Not So Smart Luggage

Not So Smart Luggage

Smart Luggage for the Connected Age promised the title in last week’s New York Times. It featured a company that’s releasing “smart luggage” packed with up-to-the-minute features including “a Bluetooth-enabled lock, GPS tracking, and a USB port for recharging a device. It has a built-in scale, too.”

Samsonite is also getting into the smart luggage act with their “new line of GeoTrakR suitcases, containing a cellular-enabled baggage-tracking system… and Andiamo will introduce a new carry-on with a Wi-Fi hotspot, battery charger and other features.”

The article reports on gizmo-laden smart luggage coming from AT&T, Rimowa, Bluesmart, Trunkster, and Delsey (their line is called “Pluggage.” No. Really.).

Before we proceed, let me make it clear that I’m a tech geek. I love gizmos and technology. I lust for every new device Apple releases, I change apps as often as you change underwear, and I’ve figured out how to digitize all of my papers, bills, accounts, photos, sketches, and every other thing I can scan and upload to the cloud. My music hard drive has three terabytes of storage and holds over 114 days of continuous songs.

But even though I’m an early adapter and totally obsessed travel-light voyager, I will never buy one of these modern day steamer trunks. Talk about putting the “lug” back in “luggage,” not one review mentions how much smart luggage weighs, but I’ll bet it’s plenty. And that flies in the face of my belief that the key to travelling happy is travelling light.

Thanks to my never-ending travel schedule speaking at conferences around the world, I’ve experimented with enough bags and packing schemes to sink the Titanic. And I’ve figured out the exact solution and the exact bag to make travelling as easy as possible. More on that in a minute…

I’ve written on the subject of travelling light a few times before (I told you I was obsessed). You can read those posts HERE and HERE and HERE and HERE. And you can read my Fortune Magazine profile on travel as a competitive sport HERE. If you do you’ll see that learning about travelling light is an ongoing evolution – some of the tools and techniques I recommended early on have been discarded for new ideas. Live and learn, I say.

But before we get to my latest solution, here are five rules that will make your travel as pleasant and convenient as possible:

  1. Travel light. Not having to lug your belongings everywhere is the best thing you can do to enjoy your time away.
  2. There are only two kinds of luggage: Carry-on and lost. If you can’t carry your belongings and can’t lift them into the plane’s overhead compartment, don’t take them.
  3. Don’t change your look with different outfits; change your look with different accessories. For women that means neutral-colored clothes with bright scarves, belts, and wraps. For men it means navy, gray or khaki with different ties and pocket squares. Clothes are heavy. Accessories are not.
  4. You can’t lose what you don’t let go of. Travel light enough and you can keep your things with you when they’re not secured. If you insist on having GPS connectivity for your bags, a little TILE tag can care of that without any added weight.
  5. Eliminate all superfluous cables and chargers. If you’re taking your laptop you don’t need other chargers, just plug your phone, camera, and running watch into the computer’s USB ports. If you’re staying at a business hotel, you can charge your devices in the USB port behind the large screen TV in your room. Just don’t forget them when you check out.

Smart Luggage

If you’re only going to bring a briefcase or pocketbook and one bag, you better bring the right one. After years of experimentation, here’s the best bag you can buy for trouble-free travel – a 22” Tumi duffel. It’s got a cavernous central storage area for shoes, folded suits, and all your clothes, a zippered pocket on the inside for items you want to keep as secure as possible, two pockets at either end – I use one for technology and the other for accessories – and a large zip pocket on the front for tickets, keys, passport, phone, etc. It’s easy to pack, easy to live out of if you organize with packing cubes, easy to carry, and easy to stuff overhead. And no wheels or frames adding weight or taking up valuable space.

The bad news is that Tumi doesn’t make them any more but you can usually find them on EBay for less than $100 in nylon and around $200 in leather (but beware, leather’s heavier than nylon). They come and go but there were a few listed when I wrote this article.

Happy travels.

By |2015-03-15T17:34:37+00:00March 15th, 2015|19 Comments


  1. Victor March 18, 2015 at 8:50 am - Reply

    i too am of the travel light school and early adapter. In fact am also a big fan of tumi solutions. Had a “man bag” small messenger style beg that was perfect for my devices and basic bus needs.

    But I will say that I am intrigued by the idea of smart luggage. There can be some basic functions they can alleviate such as charging. Still space and weight could certainly be a deal breaker. But I must admit, my curiosity is at least piqued.

  2. Kalyn James March 18, 2015 at 12:00 pm - Reply

    Traveling light for the fashionista is always a problem. As I read more on minimalism, I am trying hardtop adapt. It’s a slowwww process.

  3. jeff zbar March 18, 2015 at 12:28 pm - Reply

    I used to review tech stuff. It became near-sport for me to see how many gadgets I could cram into my Oakley knapsack. I got pretty darn good at implementing the ‘a place for everything and everything in its place’ mantra.

    Then, one day, I realized all that nonsense was a weighty nuisance.

    Today, I carry a Chromebook or tablet (and their chargers), a Belkin 4-plug mini-power strip with surge suppressor (so I can share an outlet at the airport), a tiny (and I mean tiny) cigarette lighter adapter for power in the rental car, and a flash drive. If availability of my next charge is unknown, I’ll carry a portable battery good for a coupla iPhone charges.

    That, plus my iPhone with personal hotspot, and I’m good to go.

    Might sound like a lot, but it all fits into one pocket in that knapsack. And as a guy, that knapsack counts as a personal item, leaving me allowance for a bona fide carry on (truth is, the Oakley will carry two days’ clothes).

    Man, it feels good to lighten the load…

  4. Mike Simon March 18, 2015 at 12:49 pm - Reply

    When packing for long trips like family vacations I tell everyone that “we’re going to have an inspection before flying home, anything you didn’t wear or use will be left behind as a tip for the staff at the hotel.”

    Not that we’ve actually had to do this; but it does make people focus on how little they actually need if they think about it when they pack.

    • Bruce Turkel March 18, 2015 at 1:01 pm - Reply

      LOVE that idea, Mike. I will be using it. Thank you!

  5. Larry Constantine (Lior Samson) March 18, 2015 at 1:09 pm - Reply

    Of course, luggage connectivity also means hackability, giving new meaning to on-the-go theft.

    Another approach to traveling light is not to have the weight on your back or shoulders. I have a capacious expandable McKlein rolling briefcase atop which can ride any carry-on that suits the trip, Tumi or otherwise. As a journalist, I am often traveling with a fair amount of photographic shmoo, which I would never check.

    I’m less paranoid than many about lost luggage, because in roughly 2.5M miles of air travel I have had luggage delayed (sometimes seriously) but have never lost a bag. If I do check my TravelPro expandable for an extended trip (3-6 weeks, say), I always have all my immediate needs in my carry-ons.

    –Larry Constantine (pen name, Lior Samson)

  6. John Calia March 18, 2015 at 1:31 pm - Reply

    Amen, brother. When you start the church of traveling light, I’ll sing in the choir.

  7. Tim Peterson March 18, 2015 at 4:59 pm - Reply

    Bruce- I sensed we were kindred spirits. I went to traveling light years back when some investment bankers taught me nobody pays attention to a man’s suit day to day. Bring some shirts (folded at cleaners and ties) and one suit goes a week! Forgot about the tile, just ordered some!

  8. Seth B March 19, 2015 at 9:04 am - Reply

    I don’t travel nearly as much as you do, Bruce, and that’s a good thing because I’m terrible at it. I always go through a certain amount of pre-flight anxiety which I assumed to be fear of flying, but I only recently realized that I’m not anxious on the plane or flying home. It’s always on the run-up to the trip. As a result (or is it a cause?) I always overpack. If I were in Mike’s family, I’d be leaving clothes behind on every trip. I wonder if I follow some of your tips and forced myself to travel light, if I might leave the anxiety behind too.

    • Bruce Turkel March 19, 2015 at 9:50 am - Reply

      If you don’t mind totally geeking out on travel hacks, Seth, I have a suggestion that I believe will solve your problem: Make a packing list. Figure out everything you need to take, what goes with what, what electronic accessories, personal hygiene items, medicines, contact lens solution, or whatever you’ll need and write it down. Edit the list scrupulously so you don’t overpack and then stick to the list when you do pack. I’d even recommend you throw it on top of your folded clothes before you zip up your suitcase just for the symbolic comfort and control it’ll give you. That way you won’t have the last minute jitters or thoughts such as “what if I need my tuxedo, or what if I can’t find a drug store?” that completely derail your best packing strategies.
      Also, remember that a credit card in your pocket means you can pick up anything you’ve forgotten that you just can’t live without.
      But if you think through your list carefully (and refine it over your travels) I’m confident that it will solve your problem.

  9. Marcy Schackne March 19, 2015 at 9:42 am - Reply

    iQ by Andiamo was unveiled at last week’s International Travel Goods Show in Las Vegas. The details were released after the NYTimes article was already complete, so all we got was a small mention. Our first generation product will ONLY be a carry-on, so you won’t have to part with your bag. Target on-sale date is Fall 2015. We feel that we’ll be the ‘smartest’ of them all. The bag will have a removable battery pack, charge your phone/devices, mobile hot spot, international hot spot to roam with international sim card, integrated scale, proprietary app for destination guidance, distance alert, etc. Coming to the web site soon. #AndiamoLuggage #SafeTravels

    • Bruce Turkel March 19, 2015 at 9:51 am - Reply

      Please let us know about it when it’s unveiled, Marcy, and I’ll be happy to update the article.

  10. Sue R March 19, 2015 at 3:42 pm - Reply


    Great article especially for all my friends who pack for a short trip enough for 2 months. Thanks for all the tips. There is also a good website – with additional resources for light travel. They have a method for packing for 60 days in a carry-on. I tried it, it works and I use it on all my trips. They also made a video on the method:

  11. Michael Maxwell March 19, 2015 at 4:28 pm - Reply

    A philosophy of Traveling Light is like a good salad dressing that goes with everything. Same for packing. Business or pleasure, my packing is governed by shoes. Black or brown, which guides packing. It either goes with black or brown. As a guy, I can get a wrinkle-free week in a 22″ Swiss Army roller, stashed in the overhead. Small Muji bags permanently store chargers, glasses and guy stuff so I don’t have think to pack them. My toilet kit too is equipped with Muji plastic bottles that I refill when I get home, so I am always ready to dash out the door on short notice when duty calls.

    If traveling for a lengthy time, I take clothes and shoes that are wearing out and leave them behind when I return home so there is room for the books I invariably acquire on the road.

  12. JC Whitner March 19, 2015 at 8:25 pm - Reply

    Interesting article to me particularly in light of our business model, passion-based experiences, in the world of fashion, sports, entertainment, & the like. I will certainly be investigating the travel items mentioned for our discerning client base.

  13. Lee T March 20, 2015 at 11:13 am - Reply

    Your “travel as a competitive sport” article in Fortune started quite a conversation with the ladies in my office who want to know your ExOfficio preference: Boxers or briefs?

    • Bruce Turkel March 20, 2015 at 11:28 am - Reply

      Sorry about that, Lee. Answer is both — Give-N-Go Boxer Briefs. Black, gray or navy.

  14. Len Kaufman March 21, 2015 at 6:38 pm - Reply

    Old, ready to be tossed, socks and underwear go into the suitcase and are used first. That way, after use, they can be abandoned in the waste basket and not carried around for the balance of the trip.

  15. holly stiel March 22, 2015 at 10:38 am - Reply

    I read this and think Yuck!!!
    Although I hate the lug part I love the choices. I once planned around one back dress for two weeks. At the end I hated the dress, the way I looked, all of it.
    Bellman please…

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