Never mind the festive name--there's nothing remotely amusing about hanging around a baggage "carousel," much less waiting (and praying) for a missing bag to show up. Frequent business fliers know that checking bags is, well, for suckers. On the other hand, travelers who kid themselves that their steamer trunks on wheels really deserve a place in increasingly crowded overhead compartments make few friends. A recent survey by Carlson Wagonlit Travel, a Minneapolis-based travel consultancy, found that "people not checking bags when they should" is one of the most common peeves among travelers worldwide--ahead of crying babies, even. And that make-or-break sprint to the gate is going to be more like a slow- motion slog if you're lugging a too-heavy carryon. The good news is that packing light is easier than ever. Not only are high-tech gadgets getting slimmer and more versatile, but mundane must-haves such as toothbrushes, razors, and alarm clocks--even the bags themselves--are benefiting from advanced engineering and a dose of good design. These items will help you upgrade (and downsize) your travel kit, so you can avoid both the evil stares and the dreaded merry-go-round of the checked-bag masses.
Etymotic Research ER-6 earphones
With these high-tech noise-isolating earphones, you'll hear only what you want to. They work with MP3 players, portable DVD players, and laptops.
0.5 oz. | $140 | www.etymotic.com
Plantronics Discovery 640 Bluetooth headset
Charge this lightweight wireless headset with your cell phone adapter, or, when there's no plug in sight, use its AAA battery pocket charger for 15 hours of talk time.
0.3 oz. | $150 | www.plantronics.com
Dakota travel clock
Wake-up calls can be so jarring. This tiny clock has an alarm that gradually increases in frequency and volume until you turn it off. Made of stainless steel, it has a flip-open lid that doubles as a stand.
3 oz. | $35 | www.magellans.com
Panasonic electric razor
Go electric and leave the shaving cream behind. Just half an inch thick, this razor runs on two AAA batteries.
4.4 oz. | $60 | www.panasonic.com
Victorinox Paratrooper garment bag
Clothes hang slimmer than they fold and tend to stay wrinkle-free. This isn't the lightest garment bag out there, but it's well made, is roomy enough for a few days' worth of clothes, and folds up small enough to slide under the seat in front of you.
5.5 lb. | $280 | www.swissarmy.com
Tumi Vista computer sleeve
You've got a slim laptop--why carry a bulky computer bag? This small sleeve is the perfect size for a compact laptop and slips easily into a carryon.
9.9 oz. | $75 | www.tumi.com
Sony Vaio TX610P/B notebook
This state-of-the-art laptop works with Cingular's nationwide EDGE network, letting you log on wirelessly anywhere--hot spot or not. And it's really little--smaller than an 8 1/2 by 11 sheet of paper, and about an inch thick.
2.8 lb. | $1,900 | www.sonystyle.com
Heys XCase carryon
Sized to meet the carryon requirements of most airlines, this 20-inch-long "rolly" weighs about half what most others do and has a comfortable, sturdy handle. The polycarbonate shell comes in nine colors--but some users have complained that it scratches easily.
5.4 lb. | $80 | www.ebags.com
iGo Juice70 universal notebook adapter
No need for that jumble of cords and chargers. Using interchangeable plug-in tips, this adapter can charge your laptop, cell phone, MP3 player, and wireless headset from wall, auto, or airplane outlets.
8.6 oz. | $120 | www.igo.com
Palm Treo 700w
The 700w's Windows Mobile operating system means you can edit Word and Excel documents, view PowerPoint presentations, and use Outlook and Internet Explorer. So you may even be able to ditch the laptop. It's a phone, too, by the way.
6.4 oz. | $400 | www.palm.com
There's just no sleeker, slimmer way to tote your tunes--up to 1,000 of them. The Nano is pencil-thin and can go up to 14 hours between charges.
1.5 oz. | $250 | www.apple.com
Pop-up hair brush
Don't let a bulky brush put a bump in your otherwise streamlined toiletries kit. Folded, this one's just 4.5 inches long. Keep it in pocket or purse for "jet head" emergencies.
1.8 oz. | $5 | www.magellans.com
Made of three-ply, 100 percent pashmina cashmere, this shawl folds up thin and multitasks as a clean blanket in-flight and a versatile extra layer on the ground.
8.4 oz. | $80 | www.thepashminastore.com
Let a smile be your umbrella and you could show up all wet for your meeting. Instead, pack this. Just six inches long when folded, the Teflon-coated rain shedder opens up to a standard 40-inch diameter.
7 oz. | $15 | www.sharperimage.com
This comfortable mask is invaluable on the red-eye, or when convincingly feigning sleep is the only escape from a chatty seatmate.
0.4 oz. | $5 | www.pb-travel.com
Load the hollow handle of this toothbrush with toothpaste, screw the watertight cap over the brush head, and go. When it's time to freshen up, a turn of the end pushes toothpaste up onto the bristles.
1.4 oz. | $20 | www.go-ohso.com
Nalgene travel set
These durable, leakproof containers come in handy one-, two-, and four-ounce sizes so you can pack just enough of your favorite shampoo, conditioner, and moisturizer.
3.3 oz. | $10 | www.llbean.com
Aluminum suit hanger
In a garment bag, these are strong enough to hang a suit on, or a couple of days' worth of pants and shirts.
3.8 oz. | $10 for three | www.containerstore.com
Sierra Designs down Sleepies
Perfect for a quick jaunt up and down the plane aisle or the hotel hallway, these soft slippers are warm and lightweight, and crumple up for easy packing.
3.2 oz. | $24 | www.sierradesigns.com
Total weight of suitcase and travel gear: 12.2 lb.
PRINT THIS ARTICLE