March 6, 2012 at 12:21 PM ET
If you’ve been feeling pressed upon in your travels lately, you’re not alone. From overstuffed overhead bins to pod-style hotel rooms, the squeeze is definitely on.
The bad news is that packed planes and cramped quarters are probably here to stay. The good news is that the makers of luggage and other accessories are debuting products that can help alleviate the pain.
“Luggage manufacturers have done a tremendous job with weight over the last three or four years,” said Michele Marini Pittenger, president of the Travel Goods Association. “Now they’re going after bulk with a lot of compressible/expandable luggage.”
Some, like the new Baseline CX series from Briggs & Riley can be expanded or compressed with a simple push — perfect for when you buy a bunch of new clothes on a shopping trip — while others, like the new Moda from Biaggi, fold up when not in use to make the most of limited storage space.
These and other innovative products will be on display during the annual Travel Goods Show in Las Vegas, which opens on Tuesday. The industry-only event isn’t open to the public but here’s a sneak peek at several items that will be showing up on store shelves in the coming months:
The company’s tag line — Welcome to the Fold — sums up the philosophy at Biaggi, a new brand launched by industry veterans in February. All bags feature four swiveling wheels for smooth mobility, along with a patented hinge and soft sides that let you fold each bag in on itself for easy storage. The 20-inch Moda carry-on ($219), for example, compresses to roughly half its traveling size. It and the company’s other products are expected to be in stores soon.
Briggs & Riley Baseline CX
While most expandable bags force you to circumnavigate their perimeter with a zipper, this collection from Briggs & Riley uses a unique customized expansion system. Pop a latch to expand the bag, pack it as full as you want, then close it up and push on the lid to squeeze out the air, which minimizes wrinkles and reduces the bag’s profile by roughly 25 percent. Offered in five sizes ($399–$549), they’ll be available in August.
Eagle Creek Crossroads Roll-Away 30
With 6,300 cubic inches of capacity, the Crossroads Roll-Away 30 ($150) is big enough to handle heavy-duty, extended travel. When in use, wheels, exterior compression straps and a full-panel front opening make it easy to manage; when it’s not, its collapsible design lets you fold it up to the size of a messenger bag.
Kiva Designs Stowaway Messenger
Long-known for its compressible packing cubes, Kiva Designs goes into convertible mode with the Stowaway Messenger ($49.95). Made of recycled polyester fabric, it’s an 11” x 16” x 5” messenger bag with a drawstring closure,two exterior mesh pockets and a zippered interior pocket that serves as a carrying case. Stuff the bag into it and you’ve got a 6” x 9” x 2” pouch that takes up no room at all.
Go Travel Pillow Duo
Finally, consider the Pillow Duo ($20) from Go Travel, which suggests that convertibility is not limited to luggage. Made of soft velour, the bean-filled Duo can be converted from a horseshoe shape — good for sitting upright in a cramped airline seat — to a rectangular one for horizontal snoozing by unzipping it, turning it inside out and zipping it back up. It’s expected to be available later this month.
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Rob Lovitt is a longtime travel writer who still believes the journey is as important as the destination. Follow him at Twitter.