Can we have a show of hands, please?
Raise your right hand if you ever go carry-on-only when you fly.
Raise your left hand if you sometimes check your bags.
Good, now that everybody has both their hands in the air, perhaps the more outspoken among you can take a deep breath, step away from the keyboard and stop with the flame-mail.
For the record, I never suggested in a previous column that going carry-on-only was the only way to go. I merely noted that I preferred to when it was appropriate. Obviously, most of us travel both ways, depending on circumstance, because in flying, as in footwear, one size does not fit all.
Nor should it, says Michele Marini Pittenger, president of the Travel Goods Association, who suggests creating a “wardrobe” of luggage: “There is now such a wide variety of products in so many styles and colors, [so] buy what fits your particular lifestyle and mix and match as needed.”
Not surprisingly, luggage manufacturers are only too happy to help. For a long time, “luggage fashion was limited to black and red,” notes Ken White, vice president and director of U.S. operations for Landor & Hawa, makers of International Traveller luggage. “Now, you can do so many fun things with it.”
At the same time, they’re also introducing bags and cases that are lighter, stronger and better designed to handle and protect our gear. The end result is a slew of new products that are fashionable, functional and fully accessorized for today’s multi-tasking traveler.
With that in mind, here’s a look at what you might be seeing around the overhead bins and baggage carousels this winter.
For fashionable fun, check out International Traveller’s Zebra Print 3-piece luggage set ($350), which will be introduced in January. Available in three sizes (21.5, 26.5 and 29 inches), it features a fully lined interior with organizer pockets, patented expansion system (offering 25 percent more capacity) and a black-and-white ABS/polycarbonate shell that will fit right in on your next safari.
Prefer something a little edgier? The Hero Upright from Samsonite is a 22-inch rolling carry-on case ($750) designed by über-cool UK designer Alexander McQueen. Made of molded ABS, it features a raised outline of a human ribcage and sternum on one side and a backbone on the other. It’s available in black and, ahem, bone white. The collection also features several pieces with a crocodile-textured pattern.
Introduced in July, the wheeled carry-on ($199) from SkyRoll is an ingenious suitcase and garment bag in one. The case features two compartments, including an easy-access top-loading one with organizer pockets for personal electronics and other necessities. The garment bag, which is designed to reduce wrinkles and creases, wraps tightly around the former and is held in place with Velcro and cinch straps. Both pieces can also be used separately.
The 22-inch Expandable Upright Roller ($179) is one of several new bags from CaseLogic. Made of semi-rigid EVA, it features an expandable main compartment, integrated water bottle holder and removable laptop shuttle that can handle most 15-inch laptops. Other new bags include a messenger-style computer bag and 29-inch rolling duffel.
Laptop bags go green and lean
Manufacturers are taking an equally diverse approach to luggage for laptops. Long known for its soft-sided laptop jackets, Shoreline is currently in the process of becoming Act 2 as part of efforts to make its products from 100-percent recycled materials (e.g., plastic water bottles). The company’s All Around jacket ($40) is offered in three colors and seven sizes and features a back zipper for easy port access.
If you’re more into leather and chrome, consider the Bullfight case ($510) from Zeyner, a black-leather case with three accordion compartments and space for a 17-inch laptop. Add in the chrome striping, the (red) flame-inspired stitching and the horn-shaped, spike-tipped handle and you’ve got a case that wouldn’t look out of place strapped to the back of your Harley Electra Glide.
Then there’s the super-sleek X2 case (starting at $415) from Titan Luggage, which will hold a 15-inch laptop within its well-padded polycarbonate confines. When opened, its clam-shell design makes it easy to work from; when closed, its bright, eye-catching exterior makes it hard to miss — sort of like a giant, fruit-flavored Chiclet. A carbon-fiber model ($540) is also available.
Finally, if you’re not in the market for new luggage, but want to keep tabs on the gear you’ve got, consider the Luggage Retriever ($40) or zReturn’s stick-on tags (three for $5). The former clips onto your luggage and emits an electronic beep when activated by a key-chain-like receiver. The latter is like an online lost and found — if someone finds your tag-equipped gear, they can use its pre-registered ID number to make contact through the company’s secure Web site.
As to whether you use either item with your carry-on bags or checked luggage, well, that’s between you and the airlines.