Got a road warrior on your holiday gift list? Good news. The travel goods industry is producing lighter-weight luggage, more compact and versatile items and innovations that let you duck overweight or oversize baggage charges. Even better news? You can get first-class goods at economy prices. Here are some of my suggestions, which you’ll find online and on store shelves. (Note: All prices are manufacturer’s suggested retail prices and in most cases I’ve used our affiliate link to Amazon.)
Shaped like a dog biscuit, Hummingbird’s Lumbar Support ($29.95, hummingbirdgear.com) self-inflates when you open a valve. If you need a bit firmer fit to conform to your lower back, a puff or two into the valve should do the trick. When not in use, it can be compressed flat or rolled into a wad the size of your fist for easy stowage. I love mine and use it both when flying or driving. It made a long flight to Alaska and a recent drive across Mississippi in an unfamiliar rental car much more comfortable.
Kiva Designs Aircraft Toiletry Kit. As I’ve discovered, it’s the little (emphasis on “little”) things that can make traveling more comfortable. If you’re not a fan of plastic bags to speed you through security (and, admit it, at the end of a trip you can’t remember where you stashed the darn things), you’ll appreciate Kiva Designs’ Aircraft Toiletry Kit ($29.95, kivabags.com). It weighs less than your checkbook and has a zip-off TSA 3-1-1 compliant clear compartment you can use to store liquids and tubes. Zip it off for security, then reattach to hang at your destination.
Humangear Go Cup ($9.99 for 4-ounce, $12.99 for 8-ounce, humangear.com) is a 100% leak-proof FDA food-grade silicone cup that collapses to an ultra-compact “puck” with a simple press. Lids on both sides keep things clean and the cup doubles as a handy portable pill box.
Antler Liquis ($299-$399, antlerusa.com) uses super lightweight, triple-layer (to reduce dents) polycarbonate to create a 4.4-pound carry-on. Four multidirectional wheels make it easy to glide down airplane aisles. My compact “domestic” model proved ideal for a four-day foray to Biloxi, Mississippi. Not only did my stuff fit well, but I could actually toss the suitcase into the overhead bin without assistance, a true accomplishment for someone only 5-foot-1.
Tend to overpack? Try luggage that can be “compressed.” Reducing the size of a bag can mean the difference between fitting it into the overhead bin or paying a checked bag fee. With Briggs & Riley Baseline CX ($399-$549, briggs-riley.com) load the suitcase (up to 24% over capacity), zip it closed and push down to compress to its original size. No wasted space, no wrinkled clothing and it fits in an airplane overhead bin. One caveat: Just because compressible luggage works like “magic” to allow for more belongings, it doesn’t magically make your stuff any lighter.
Eagle Creek Pack-It Specter ($14-$32, eaglecreek.com) is the latest ultra-light version of the company’s Pack It system. It allows you to organize (and easily see contents) with almost no extra weight in translucent, water-resistant silnylon ripstop fabric.
Hartmann’s PC4 ($269-$379, hartmann.com) may be polycarbonate, but interiors boast restraining straps and side zip compartments. The 21-inch carry-on weighs 6.6 pounds. A real stand-out is its clever Expandable Garment Bag Spinner with a removable travel kit and padded exterior zip pocket to stash a magazine or iPad. The company claims the four-layer polycarbonate makes it impact-resistant and maintains its color even if scratched.
The winner of the Travel Goods Show 2012 Buzz Award was Psi Bands, pronounced “sigh bands” ($14.99- $19.99, psibands.com). The FDA-cleared acupressure wrist bands are designed to relieve nausea from motion sickness. Not only do they boast fun designs, they are adjustable around the wrist and at the acupressure point for comfort. Psi Bands are drug-free, so users avoid common side effects from anti-nausea medications, such as blurred vision or drowsiness.
Archtek’s Oral Care Travel Pack ($2.99, archtekinc.com) includes toothbrush and toothpaste tablets (chew, brush, rinse). True, technology has changed for everything but toothpaste, but this is one less item to squish into your TSA-approved baggie.
If you have limited storage space, you might consider luggage that collapses to fit under a bed or in a closet. Industry pioneer Biaggi ($79-$339, biaggi.com) offers three lines – Techno, Volo and Contempo – that include a full-featured suitcase that folds down to as little as 50% of its size for storage. It even comes with its own storage bag.
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