Tight travel budget got you down? The makers of luggage and travel accessories feel your pain.
Consider many of the new products at this year’s Travel Goods Association (TGA) show, opening today in Las Vegas. Instead of touting designer names and luxury logos, manufacturers are emphasizing affordability and the specific needs of individual travelers.
“Travel is a multi-segmented market,” says Michele Marini Pittenger, TGA president, “and each type puts different demands on travelers. So it only follows that we’re seeing more and more accessories targeting specific types of travelers.”
Depending on your own needs, one or more of the following will likely fit the bill:
Here’s hoping you never get stuck on a plane with no air conditioning, but if you do, the new Mini Fan ($12.50) from Design Go could be a life saver. About the size of a large cigarette lighter, it runs on one AAA battery, offers 10,000 rpm of rotational speed and features retractable blades so it slips easily into a pocket or purse when the AC comes back on.
If you’ve ever tried to prop up your iPhone or iPod touch on an airplane tray table only to have it fall over or skitter away, you might want to consider the Seat Buddy ($19.95). Made of soft silicone rubber, the hands-free unit lets you hang your phone/media player from the seat in front of you — or a headrest in the car — so you can watch movies without worrying about it going mobile.
Speaking of in-flight entertainment, the AirPlay tray table cover ($29.99) from Star Kids Products offers a convenient way to keep toddlers and infants happily occupied when flying. Made of colorful cotton and polyester, it offers several early-educational activities with a clean playing surface for little travelers. The company also produces a Snack & Play unit for strollers and car seats.
You lock your luggage, rental car and hotel room door, but do you lock up the important data you carry around with you? If you use flash drives, you can with the new Flash Drive Combo Lock ($13) from Austin House, which tricks out a flash drive with a small, three-number cable lock. In a pinch, you can also use the cable portion to lock a locker or bag and carry the lock/drive portion with you.
Someday, hotels will catch up with travelers’ needs for more than one or two outlets per room. Until then, there’s the Voltage Valet($30), a travel power strip from Hybrinetics. Measuring 7 inches x 2 inches x 1.5 inches, the unit will let you connect up to three AC-powered devices and one USB-powered device simultaneously and will operate on 100- to 240-volt systems worldwide (with appropriate adaptor plug outside North America).
Given the prevalence of bed bugs on TripAdvisor.com’s recent “Dirtiest Hotels in the U.S.” list, the folks behind BedVoyage may be on to something. Their anti-bacterial bamboo-fiber linens ($149–$209) feature a sewn-together fitted sheet and top sheet that protect you from the ick factor of potentially dirty hotel beds. Sets come with matching pillowcases and laminated instruction cards to alert housekeepers not to change the bedding.
It’s a belt; it’s a fanny pack ... it’s the SPIbelt ($19.95), an ultra-minimalist fanny bag designed to carry small personal items (hence the SPI moniker). Originally designed for runners and other athletes, the expandable pouch will hold a cell phone, keys and other pocket-sized items and is available in waterproof, reflective and special-edition versions.
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With more people carrying personal electronics, more dead phones and MP3 players are inevitable. One solution is to carry the new Solar Backpack(under $100)from Topzip International, which features an angled solar panel and a built-in power bank. The unit will provide approximately 20 minutes of talk time after four hours of solar exposure, comes with a set of universal adaptors and can be pre-charged via the included car and wall chargers.
Found a new favorite wine or foreign olive oil, but feeling the squeeze from TSA’s 3-oz. rule on liquids? Pack your bottles in the inflatable VinniBag ($24.95), put them in your checked luggage and they’ll survive even the roughest baggage handler. Expandable air chambers provide protection against impact and leakage; the open design will accommodate odd-sized items (e.g., figurines, vases, perfume bottles) and the bag rolls flat when not in use.
Of course, all of the above will add extra weight to your luggage, so rather than add to the clutter (and even more weight) with a hand-held scale, consider a piece of self-weighing luggage from Intelligent Luggage. Making its U.S. debut at the TGA show, the company’s three sizes of rolling cases ($79–$99) actually weigh themselves. Simply push the button — you don’t even have to lift them off the ground — and you’ll never be unwittingly socked with overweight baggage fees again.
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.
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