What do ladybugs, Paris street scenes, neon-bright colors and Marilyn Monroe all have in common?
None will likely decorate the luggage of business travelers anytime soon.
Distinctive design ideas proliferated at the recent three-day Travel Goods Show to make it easier for people to find their suitcases, particularly the hard-shell models, at airport carousels. Neo Cover has gone so far as to hire its own artists to come with tableaus ranging from abstract geometry to Picasso knockoffs.
“Businesspeople are looking for a solid piece of luggage that’s going to last,” said Ezra Sitt, a sales representative for the Road Warrior line put out by Trunk & Trolley LLC. “They don’t need pink luggage or some crazy designs.”
Therefore, a large contingent of exhibitors displayed just the traditional gray and black Rollaboards, or for those with a bit of a wild streak, dull red and blue.
“I think business travelers mostly want to just fit in,” said Coralie Lindvay, the U.S. marketing director for Delsey.
Instead, Lindvay has focused on convenience and features in its newest lines, such as the Easy Access compartment. Linvay intends the separate pouch, along the side of a suitcase opened by its own zipper, to be an easy-to-reach nook for liquids that must go through airport security separately.
Women, she said, can store professional-looking high heels in the compartment, pulling them out and swapping them for more comfortable flat shoes just before that important meeting without having to open the entire suitcase.
Delsey also incorporated a pocket that opens from the top to about a 30-degree angle and includes a fully padded laptop sleeve.
Startup company Genius Pack carries function and organization as far as it can, with a suitcase that contains designated compartments for a range of necessities: socks, underwear, cellphones, a charging pack and small speakers. One compartment even has the complete list of things to put in the compartments.
On the side is a bag for laundry that can be rolled up. A valve on the outside lets the air out and keeps it out, so dirty clothes stay compressed.
For road warriors who have trouble finding their bags in crowded airports, J&M Acrylics created acrylic tags to replace the ribbons some people tie around luggage handles. The tags, designed to glow in the light, come in seven fluorescent colors and sell for $7.99 each. They can hold a business card or be engraved.
“It’s durable and easily identifiable,” J&M President Jay Silver said. “What else do you need in a bag tag?”
To prevent age-old crises caused by wrinkled suits and dresses, Australian startup SuitPack invented a two-piece folding system. One part acts as a template to guide folding; the other is a cover. After 12 steps, business garments fit into a case about as tall as a credit card but longer and wider than the typical suitcase that fits in an overhead bin.
What to do about you? The designs of most airline seat headrests date back to 16th century dungeons. For years, the solution has been travel pillows, appendages that look like puffy, miniature toilet seats.
Several companies claim they have devised with a better idea so your neck won’t be frozen at a 45-degree angle by the end of a flight.
Some of the touted breakthroughs include:
■ TravelComfort, a pair of inflatable round pillows that go on either side of the head, connected by a flat band in back. “The big thing is that it supports the side of the head so you don’t get a stiff neck,” company director Prue Kelly said. TravelComfort is already sold in Australia and now seeks U.S. distributors.
■ Travel Halo, a headband with two padded bumps positioned just above and behind the ears. This is supposed to keep the head from flopping and prevent what the company calls “travel zombie syndrome” from long, sleepless flights. An optional flip-down eyeshade is sewn into the front of the band.
■ iHug Pillow, a combination flat pillow in back, neck collar and eyeshade that can double as a tablet stand when you want to stay awake. “It looks like it will fall over, but it never does,” said Moonsoo Lee, CEO of iHug maker Moon Morning.
■ Evolution Pillow, the closest to the typical neck-collar style. However, the sides come up much higher to create greater neck support and it has a small pouch on the side to hold a music device.
■ For the other end of the body, Travelsox has hit upon an innovation after 20 years: regular-length socks. Travelsox, the trade name of the Italian company Arcos, are woven to exert a slight compression on the leg to promote blood circulation and reduce swelling on long flights.
But the socks always came up to the knee. The new version of the socks are a more standard crew length, going only a few inches above the ankle.