Road Warrior

Savvy new gadgets for modern travelers

Harriet Baskas, NBC Contributor

Are you sick of your suitcase, fretting about passport theft or uncomfortable laundering your undies in a hotel room sink?

Then take a look at some of the items luggage makers and travel gadget inventors are showing off this week at the annual industry-only Travel Goods Association show in Phoenix.

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Some of these products are available now, while others will be rolled out over the next few months.

Seat-back savvy

It took four years, eight versions and a Kickstarter campaign for inventor (and former MTV "Real World" cast member) Norman Korpi to bring his two-tiered Aero-Tray ($59) to market. But an airline passenger determined to stay productive can now use this device to increase the usable space between their lap, their tray table and the reclined seatback in front of them. "The platform supports your personal items in the air, on the ground or wherever your travels take you," Korpi said.

The Scrubba is a foldable, watertight wash bag with a flexible internal washboard.
Source: The Scrubba

Washboard for wanderers

Packing light is possible if you repeat your outfits and wash some wardrobe items along the way. But hotel sinks can be dirty, and hotel laundry fees are usually sky-high. The Scrubba ($64.95) addresses that problem with a foldable, watertight wash bag with a flexible internal washboard.

(Read more: Hotels testing keyless entry via smartphone app)

Tracking travel essentials

Many suitcases and travel accessories now have built-in GPS devices that beep, buzz or send email messages if they go astray. The iWallet ($360-$500), for example, is a hard-case wallet that opens with a biometric fingerprint reader and, when linked via Bluetooth to a smartphone, will sound an alarm if the two become separated by more than 14 feet. "We've also got an iPassport case with room for a boarding pass, global entry card and money clip due out in about three months," said iWalletUSA spokesman Orlando LaCalle.

The iWallet opens with a biometric fingerprint reader.
Source: iWallet

Packing privacy

Lightweight (8 ounces), compact (about the size of an iPhone) and easy to install, the DoorJammer ($24.99) is a portable security device travelers will be happy to have on hand when encountering hotel rooms and hostels with flimsy locks and less-than-modern security.

(Read more: App helps bumped passengers claw back airline fees)

Keeping your valuables safe

Speaking of security, this summer Samsonite will introduce its EZ Piken Backpack ($50-$55), which will have zippered pockets built into the front straps so that valuables such as wallets, cellphones, keys and sunglasses can be accessible and safe.

The Ecotex 5-piece Packing Cube set is made from recycled water bottles.
Source: Heys

Going green

Packing cubes remain popular, as do useful items made from recycled materials. Heys has put the two trends together with packing cubes made from recycled water bottles. The Ecotex 5-piece Packing Cube set (about $45) is made from 18 recycled water bottles, while 10 recycled bottled are used for each three-piece Ecotex Packing Cube (about $31).

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Weather-proof luggage

And while many travelers remember to pack umbrellas, ponchos, waterproof shoes and rain jackets, few think to check if their luggage can withstand bad weather. The forthcoming Nimbus luggage collection from Lojel will use weather-proofing technology, a rubber zipper system and a design that eliminates gaps that could let rain to run into suitcase interiors.

(Read more: Smoker-friendly hotel rooms get their own website)

—By Harriet Baskas, special to Baskas is the author of seven books, including "Hidden Treasures: What Museums Can't or Won't Show You," and the Stuck at the Airport blog. Follow her on Twitter at @hbaskas. Follow Road Warrior at @CNBCtravel.