13 new and weird travel gadgets we actually want to try

by Сашка

Transformers-inspired luggage, scooters and body wipes were a few of the highlights from the annual Travel Goods show

LAS VEGAS — Last week, the Travel Goods Association peered into the future of travel products. Though the showcase was not as sci-fi as the nearby Sphere — no artificial intelligence luggage or automaton neck pillows — the Expo at World Market Center brimmed with intriguing innovations and inventions.

More than 175 businesses displayed their wares at the three-day event, such as Osprey and Briggs & Riley, and rookies, including Props and Idea Mountain.

Troy Petenbrink, a D.C.-based travel expert known as the Gay Traveler, spotted several trends on his eighth visit to the show.

“I think we’re continuing to see innovation around lighter products. Obviously how a product looks is really important, especially in the age of social media,” he said. “People are also looking for a product that can serve multiple purposes or has some versatility to it.”

Petenbrink said companies are still committed to the green movement, such as Monarc, which constructs bags out of single-use plastics bound for oceans and landfills. However, travelers have been slow to adopt eco-friendly materials and carbon-neutral goals.

“I don’t think it’s been fully embraced yet,” Petenbrink said. “The manufacturers are trying to figure it out.”

Several fads have fallen out of fashion, especially with the advent of AirTags and other tracking devices, such as tech-heavy luggage. “It sounded great on paper, but another app draining your battery wasn’t flying. Also, we had issues with some of the smart luggage having batteries that you had to take out before you boarded the plane because of safety issues,” Petenbrink said.

We spent a full day at the show, searching for the most interesting and unusual products that we couldn’t wait to take on a test drive — or flight.

Luggage with legs and shelves

Journey System, Idea Mountain, $299: The Swiss Army knife of luggage is five bags in one, featuring a carry-on-size backpack that contains a day pack, hanging toiletry bag, laptop sleeve and hip pack — all removable. Founder Tys Sniffen, a self-described “one-backpack traveler,” also threw in drawstring bags for shoes and tech accessories, a pair of vacuum storage bags and such intuitive touches as a magnetic key chain. The components snap or clip together and create a cohesive whole that will uphold your reputation as a minimalist traveler.

Props Luggage, $399: As the mother of four daughters, Maggie Gerth spent a lot of time on hotel floors, rummaging through suitcases. Since carrying a fleet of luggage stands wasn’t feasible, she invented a hard-shell wheeled carrier with a built-in rack. When the polycarbonate legs are down, the bag transforms into a luggage rack (we know putting luggage on the bed is gross) — or a dresser, if you choose to live out of your suitcase. If you need a work station in a pinch, Props doubles as a table that can hold up to 50 pounds. When it’s time to move on, the lightweight appendages fold up.

Easy Pack Luggage, $239, medium; $329, large: The secret to effortless packing is shelving. The wheeled luggage has stacked trays that form compartments in the bag’s main cavity. Organize your clothes by day, activity or climate and then collapse the shelves before zipping up. At your destination, remove the two aluminum supports from the interior pockets, pop them into their holders and raise the shelves to create an insta-closet. You can use the vertical suitcase as your wardrobe or hang the shelves on a door or closet rod for touchless storage.

Kiddietotes, Scooter Luggage, $129: The luggage that rolls like a scooter — and vice versa — is as much for children as it is for parents, who often turn into pack animals on family trips. “It teaches kids a little bit of responsibility and autonomy,” said Nicole Jonasson, a consultant with the company. The scooter, which she said is aimed at 3- to-8-year-olds, makes toting a carry-on fun and whine-free. At the gate, the deck folds up into the backside of the luggage, which is compliant with the airlines’ carry-on dimensions. The one giveaway that the bag leads an exciting double life: The wheels spin in colored LED lights.

Accessories for hydrating and resting your head

Karout Musical Pillow, $59.99: If you’ve ever strained to hear an airplane movie, rest assured it’s not your ears: It’s the lousy in-flight audio system. The neck pillow embedded with speakers offers theater-quality sound while coddling your head. Plug in the AV cable to enjoy the seat-back entertainment or use Bluetooth for your personal gadget. The cushion is inflatable — air pump included — but it slipped when I tried it on. The founder said he is looking into memory foam, which could help the speakers align with my ears and not my neck.

Hydaway, Collapsible Water Bottle, $31.95; Insulated Bowl, $11.99 or $19.95: I picked up my first Hydaway collapsible cup during my maiden travel goods show years ago. This time around, I was excited to see the company’s newest collapsible items: a 25-ounce water bottle and a silicone bowl. The bottle squishes to an inch-and-a-half disc that can fit in the side pocket of your yoga pants or cargo shorts. The dishware crumples to an inch and expands to 12 ounces or a quart. An insulated sleeve with an outdoorsy design — northern lights, evergreen forest — keeps food at its optimum temperature for up to an hour. Secure the lid to deter bugs from swimming in your soup or cereal.

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Alpaka, Bravo Sling Mini Waterproof, $89: The waterproof satchel will free beach goers from having to babysit their valuables. The ninja-chic bag, which can be worn three ways (waist, crossbody, over the shoulder), is made of Cordura, a durable nylon fabric often used in military garb. The welded waterproof zippers and laser-fused seams also keep the ocean away from your dry goods. The sling’s IPX6 rating means that your items can survive a splashing but not a deep-sea dive with a mermaid. The bag is spacious enough to fit your essentials, plus, if you often grow bored at the beach, a Nintendo Switch.

Apparel for your feet and rainy days

LiteGear, Kompressor Poncho, $39.95: Always carry this fashionable and compact poncho and you’ll never get caught in trash bag rain gear again. The garment folds into a small pouch that you can clip onto a bag or belt around your waist. Its waterproof design — taped seams, double-placket front zipper, hood with three cinches — will repel even the fiercest downpour. The garment is large enough to wear over a heavier coat or backpack. Once the sun emerges, the poncho turns into a ground cloth, so you can nap or picnic without getting soggy.

Kytin, Parasole, $50 for nylon; $55 for merino wool: Kytin’s slip-on footwear fits like an athletic sock but walks like a shoe, thanks to its sturdy polymer sole. In addition to creating a barrier against grimy hotel and airport floors, Parasoles soothe tired dogs with dual-layer compression, arch support and cushioning. Choose from nylon or merino wool and any number of cheerful colors (mango frost, sunset yellow, beet root) that will brighten any ice machine run or jaunt through TSA security.

Wipes and clean water

Klean Freak, Body Wipe, $15 for a 12-pack; Flushable Wipe, $9 for a 20-pack: Tim Goalen, the company’s founder, decided that wipes needed to grow up. “I hated baby wipe baths,” said the avid adventurer who resides in Utah. The biodegradable towelettes are oversize and come in such candle-caliber scents as peppermint, tea tree and lavender. For those uh-oh moments when toilet paper is not available, he created flushable wipes that smell of pine, peach, grapefruit or spearmint — and nary a whiff of portable potty deodorizer.

LifeStraw, Peak Series Solo, $29.95; Water Filter Straw (not released yet), $34.95. LifeStraw, which initially focused on humanitarian projects, has been broadening its scope to help travelers in destinations with contaminated water, such as backcountry wilderness and India. The Peak Series Solo, which the company introduced last spring, features a screw top and spout that attaches to a regular water bottle and filters out contaminants before they reach your lips. For the stainless-steel straw, which will launch in May, travelers can sip directly from a glass of tainted water. For both products, the filter eliminates bacteria, parasites and bacteria, as well as grit and grime collected from outside the Vegas expo center.

The wackiest products

RetraStrap, $29.99: After Omar Abass dislocated his shoulder, he struggled to wheel his luggage through airports. His injury inspired him to create a strap that lets you pull your bag with your torso. “It reduces the stress on your muscles and joints and uses your center of gravity,” he said. I doubted the practicality of this product until I tested it myself. I draped the adjustable strap over my chest like a beauty pageant sash and started walking. I barely noticed the suitcase tailing me, even when I took a sharp turn. With my free hands, I could hold a coffee and a phone, or record myself waving at baffled passersby.

Armbie, $22.95: Chris Osse owes his invention to a middle seat on a flight from Chicago to Frankfurt. Wedged between “two linebackers,” he said he spent the entire trip with his arms pinned to his body. His design — a polyester band that resembles a giant tube top — allows travelers to relax their arms without crossing personal boundaries. He added that the accessory also provides warmth, simulates deep compression therapy and relieves anxiety. It can also reduce the strain of holding a book, which he demonstrated by wriggling his arms like T-Rex reading an imaginary novel. When I tried the Armbie, I felt as cozy as a swaddled baby, but I could achieve the same effect with a large scarf.

More travel tips

Vacation planning: Start with a strategy to maximize days off by taking PTO around holidays. Experts recommend taking multiple short trips for peak happiness. Want to take an ambitious trip? Here are 12 destinations to try this year — without crowds.

Cheap flights: Follow our best advice for scoring low airfare, including setting flight price alerts and subscribing to deal newsletters. If you’re set on an expensive getaway, here’s a plan to save up without straining your credit limit.

Airport chaos: We’ve got advice for every scenario, from canceled flights to lost luggage. Stuck at the rental car counter? These tips can speed up the process. And following these 52 rules of flying should make the experience better for everyone.

Expert advice: Our By The Way Concierge solves readers’ dilemmas, including whether it’s okay to ditch a partner at security, or what happens if you get caught flying with weed. Submit your question here. Or you could look to the gurus: Lonely Planet and Rick Steves.

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