10 gadgets to take the stress out of long flights


Traveling by plane can be… less than pleasant. Doubly so if you have to deal with the American TSA. But careful selection and packing in your carry-on can make it more manageable.

Get out and enjoy traveling!
Get out and enjoy traveling!

The following gadgets and tools are designed almost exclusively to ease the stress of air travel and make those lofty miles go by in a flash. Whether you prefer to numb your way through the skies, entertain yourself, or simply be as comfortable as possible in the restrictive, cold, and dry environment of an airplane cabin, you’ll find something useful in the selections below.

To pretend you’re somewhere else: noise-cancelling headphones

This is the classic companion for frequent air travelers. Between the noise of the engines and the distraction of your less polite fellow passengers, a means of blocking all of that out for your music or movies is essential. You can opt for some budget over-the-ear headphones for basic noise reduction, but for a truly blissful getaway, you’ll want to upgrade to a pair of cans with active electronic noise-canceling capabilities. We recommend the Bose QuietComfort 35 for full-size headphones or the QuietComfort 20 if you prefer in-ear headphones.

To pretend you’re nowhere: pressure-regulating earplugs

Old foam earplugs will work just fine if all you care about is silence while sleeping or reading. But if variable air pressure bothers you when ascending or descending, consider opting for a package that is specifically designed to relieve that pressure. Airline crews love EarPlanes, latex-free earplugs that open up the ear canals and make them less likely to plug, while also providing noise protection. They come in adult and child sizes, with disposable and washable options, too.

To catch some Zs: a sleeping mask

Sleep masks are great for restful sleep in your own bed, but they’re even better for settings where the lights are constantly on…like, say, the middle seat next to someone who wants the window open constantly. Since they are lightweight and compact, a goggle is a great travel companion, even for the non-flight portions of your trip. We recommend the Alaska Bear Natural Silk Sleep Mask.

To keep your toes warm: heated insoles or socks

An airplane’s pressurized cabin can get chilly, especially if you’re prone to cold extremities. A good solution is a set of heated insoles for your shoes, which will give you enough extra warmth to counter aggressive cabin temperature controls. There are rechargeable versions available, but they seem less reliable and thicker than they could be.

We recommend a disposable set of Hot Hands chemically activated soles: open the package before boarding to start heating and discard when you land. Alternatively, if you prefer to take off your shoes when the wheels are raised, the MMLove battery-powered heated socks offer the same functionality with three levels of heating.

To stay hydrated: a collapsible filtered water bottle

The plane’s cabin is also surprisingly dry, and you’ll get thirsty quickly… but passing bottled water through security is no longer an option, and the flight attendants may be too busy to quench your thirst. Frequent flyers like to pack their own bottles and refill from a fountain before boarding. But that means less room in your bag, and you might not trust tap water at the airport. The Katadyn Befree Hydrapak bottle is the solution.

It holds a full liter, which should be enough for a medium-length flight, and includes a micron water filter in the lid. Best of all, its flexible plastic folds flat for easy storage in a pack, but stands on its own when full. This bottle is also a great companion for hiking or camping at your destination.

For entertainment: Tablet or E-Reader

You’ll almost certainly have your cell phone with you on your flight, and that’s enough if all you plan to do is listen to music. But the small screen is less than ideal for extended reading or video sessions, tasks for which e-readers and tablets are respectively perfect now that economy seats don’t even have enough room to comfortably operate a laptop.

The Kindle and iPad lines are the de facto standard recommendations: We like the Kindle Paperwhite (with built-in LED lights) and the standard 10-inch iPad for their combination of utility and value. Amazon’s virtual monopoly in the e-book market makes any competing model hard to recommend, and sadly, the selection of premium Android tablets has dried up in recent years. Upgrades to more premium models, like the Kindle Oasis and iPad Pro, should be reserved for those who use them constantly when not traveling.

For comfortable entertainment: portable stand

If you like to watch a movie or two on your flight, you’ll want an easy way to hold your phone or tablet while you’re in the air. Since most manufacturers hate to include them in their own designs, you’ll need to pack your own. Many tablet and phone cases include a small kickstand as part of their protective design, but we prefer a dedicated option for its stability and flexibility. This adjustable aluminum model from Anker has served me well on several transatlantic flights, and it’s cheap enough that you won’t have too many regrets if you accidentally leave it in your hotel room.

To keep your devices powered: a portable battery

Of course, your phone or tablet will need to be turned on. You’ve probably packed your charger, but not all planes have power access for every seat (especially on domestic buses). The solution is a portable battery pack that can fully recharge your devices multiple times.

There’s plenty to choose from, and we like the reliable budget models from Anker and Aukey. But the Heloideo 10000mAh Compact Power Bank is especially travel-friendly, as it includes an Apple Lightning cable, USB-C cable, and MicroUSB cable all built into the case, so all your device needs are covered without having to worry. to find another cable. It also has a US standard foldable wall plug for direct recharging. And if you need to charge a device without any of those cables, or need to recharge the battery from a non-US plug, it also has standard USB ports for power input and output. It’s a very well thought out little package; You can read our full review here.

To keep your things safe: an anti-theft backpack

Airports and other travel hubs are notorious places for pickpockets, as everyone’s suitcases are full of valuables. You can keep yours safe by selecting a bag specifically designed to keep thieves out. We’ve rounded up the best of the bunch, but our pick for general users is the PacSafe Anti-Theft 25L. It offers reinforced material and straps, security clips, and even an RFID-proof pocket for the thieves of the digital variety. A tablet/laptop sleeve is also incorporated.

To keep your things close: a hanging flight bag

But what about access to all these devices when you’re in the air? To avoid awkward diving under the seat in front of you or squeezing around other passengers to access overhead storage, we recommend the Genius Pack High Altitude Flight Bag.

This smaller pack includes straps designed to wrap around the in-flight tray on the seat in front of you, giving you quick, unhindered access to all your electronics and accessories. It’s small enough to pass as a second carry-on without brushing against size restrictions, and a shoulder strap allows it to double as a general tablet or laptop bag when you get to your destination.

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