I bought the travel tray on a whim when making a holiday order from Tom Bihn. In the interests of full disclosure, I'm pretty hard-core about traveling light, so any extra weight--even a few ounces--has to pay its freight and then some. Having said that, I travel a lot internationally, but not to four star international chain hotels. So, unlike a lot of light packers who insist that you shouldn't pack things that you *might* need, I prefer to pack a lot of items that I hope I won't need, but that would be a real hassle to have to pick up on the road. So when I'm on the road, I tote along stuff like: a few bandaids, tweezers, a tiny sewing kit, a business card case, a magnifying mirror, a few Lara bars for emergency snacks, nail clippers, a mini flashlight, small packets of over the counter pills (because who wants to be trawling the streets of Kuala Lumpur searching for a place that sells Immodium when you made an unwise choice of dinner at a street stall?), etc. Not things that weigh a lot, but lots of little items. Stuff that is a pain to keep organized when you travel, especially when you room in places that don't have drawers to corral your stuff.
Enter the travel tray--it's light as can be, but holds an amazing amount of miscellaneous stuff and keeps everything in one easy-to-search place. And when it's time to move on, the drawstring closure lets you just cinch it up tight, and tuck it into a corner of your Tom Bihn packing cube and toss it all into your bag. Nothing gets lost, nothing insinuates itself into cracks and crevices and hides itself away so that you find yourself wondering whether you left it back at the last hotel. Easy-peasy organizing for those of us who secretly wish we could just tie up our stuff in a bandana on a stick and hit the road. The travel tray is the next best thing.
So, do you need a travel tray? Nope--it's clearly an optional accessory that the traveler could do without. But will I ever hit the road again without mine? No how, no way.