Travel Bug "Dog Tags"
Photo courtesy of Geocaching.com
A fun little "side" aspect of geocaching is the "travel bug". A travel bug is an item with it's own tracking number, that a geocacher places in a cache for other geocachers to pick up and leave in another cache. Some travel bugs have a "mission" of where they want to go, or what they want to see, or what types of caches they want to visit. Typically these travel bugs will have a laminated tag attached telling you what their mission is, so that when you discover one in a cache, you can easily see whether you can help it on it's mission or not. There are a lot of travel bugs though that just simply want to move from cache to cache with no particular "mission" and so these can always be picked up. (Good geocaching etiquette is to drop off any travel bugs you pick up in a different cache within two weeks.)
There are all sorts of items that can be attached to the travel bug tags, here are a few examples but you can also visit the Travel Bug Gallery at Geocaching.com for some more pictures, some are really funny and clever.
(Photos courtesy of Geocaching.com)
Little stuffed animals and toys (I've seen a lot of McDonalds Happy Meal
toys as travel bugs) are a popular choice.
It's not uncommon to see items with a hole drilled in them for the chain.
Keychains are a somewhat common item probably
because it's very easy to attach the tags to them.
These Jeep travel bugs are a special promotion by Jeep. A bunch are released at a time and there's a contest sponsored by Jeep associated with them.
This was a special project to increase awareness of diabetes. You were able to sign up on the Geocaching.com website and could get one of these travel bugs to release for free.
If you visit the travel bug gallery you'll see there's no end to the creative items that can be a travel bug. However, there are a few considerations. First, it's probably a good idea to choose something small because otherwise your travel bug is going to be very limited as to what size geocache it can be dropped off in. Secondly, it's best to choose an item that can survive weather extremes and getting wet - geocaches aren't always watertight (though they should be) and depending on whether your travel bug ends up in Arizona or Norway, it's going to need to be able to survive being very hot or very cold. And finally, it's best to choose something sturdy because it's going to hopefully pass through a lot of hands, and be stuffed into a lot of backpacks and you want it to stay in one piece. I remember one time picking up a "Woody" character from the movie "Toy Story" travel bug and he was in a ziplock bag in pieces - I think one arm and one leg had come off, but he was still valiantly traveling on! :-)
If you'd like to have your own travel bug to "release" (when you first put your travel bug in a cache to start it's journey, that's called "releasing" it), you'll need tags with a trackable number that can only be purchased from the Groundspeak store which is part of Geocaching.com. (People generally refer to the item along with it's tags as the travel bug, however, technically, the ACTUAL travel bug is REALLY the tags, and the fun item attached to it is technically the "hitch hiker", however people usually just call the whole thing a travel bug.) After receiving your tags, you would then choose an item to attach, decide if it has a mission, and then activate it on the geocaching.com website. Release it in the cache of your choice and from then on you can track it's progress around the world!