Have you flown on a commercial flight recently? Ugh. Airlines are decreasing their level of service. Airports are increasing their level of security. Add to that delayed flights, crowded cabins and lost luggage and you have a recipe for frustration.
Spot Cool Stuff can’t do anything about the workings of the airline business. But we can recommend seven items that can help take some out of the stress out of air travel. Or at least help make the experience of it seem to go by faster.
No single item has the potential of improving an airport experience as much as a Priority Pass card. Membership in Priority Pass grants you and those traveling with you access to all of the 600+ airport lounges that are part of the program.
So, let’s say you are flying out of Frankfurt. With Priority Pass you can head to the airport early, clear security and then kick back in the American Airlines business class lounge in Terminal 1 or in the Delta Sky Lounge in Terminal 2. Watch TV. Enjoy the complimentary bar. Get some work done at a quiet desk with a computer and internet access. You needn’t be flying on Delta or American Airlines. You needn’t be flying in business class. You need only have your Priority Pass card. Kind of magical, really.
Lost luggage has long been the bane of air travelers. Sadly, these two items won’t reduce the chances of the airline loosing your bag. But they will increase your chances of finding it again:
The Trace Me luggage tag is imprinted with a scanable bar code that’s unique to you. If your bag is found by an airline employee (or by a good samaritan in cases your bag really goes astray) the finder can either scan your bar code or type your identifying number into the Trace Me website. You’ll then get a text message and/or email informing you where your bag is.
The PocketFinder is a device that will keep track of your bag’s location via GPS. Simply activate the PocketFinder, charge its batteries (they last for a week) and then place the tiny device someplace in your bag where it won’t fall out. You’ll be able to see exactly where your bag is using an internet-connected computer or a smartphone like an Apple iPhone or BlackBerry. Unlike Trace Me (above) there is a monthly fee for PocketFinder’s service.
Unless you’ve experienced a plane trip with a good pair of noise canceling headphones you may not be aware of the negative effect that the persistent roar of airplane engines has upon your body. Noise canceling headphones greatly reduce the effects of the stressful sounds of travel—by doing more than passively keeping noise out of your ear by covering it up, we mean. These high tech headphones produce an audio signature that is the opposite the ambient noise around you; this inverse signal cancels out external racket to produce . . . quiet.
Because the technology involved is complex, cheap noise canceling headphones are almost uniformly disappointing. In fact, there are only a handful of noise canceling headphones at any price point worth getting. Our favorite: the suberb QuietComfort 15 by Bose. They are relatively small, comfortable to wear, and reduce the clamor of air travel to a whisper—see our full noise canceling headphones review for more details.
Trying to make your way through an airport with a rolling suitcase and a handheld bag and a cup of coffee? With the Tugo you need not attempt a potentially coffee-spilling juggling act. This little rubber item straddles the pull poles of your rolling bag and provides a secure holder there for your coffee cup or travel water bottle.
Out of the box the rubber Tugo tends to be a little stiff; loosen it up and it will hold your drink perpendicular to the ground no matter how the angle of your rolling bag changes.
We recently included Core Spun on our list of great gifts for travelers. Their coolest feature: Core Spun socks help prevent Deep Venous Thrombosis, referred to colloquially as “Economy Class Syndrome” because long periods of time sitting in cramped quarters causes the insufficient blood circulation that leads to DVT.
Every long haul traveler is at risk of DVT, a potentially life threatening condition that commonly results in the swelling of legs and ankles in its early stages. Those who are elderly, overweight, smoke or who recently had surgery are especially susceptible.
There are a number of items that can help reduce or eliminate the effects of DVT including specific drugs, seat cushions and blood circulators. One of the cheapest—and most effective—prevention items are Core Spun socks. These socks gradually compress the foot and lower leg, placing the greatest pressure around the ankle and then gradually decreasing pressure towards the top of the sock, thus promoting blood circulation. Core Spuns are also comfortable to wear and are durable for travel.
Skooba, one of Spot Cool Stuff’s favorite luggage manufacturers, has a series of bags designed to help speed you through airport security. Our favorite of these is their Checkthrough Messenger (see photo, below). It was developed in conjunction with America’s Transportation Security Administration to allow the bag to be screened without the hassle of removing a laptop from it. The Checkthrough Messenger can also be carried with the top open so you can easily prepare for an airport screening (eg. removing your keys, cell phone, etc. from your pockets and placing them in the bag) while still standing in line. Exterior pockets keep passports and boarding documents handy.
Traveling with a computer and already have a carry-on bag you like? Consider Skooba’s checkpoint-friendly laptop sleeves. We travel with the Neo-Sleeve (photo above, to the right). It is water resistant and perfectly fits our 10″ Asus Seashell netbook. Because the Neo-Sleeve has been TSA certified your computer does not need to be removed from it to go through screening.
Air travel inherently involves a lot of sitting and waiting. Fortunately there are several gadgets that will help you use that time productively. Or, at least help keep you entertained.
The Amazon Kindle is one of our favorite travel gadgets, especially for air travel. In a device that’s smaller and lighter than one book you can store over a thousand! Plus you can download the latest newspapers and magazines. For more see our comparison of the Amazon Kindle 2 and Kindle DX.
The Apple iPod Touch is perhaps a too obvious item for this list. Many people reading these words already know the sort of trusty travel companion an iTouch (or iPhone) can be. Listening to music, podcasts and audiobooks is merely one of its uses. Also watch videos (or even live TV), surf the ‘net via wi-fi and run apps that allow you to, for example, track a flight and make on-the-go hotel reservations.
The Sony PSP is known primarily as a portable video game playing device—many of the more popular games for the PlayStation 3, like Grand Theft Auto and Assassin’s Creed, are available for the PSP as well. One engaging game alone can make a flight seem to fly back. (Pun). It so happens that Sony’s Portable PlayStation is also arguably the best handheld devices for watching videos; its high resolution screen is easy on the eyes and its batteries can power five hours of video play. Further, many major airports in North America and Europe have stores where you can rent PSP movies—pick up a selection before your outbound flight and then return them upon your return. InMotion is one such in-airport rental service in the U.S.A. (click here for their airport locations).
Netbooks have dropped in size and price such that it can make sense getting one of these ultra-portable computers for travel purposes even if you already have another laptop at home. Use your netbook to surf the net at the airport, or do work (or play games or watch a movie) on your flight. Our suggested netbook for travel is the Asus Seashell 1005PE-PU—it is ruggedly built, weighs a mere 2.8 lbs (1.3kg), features a beautifully bright screen and is capable of running up to 14 hours (!) on battery power.
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