Image: Lookout Luggage Alert System
Lewis N Clark
When you can't keep your hands or your eyes on your personal items, you can still keep tabs on them with the Lookout Luggage Alert System ($39.99) from Lewis N Clark.
By Travel writer
msnbc.com contributor
updated 3/3/2009 10:58:01 AM ET 2009-03-03T15:58:01

Can I interest you in a $260 passport cover or a $365 toiletry case?

Yeah, I didn't think so. In times like these, savvy travelers are opting for affordability over extravagance, which may explain why so many new travel accessories emphasize function over fashion. That's certainly true for the products listed below, all of which are currently on display at the industry-oriented Travel Good Show, opening today in Las Vegas.

“Travel accessories are really travel essentials,” says Michele Marini Pettinger, president of the Travel Goods Association, which organizes the show. “They typically help the traveler solve a particular problem.”

And if they can do so without breaking the bank, so much the better. Each of the following items, for example, costs less than $50; all together, they'll still run you less than that posh little passport holder.

On your way
With every major airline (even Southwest) charging extra for bags weighing more than 50 pounds, the last thing you want at the check-in counter is a pricey surprise. (Just last week, I saw someone's bag register 50.4 pounds — ouch!) The Ultra-Light Electronic Scale ($24.99) from Travelon will not only provide a digital readout up to 110 pounds, but also features a thermometer, tape measure and flashlight.

If you've ever left something at security — or worried about the cleanliness of those bins — the Kangopack ($34.99) can help. Made of ballistic nylon, this pouch, measuring 8 inches by 9 inches, opens up to create an anti-microbial bin liner that protects your personal items from the yuck factor. (There's even a divider to keep your shoes separate.) Once through security, you can grab the pack's handles, scooping everything up inside, and move to somewhere more comfortable to repack.

Of course, if you then grab a cup of coffee, the juggling act begins all over again, which is where the tugo ($8.95) drink holder comes in handy. Made of flexible molded plastic, the unit features a cup-sized ring and two keyhole-style straps that can be secured to the handles of most rollaboard bags. It swivels to avoid spillage and can be popped off and put in a side pocket when not in use.

On board
You've got a book, water bottle, plane ticket, iPod and PDA — do you really want to cram it all into the seat pocket? Instead, keep all your essential items organized and within arm's reach with the Nirvana Travel Organizer Bag ($39.99) from Zen Class. Sliding over your tray table, the bag opens up to reveal enough pockets, holders and D-ring clips to hold everything from your lipstick to your laptop. Zipped close, you're good to go.

Image: Airplane backpack
Portable Playtime
Portable Playtime’s Airplane Backpack retails for $25.

For pint-sized fliers, Portable Playtime offers its Airplane Backpack ($25), which takes a kid-friendly approach to onboard organization. Made of canvas and laminated cotton, it can be worn as a super-slim backpack, then unfolded across the tray table and secured with the adjustable shoulder straps. The wipeable surface provides a clean place for eating while the hanging side flaps and zippered pockets will hold a transcon flight's worth of toys, games and snacks.

Out and about
Travel-sized toiletries make a lot of sense for quick trips and light packers; buying them repeatedly doesn't. GoToobs — squeezable silicone bottles from humangear — provide a sensible alternative. Available in 1.25- and 2-ounce sizes ($6.45-$7.95), they feature wide necks for easy refilling, twistable ID rings to identify the contents (“Soap,” “Lotion,” etc.) and, in the 2-ounce version, an integrated suction cup that can be affixed to a mirror or shower wall.

Image: e-Solar Charger
EverLite
EverLite's e-Solar Charger lets you get juice to your cell phone, even if you’re miles from an electrical outlet.

Going off the grid? If you're bringing the cell phone, iPod or digital camera along, you may also want to pack an e-Solar Charger($49.95) from EverLite. About the size of a BlackBerry, this 3.6-ounce unit becomes fully charged after eight hours of full sun and will power a host of personal electronics via the 12 included adapter tips. It also features an integrated LED flashlight, USB plug for charging by laptop and 12V plug for car charging.

When things go wrong
When you can't keep your hands or your eyes on your personal items, you can still keep tabs on them with the Lookout Luggage Alert System ($39.99) from Lewis N Clark. Consisting of a small transmitter that fits inside your bag or other gear and a pocket-sized receiver, the latter will emit a 110 dB alarm when the two devices are separated by more than 13 feet. It's expected to be available in late spring.

Finally, anyone who has endured a medical emergency away from home may want to consider the Traveler-ER USB Drive($29.95) from Traveler's Supply. This thumb-sized unit lets you upload everything from your personal and family medical history to your caregivers' contact information, all of which can then be read by any emergency personnel with a Windows-compatible laptop (no Internet access required). Ideally, you'll never need to use it, but it can be a lifesaver if you do.

Rob Lovitt is a frequent contributor to msnbc.com. If you'd like to respond to one of his columns or suggest a story idea, drop him an e-mail.

More on travel gear | Rob Lovitt

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