USA Today: Lighter-weight luggage and bags with built-in and portable scales -- aimed at foiling the excess-baggage-fee ghouls at the check-in counter -- were a recurring theme at this year's Travel Goods Show, which ended Monday in Chicago.
More than 200 exhibitors showed their wares to retailers canvassing the show. Each year, three new items are awarded the association's Product Innovation Award. The 2011 winners:
First place: Thule's Crossover Rolling Duffel ($299.99). The large-capacity, wheeled gear bag has wide-mouth access, a structural exoskeleton and a molded, protective back panel. The judges note as a "standout feature" the bag's removable SafeZone compartment to stow fragile items, such as electronics.
Second place: Shelves-To-GO ($36.95 for 12"-by-20" and $34.95 for 12"-by-18"), is a new "packing concept" aimed at organized travelers who like things just so. Pack your belongings on the Shelves-To-GO insert, which accordions when dropped into a suitcase. The unit lifts out to hang in the hotel closet.
Third place: Powerbag's Business Class Pack ($179.99) is a checkpoint-friendly backpack for your laptop. It has a built-in 6000mAh battery for recharging portable electronics, a full-size USB socket, micro- and mini-USB plugs and a 30-pin Apple connector. Plus, it's got enough juice to charge a typical cell phone battery four times over.
The annual Buzz Award, voted on by retailers attending the show, went to the BlanKid ($29.99), Cabeau's fanciful animal-shaped backpacks for kids that convert into a travel blanket and pillow.