Vacation season is just ahead, and for many of us, that means hitting the road or flying off in search of adventures. But if your travel gear includes battered suitcases and oversized backpacks, you might want to take a look at new merchandise arriving on the market this spring.
At last month's International Travel Goods Show in Las Vegas, manufacturers introduced new innovations in luggage, travel technology and gadgets — like suitcase-tracking GPS systems and ultra-lightweight carry-ons. Bags with built-in luggage scales and even a portable "washing machine" that tucks into your luggage.
If you've decided that this is the year you'll retire your old suitcase, you've picked a great time to buy, according to Travel Goods Association president Michele Marini Pittenger
"Possibly the most prevalent innovation across the entire market is lightweight luggage; bags continue to get lighter, increasing comfort and ease while traveling," said Pittenger in a press release.
Dan Zuckerman, owner of Plimpton's, a stationary and luggage store in West Hartford, agrees.
"Everyone wants lighter bags," says Zuckerman. "They're among our most requested items."
Zuckerman says consumers on the go are also looking for bags with built-in sleeves for both laptops and tablets and "spinners" — four-wheeled bags that move much more easily than the two-wheeled models.
Technology ruled at the show, with gizmos to track your luggage, charge your phones and avoid overweight bags.
>>Ever landed in one place and had your luggage land elsewhere? With GlobaTrac's Trakdot luggage system, at least you'll know where it is. You sync the card-deck-sized tracking device with your phone, then pack it into your luggage before checking it When you land, Trakdot sends a message with your bag's location, (city/airport), to your phone. The gismo costs $89.99, which includes the first year's annual fee of $12.99. Information: http://www.trakdot.com.
>>The last thing you want to deal with when you're traveling is a dying cell phone. The Genius Packer, $188, is a 22-inch carry-on with an integrated mobile charger, $28, that lets you recharge mobile devices directly from your luggage. Information: http://www.geniuspack.com.
>>Hate those overweight bag fees? Medium and large suitcases in Delsey's new Helium X'Pert Lite 2.0 Collection feature an indicator system that alerts you when your bag exceeds 50 pounds. Prices start at about $230. Information: http://www.delsey.com.
>>Don't waste your luggage allowance on your empty suitcase. World's Lightest luggage collection from IT includes four-wheeled, carry-on cases that weigh in at just over three pounds. The bargain-priced bags start at about $60 and are available at Amazon.com and eBags.com.
Some lower-tech items make life easier on the road.
>>The Aero-Tray, $59, is a two-tiered shelf that clips onto a plane's seat-back tray and effectively doubles the amount of space fliers have for laptop, snacks, cups and books. Information: http://www.aero-tray.com.
>>If you're a traveler who rinses out unmentionables in the hotel sink, you might want to check out the Scrubba Wash Bag, $64.95. The "washing machine" features built-in plastic washboard bumps that scrub clothes for you. Items go in with water and soap. You scrunch the bag around to agitate the contents, then drain and add clean water to rinse. The bag is large enough for a few pairs of underwear and socks or a T-shirt. Information: http://www.thescrubba.com.