luggage

Souvenir Sunday: a journey with “Luggage”

On my travels this week I’ve been toting a review copy of Susan Harlan’s book, Luggage, which is part of Bloomsbury’s charming Object Lessons series.

The slim book is travel-sized, but densely-packed and Harlan has stuffed it with stories and side-trips that touch not just on the actual history and development of suitcases, bags, trunks, carry-ons and valises, but on the role baggage plays in literature, art and films.

Remember Mary Poppins’ carpet bag?

“It contains all of her desires,” writes Harlan, and is a “powerfully enabling object” from which the nanny is somehow able to produce a lamp and a mirror (in the 1964 Disney movie) and, in the novel by P.L. Travers, everything from an apron to an armchair.

Poppins’ luggage was not only magical, notes Harlan, it gave her freedom. “She can come and go as the wind changes, which would hardly be possible with a steamer trunk,” Harlan writes.

In “Luggage,” Harlan tells us about her own collection of vintage luggage, a bit of how she and others approach packing and of her visit to to Alabama’s vast Unclaimed Baggage Center, which is not just a store but a tourist destination.

Along the way she unpacks the role and relationship baggage has to everything from home and gender to class, memory, loss and, of course, travel.

“The history of luggage is the history of travel: how we traveled, and why, and where, and what we have packed,” Harlan tells us at the beginning of this journey, “It is virtually impossible to think of traveling without luggage.”

 

 

 

 

New gear & gadgets from the International Travel Goods Show

The latest in luggage, travel gear and on-the-go gadgets goes on display each year at the International Travel Goods Show in Las Vegas.

It’s anyone’s bet which of the products displayed by the more than 500 brands in attendance will take flight, but some of these new products have a great chance

Luggage scooter

Villagio of Miami’s Transmover 3-wheeled scooter has a TSA-approved detachable, rechargeable battery, a space to attach luggage (even a pet carrier) and may be a harried travelers’ answer to that long walk out to the gate.

And it’s fun. The scooter’s 12 mph top speed and 12-15 mile range can provide entertainment on a long layover inside or outside of the terminal. (MSRP: $550-$595 for the electric model; $250-$295 for the non-electric model)

Window tablet bag

Italian designer Nunzia Palmieri created a clever and sophisticated line of women’s business-style handbags and shoulder bags featuring a front pocket that can be used to store and cushion an iPad or tablet or, with the cushion removed, provide working access to the tablet via a clear window. At this year’s International Travel Goods Show Palmieri is expanding the collection to include a men’s line of leather and fabric travel bags with tablet-shaped windows as well. MSRP: starting at $228.

One bag becomes two

Thule luggage maker is rolling out a new Subterra collection that includes four rolling luggage pieces and four travel backpacks.

The 22-inch 2-wheel Subterra Carry-On (MSRP: $279.95) has a compression panel that makes it easy to pack more items and to keep clean clothes separate from dirty ones. The versatile, 22-inch Subterra Luggage piece (MSRP: $319.95) can be filled and checked as one piece or split into two smaller, independent pieces of luggage that are carry-on compliant.

Luggage tags made from airplane fuselage

 

MotoArt Studios is well-known among airplane aficionados for the conference tables, office furniture and decorative items, such as mirrors, it makes from old Boeing 747 engine turbofan housings, airplane wings and other bits of retired aircraft.

The company has recently expanded its line of offering to include serial-numbered luggage tags ($25 to $100) made from the skin of retired airplanes.

“We include the tail number of the aircraft so you can look up the history of your plane,” said Dave Hall of MotoArt Studios, “And it will tell you how much the aircraft originally cost, what year it was built and the airlines that flew it.”

Sniff, but don’t eat these purses

For fun – and for candy fans – American Jewel has a line of colorful, scented Jelly Belly-branded purses (wristlets), hairbrushes and bracelets.  Wristlet “flavors” include Blueberry Muffin, Birthday Cake, Rainbow Sherbert, Green Apple Bubblegum, Pink Lemonade, Roller Rink Pink and Tutti-Frutti.

Drink and Twist

Buying bottled water on the road at $5 (or more) a pop can get expensive, but packing an empty reusable water bottle to fill at the airport or in the hotel gym can take up valuable suitcase space.

A good fluid-carrying solution? Collapsible bottles, such as HydraPak’s clever 1 liter Stash model (MSRP: $23) which twists and crushes down to an easily-packable quarter of its size and comes in outdoor-inspired colors such as Malibu, Mojave, Mammoth and Sequoia.

Sit on this

 

Toronto-based Airopedic, which has been making ergonomic office furniture since the mid-1980s, has created a self-inflating, portable ergonomic seat to take to sports arenas, into airports, onto airplanes and to other places where comfortable seating isn’t reliably available.

The seat weighs in at 1.6 pounds, has carrying straps and mesh side pockets for storage and a pressure control button to enable seat density adjustments that the manufacturer suggests will make sitting on the Airopedic Portable Seat (MSRP: $65) feel like “sitting on a cloud.”

(My story about accessories and luggage from the 2017 International Travel Goods Show appeared in a slightly different version on CNBC.)

Packing for a trip? Do you fold or roll?

Blackpool Suitcase

When it’s time to hit the road, do you fold, roll, layer or squish? Do you make a packing list or just wing it?

Those are just a few of the questions Cheapflights.com recently asked travelers in a quick on-line survey.

Here’s what they found:

Just over 56 percent of Americans make packing lists and 77 percent plan or lay out outfits.

Forty-two percent of us start packing two to three days before leaving home and an another 30 percent start packing a week ahead of a trip.

26 percent admitted waiting until the night before a trip to start packing while just over 2 percent said they lived on the edge and and didn’t pack anything until a hour or less before leaving.

No doubt, those are people you see looking for a place to buy underwear at the airport.

Fold or roll?

70 percent of survey respondents said they folded clothes in their suitcases, while 30 percent said rolling was their method of choice.

And maybe it doesn’t really matter what you pack or how: only 45 percent of Americans reported that they ended up wearing everything they packed.

Upcycled carry-on bags from United banners

united recycled bags

The airline industry uses a lot of ‘stuff’ and some of that stuff gets recycled and re-used and made into new things that you may want to buy.

The newest “upcycled” aviation items are a set of 100 carry-on bags made from 20 United Airlines “Fly the Friendly Skies” banners.

The airline worked with the Columbia College Chicago Department of Fashion Studies and the Re:new Project and asked them to come up with a carry-on bag that would look good and be durable, be economical to make and fit under an airplane seat.

The results look appealing and are available for purchase at the United Shop .

Even better: the proceeds from sales of the upcycled banners will benefit Re:new and the Alto Mayo Forest Carbon Project in Northern Peru.

Cool travel gear at the International Travel Goods Show

The latest in luggage, travel gear and gadgets-for-those-on-the-go was on display this week at the 2015 International Travel Goods Show in Las Vegas.

Here are just a few of my favorite items that were out on the floor.

1_Playluggage Blocks_courtesy Playluggae

The designers at Estonia-based Playluggage want their luggage to be a “dependable and trustworthy partner for the craziest adventures.” They’re on the right track with suitcases that have surfaces that double as game boards for backgammon, Chinese checkers, chess, poker and Parcheesi, a model that comes with erasable markers and a covering you can draw on and this new design, which has a surface compatible with Lego-style blocks.

5_ShelfPack2

Hotel butlers unpack and repack luggage for well-to-do guests. The rest of us must do all that ourselves. The Shelfpack (MSRP: $349) from McKaba Luggage may be a good in-between option.

The idea: organize you outfits on the collapsible shelves built inside the suitcase, push the shelves into the suitcase and then pop them back up on arrival to form an instant dresser.

For more fun stuff from the 2015 International Travel Goods Show, see my slide-show on CNBC