be tracked by GPS gadgets. Travel Bugs® always come in pairs and joined by a chain. One tag is kept by the original owner and the other tag is the one that is actually transported or "hitchhiked."
The typical Travel Bug® is a dog tag, but there are other types available. Some companies make different objects into trackable items and sell them as Travel Bugs®. For example, a car sticker Travel Bug® is available. There is also a similar item called a geocoin which functions the same way as the bug.
Different objects are usually attached to Travel Bugs®. These objects must be handy and pocket-sized to fit travel bags. They should also be sturdy enough to withstand the rigors of travel. Plastic toys, stuffed toys, and just about any trinket can be attached to the chain of a Travel Bug®. Some tags have attached labels that are used for contests and to increase awareness for issues like diabetes.
The owner of a Travel Bug® activates it by logging into a geocaching website. He assigns the goal or mission of the tag for others to accomplish. Some examples of the missions are reaching specific locations or traveling to a predetermined number of countries. Geocaching software tracks the location of the Travel Bug® as it is passed from one person to another. The owners and subsequent keepers of Travel Bugs® must log on regularly to monitor their many locations.
Travel Bugs® may be destroyed by wear and tear. Many are lost or misplaced by geocachers. A few Travel Bugs® may not be found at all after being placed in hard to reach caches in remote locations or harsh environments. When this happens, owners can use their extra Travel Bug® and place the lost tag in a virtual location until its true location is discovered.