7 Ideas For Improving Carry-On Luggage

Including RFID tags, built-in phone chargers, and more

Travel challenges strike a chord with me. I’ve been going more than 100,000 miles a year for nearly a decade, and have never been satisfied with roll-aboard luggage; it can just be so much more than a nice-looking box that rolls. Here are seven ideas for making carry-on luggage more usable:


1. Bigger wheels
Maneuvering over curbs, stairs, subway grates, cobblestone sidewalks, puddles and snow is always a challenge, but bigger wheels would help a lot. What’s with the tiny wheels and low ground clearance anyhow?

2. Built-in phone charger
Since few airports or train stations have adequate electrical access, why not generate electricity from those big wheels spinning while you walk? It’d be the same principle as those 1950s Russian flashlights with squeeze grip hand-generators. Capture enough energy from those big wheels while walking to the gate to charge a cell phone. USB port on the top, please.

3. Security
Arrive late? Can’t find a cab or the hotel? Not to worry, a little button for a built-in alarm or siren would be comforting to have in case you wander into the wrong neighborhood, like I have.


4. More security
Add an RFID tag, so if the bellman misplaces it or a cabbie runs off with it, your luggage can be easily tracked and located. Some night reflection tape would be helpful, too.

5. Versatility
The main compartment on most soft luggage expands, but I’d like to have some extra pockets on the outside that pop out for more external storage. These could zip closed for the plane or train, and then expand open outward significantly to hold a coat, hat and gloves, briefcase, cosmetic case or tote, camera gear, and other things you need access to on the run.

6. More versatility
An interior sleeve pocket for an umbrella would be lovely. I don’t typically carry an umbrella on the airplane, but many times I’ve arrived somewhere and walked outside, only to find it raining. I’ve then had to stop, open my suitcase on the sidewalk, and hunt for the umbrella I hope I packed. I’d also like to have a pop-out upper side pocket for a water bottle and other gadgets.


7. A built-in cup holder
Now that you’ve arrived safely, how about that double latte? But wait, it’s almost impossible to hold a hot coffee, a pack or briefcase, drag the luggage, and open a door at the same time. I’d recommend a pop-up cup holder on the top of my roll-aboard, with a little swivel on it to hold my cup upright. Oh, by the way, I’d also like waterproof fabric and zippers throughout.

Travel will still be challenging, but these little design details would make roll-aboard luggage much handier–a better user experience, in fact. And maybe we could enjoy traveling a bit more.


About the author

Thomas Lockwood is founding partner of Lockwood Resource, an international recruiting firm specializing in design and innovation leadership, and past president of DMI, the Design Management Institute. He is one of the few people in the world with a PhD in design management, and is recognized as a thought leader in integrating design and innovation into business and building great design organizations.