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Or, you know, a little something special to treat yourself.
The holidays are upon us, and so it’s the official season of gift giving. The favorite traveler in your life will appreciate a useful gift, and we recently tested five inexpensive travel products that make travel just a bit better. (And if the “favorite traveler” in your life is you, that’s fine, too.)
Keeping organized when flying is important to me. I like knowing my wallet, phone, passport and boarding pass are secure. After all, nothing is more annoying than trying to sleep on a plane while you feel (or fear) your wallet sliding out and under the airplane seat. That’s why I love the Betabrand Travel Pants.
They have two-way stretch but don’t actually look stretchy. In fact, they look a bit more like dress pants than sweats, yet don’t require ironing. (I wouldn’t wear them to a business meeting, but they’re a great travel pant, and I’ve also used them in a pinch for a couple of quick late fall runs while traveling.)
The material is very cool and breathable so you won’t sweat as much. A gusset in the crotch helps increase comfort and breathability, which is especially important on a long flight. But the best and most simple feature is a zipper pocket on the inside of the regular front pocket that fits your passport. There’s also a zipper in the back pocket. Turns out, a simple pair of well-designed travel pants is a game-changer. Buy: Betabrand.com, $118
I have tried several U-shaped travel pillows, from inflatable, uncomfortable poly-filled shapes to higher-end memory foam versions. (If you’re like me, you’ve probably left some of these forgettable products behind on the plane.) I travel light even for long-haul flights, so carrying a U-shaped pillow takes up precious space, especially one that keeps my head mostly unsupported and at a strange angle.
That all changes with the Trtl. Designed by Scottish mechanical engineers, this thing is frankly kind of brilliant. The outside is soft fleece, and inside there’s a springy plastic insert. You wrap the fleece around your neck and the insert creates a soft wall upon which you can rest your head. The company brags that the Trtl holds your head at a more ergonomically-correct angle, and I believe it. Weighing just about half a pound, it also takes up very little space in your carry-on. I recently tried one out on a flight from Portugal, and I’ve never slept better on a plane (except when in a lie-flat seat, of course). Grab one for your favorite seatmate and for yourself. Buy: Amazon.com
The Nidra Deep Rest Mask
Not all eye masks are created equal. While the silk eye mask you’ll receive as part of a first class amenity kit works well in a pinch, I recommend the Nidra for long-haul travel. It’s basically a padded bra for your face. There is a contoured space around the eyes so you don’t feel the eye mask press on your face, and it’s also quite soft.
Similar in design to the popular Bucky 40 Blinks eye mask, Nidra does quick work of blocking all of the light, and on a recent flight where I fell asleep wearing this mask, I was jolted awake by an announcement from the captain. I opened my eyes and momentarily thought the entire plane was dark. At an affordable price, it’s worth it for a better in-flight sleep. Buy: Amazon.com
Comrad Compression Socks
Earlier this year, I tore my achilles tendon playing soccer (poorly). Some six weeks later, I hopped across the pond to the Farnborough International Airshow. Circulation in my ankle being what it was post-surgery and with all that walking at the show, my ankle swelled up like a ballon. I would have certainly benefitted from Comrad compression socks at the time.
I tried them on a recent flight and was pleased that I didn’t land with swollen ankles. They are also reported to help reduce the potential for blood clots. You can pick up compression socks on Amazon or at your local drugstore, but the quality and compression are rarely there. Instead, Comrad compression socks are stylish with tight compression and thick weave. Buy: Comradsocks.com, from $18
The Away Carry-On
When it comes to rollers, I’ve used Samsonite rollers, Amazon cheapos, an Away spinner and a Rimowa Classic Flight. (I also have a large Rimowa aluminum spinner that I use for business, particularly when I want my bag to protect what’s inside without fail.) The only one I’ve kept is the Away spinner.
Away burst onto the travel scene a few years ago with an affordable yet stylish roller, complete with a removable charging pack. This alone has saved me on many trips. While heavy, the pack is portable, so you can throw it in your day pack and stay charged without having to buy a separate charging pack. Helpfully, the Away comes with charging cords for the pack for the UK and Europe.
The inner compartments are thoughtfully designed, with one compartment for shoes and the other for clothes, along with a built-in divider you can cinch to create compression. The Away Carry-On also has a little rolled up laundry bag to keep your dirty clothes separate: a simple but thoughtful touch.
If you’ve seen these suitcases spinning around the airport, but haven’t tried one, it’s a smart investment. They also come in an array of colors (and now a Northern Lights-inspired collection) with quality Hinamoto wheels. Buy: AwayTravel.com, $225
Mike Arnot is the founder of Boarding Pass NYC, a New York-based travel brand.
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