Sometimes it’s the little things that make the biggest difference to whether a journey is pleasant or awful. Two such things I always make sure I have on hand–they’re so important, I even take them out of my carry-on as soon as I board and keep them at my seat–are earplugs and a sleep mask.
A. Earplugs. Engine drone. Rap music leaking from the guy across the aisle’s headphones. Loud talkers. The rattle of the beverage cart. All that noise can make sleeping, reading, even thinking tough. Put in a pair of soft earplugs and zone it all out. I use them on most flights, even the short hops. And when you find out your hotel room is directly above the late-night party spot in Dubrovnik or Antwerp, they work better than a pillow over your head to help you get some ZZZs. Just be sure you have a loud alarm app on your phone so you don’t sleep in and miss your train! (Yes, I learned this the hard way.)
I especially like this model. Eighteen dollars gets you a hundred pairs, so you can be a hero and give some to fellow passengers. (On a recent screaming-baby flight I gave away twelve pairs; later an amused flight attendant brought me three glasses of wine, gifts from grateful recipients.) The T shape means they are easy to insert, the self-adjusting foam expands to make a good seal, and the bright colors and string mean I don’t lose them. (The string can also deter a chatty seatmate.)
B. Sleep mask. There are the sleep masks the airlines give out, which are barely one step up from a hostage blindfold. They are usually too tight (I have a big head) and in two minutes can mess up my hair and smear my eye makeup enough that I look like I’m doing the Walk (Flight?) of Shame. The ones by the travel companies (e.g., Eagle Creek, Tumi) aren’t much better. Then there is this model. For $15 you can look like you’re wearing a down-market virtual reality headset. You can also sleep without feeling like there’s a garrote cutting across your eye sockets (the mask has a wide adjustable stretch headband) and wake up without looking like a linebacker because your mascara is smeared on your cheeks (the foam padding has cutouts that create a hollow space for your eyes). Note: They’re lousy for side sleepers.
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