Luggage manufacturers are constantly working to entice buyers to replace their perfectly good (if somewhat worn) checked bags. While these updates are usually stylistic, the recent hype around “smart luggage” that integrates with travelers’ Internet of Things (IoT) devices has promised more substantial upgrades than just fresh new colors. But is there function to match the flash?
Intrepid Journeys & Destination staff members have checked in on some of the more enticing smart luggage claims, and we’re pleased to say we’ve found plenty of new pieces with truly worthwhile high-tech add-ons. Here are four travel innovations for 2020 that we can recommend.
1: Suitcases with integrated batteries
We go to great lengths to make sure our devices never run out of juice when we’re far from home. That typically means drawers full of power banks, plugs, and adapters — then a rush to find the right accessories the day before your flight. But what if your suitcase could keep your phone and laptop charged and ready for action without the guesswork? That’s the idea behind a wave of carry-on and checked bags with integrated batteries. Brands like Incase and Genius Pack have stepped up to offer luggage with charging options like USB, USB-C, and even regular AC plugs. The batteries are typically TSA compliant, so they don’t have to be removed during screening. If you constantly suffer from dying devices, this is sure to be one of your new favorite travel companions.
2: Luggage with built-in wireless protection
Today’s airport criminals are getting tech-savvy. The latest trick: using a Bluetooth scanner to target bags on the carousel that contain electronic devices. Most of us don’t put our phones and laptops in our checked bags, of course, but sometimes overstuffed overhead bins leave us no choice. In addition, lots of valuable devices (including cameras, speakers, and more) emit low-level wireless signals that can be scanned by would-be device thieves. In response, manufacturers are building RF-blocking components into suitcases, duffels, and more. These protective features range from a single Faraday sleeve for a laptop to a fully RF-protected roller. While nothing can prevent an old-fashioned grab-and-go from the carousel, these new luggage options can make your checked bags less appealing to thieves who specifically target high-dollar gadgets.
3: Bags with their own tracking systems
There’s nothing worse than reaching your destination and discovering that your checked bag didn’t make the connection. It’s also fairly common for suitcases to make an unplanned detour on their way to the carousel. A new generation of GPS-equipped checked bags tackles these issues head-on. Brands like Away and Samsonite are incorporating LugLoc tracking technology into their luggage that can send the location of your bag directly to an app on your smartphone. Travelers can use this data to help airlines ship their bags to their hotel, or even find those wayward valises before they leave the airport. So the next time the airline rep says they don’t know where your bag is, send them the coordinates.
4: Suitcases that notify you when they’ve been opened
TSA is usually kind enough to leave you a 500-word notification that they’ve opened and searched your suitcase. But how do you know when someone less official takes a look for themselves? Smart luggage brands like Samsara have the answer: checked bags that let you know when and where they’ve been opened. The combination locks are TSA compliant, of course, so the folks that have reason to open a bag can do their jobs. As one expects, these suitcases use an app on your mobile device to inform you of any invasions of your privacy—which is a whole lot subtler than finding it on the carousel wrapped in duct tape.
Price: From $699
Purchase from Samsara
Oh, and if you’re looking for accessories to go with your smart bags, check out our article on trending travel gadgets.