Most cruisers agree that the worst part of a cruise is the airline flight to and from the port.
The only people I know who regularly fly first or business class are those who accumulate buckets of frequent flyer miles because of their day job. Most of us fly economy class, even on overnight trips overseas.
Flying in economy on most airlines these days is a pain in the derriere -- literally. The seats are rock hard. But there are some companies who understand the coach passenger's plight, and have products we call "travel props" to make our situation a little easier. They aren't enough to make you feel like you are flying in first class, but they help to relieve some of the most irritating aspects of a long flight in a cramped, rigid, crowded economy class seat.
In our never-ending quest for comfort on plane flights, we ran across a web site called TamperSeal.com who started out selling travel props with the TSA-approved luggage lock we describe below. Once we tried the locks we were hooked, we had to try more things, in fact we wanted everything but then this article would be too long...
Here is our list of recommended travel props, for the flight and for a few other aspects of travel. Please also remember to refer to our packing list so as not to forget the essentials.
GETTING STARTED Before we talk about making your flight more comfortable, you need to get to your gate. You will have to show your boarding pass and/or ID four or more times before you get to your seat.
One thing that makes this process much easier is the:
Passport holder -- I saw people, usually older people, with these passport holders around their necks going through security and I thought they looked goofy and were unnecessary -- until I tried one.
These little goodies make it so easy and convenient to hold and use my passport and boarding pass that I never travel without one now. Think about what you do now: I'll bet you reach into a pocket and sort through several items looking for your boarding pass and passport. Sometimes they are not where you thought they were. I once spent a half-hour retracing my steps through the airport, with a tight connection, looking for a passport I thought I had lost. It was indeed lost -- in my carry-on bag.
Here is the model my wife recommends for women, the messenger style shoulder bag. If you want choices in fabric or color, check QVC for this model. The best thing: the passport holder is included with this model.
HELPFUL HINTS FOR THE FLIGHT Once you are on your flight, it's time to put the ID holder away and get comfortable. A trip to Europe from the West Coast, especially with stopovers, can take as long as 24 hours. Getting some rest on the plane can make a big difference in how you start your vacation, and avoiding germs can make or break your entire trip. So, let's talk about more travel props:
Some of the best organization bags we have seen are on the Travelon and Tamperseal Web sites.
The "Stow Away Duffel Bag" at only $17.95 it is a bargain. It opens up to a generous 24" x 18" x 12". You can use this bag to carry all your props, and on your cruise you can use it for a beach bag. It has enough extra room to hold some souvenirs you pick up along the way, but also folds down small enough that it will barely make a dent in your cruise cabin's storage space.
If you want something more elaborate and utile, you can opt for anti-theft duffel bags constructed from theft-proof material. They come with their own lock straps and locks so you can secure them to any immovable object (perfect for beaches where no lockers are provided). Price: $209.95.
THE TRAVEL PROPS Okay, now we are on the plane and ready to turn your coach seat into something more like a first-class experience. Here is what you need to do it:
They call this a blanket, but it is a lot more. Its unique wrap-around design envelops your entire body in a warm cocoon. Airplanes can be surprisingly cold, especially if you are by the window (or even worse, the emergency exit). Lay the Cabin Cuddler down on your seat and slip your stocking feet into the foot pocket.
Take out the included blow-up pillow and inflate it to your comfort level in three to four breaths. Place it in the special pillow pocket within the Cuddler and lay your head down on your headrest. Then wrap the right torso flap over your lap and legs and repeat with the left torso flap. Your arms are still free to stick into separate arm flaps and wrap them over your body, left and right. You are now completely enveloped in a warm, micro-fleece cocoon.
The material is 100% anti-pilling, machine washable polyester. The adult Cabin Cuddler can comfortably fit someone who is six feet tall. The included matching carrying case fits easily into your carry on luggage or has straps to attach it.
This is one of the most inventive items we have seen. The "1st Class Sleeper" gives your coach chair the feel of a first class seat by changing the angle of your body, providing additional support for your head and making your entire body support much softer, eliminating hard surfaces that soon take a toll on your comfort.
Place the 1st Class Sleeper on your seat and with about 10 breaths you inflate it enough to soften everything from your derriere and up. It is designed to cradle your head and support it on both sides, but the included additional pillow makes it ideal. Snap yourself into your seatbelt and recline into a more natural sleeping position than sitting up. Your body position is nearly straight and you are supported in air-cushioned comfort.
The "Comfort Eye Mask".
This eye mask, made of pillowy soft velour, is big enough to block out all light. It has an added contour to lift the mask away from your eyes so you do not feel it pressing on your lids. The elastic band is Velcro adjustable and in the brow is a tiny pocket to keep your earplugs. Put on this mask and plugs and you are instantly transported to another place and time -- no screaming babies or annoying changes in light. Absolutely essential to getting rest on any flight.
These headphones come with their own built-in amplifiers (two AAA batteries required) to assure you get the required volume; and with a two-prong adapter to accommodate whatever sockets your plane provides for its audio.
PERSONAL CARE Germs, germs, germs. They're everywhere on planes and in airports. The last thing you want to start your vacation with is a cold or virus. Or maybe this isn't just a vacation but also a business trip where you will be meeting people you want to impress.
Wouldn't it be great if you had everything you needed to sanitize completely, including brushing your teeth and even washing your hair? You can now get TSA-compliant hygiene products that fulfill all of your needs and are small enough to fit easily in your carry-on bag.
These are non-liquid sheets -- you just add water and they dissolve into a soapy foam you can use to shampoo your hair anywhere. Also available are sheets for shaving cream, body wash and sanitizing hand soap.
These towelettes are strongly antibacterial and will kill most germs including Norovirus, hepatitis and other common diseases. These are much stronger and more effective than alcohol gel-based hand sanitizers because they clean the germs off your hands instead of just spreading them around until the alcohol evaporates.
These are the first mechanical combination TSA-approved locks that let you know your luggage was inspected at the airport. The TSA has the device that will open these locks. If they are opened, the color indicator will turn from green to red, so you will know if you have been inspected. Please note that these locks are only accepted in the U.S.A. and the U.K. If you use them when traveling to a foreign country they may be broken off by security.
MORE TRAVEL PROPS The items above are the ones we think you may not have heard of, or maybe have not seen a personal recommendation for. The products below are better known, but we also recommend that you consider taking them along.
If you have ever taken your shoes off during a long flight, you probably noticed they are harder to put back on at the end of the flight. This is because your feet swell due to the pooling of lymph fluid. Circulating the lymph fluid back to your torso requires movement, so getting up and walking around is recommended. But to aid in preventing swelling, you can wear support hosiery during the flight.
Clinical studies prove that support hosiery will help prevent common ankle swelling, improve the circulation in your legs and help reduce the chance of blood clots and embolisms that can develop during long flights. This is also known now as "Economy Class Syndrome," or D.V.T. (deep vein thrombosis). This syndrome has been fatal to some unfortunate flyers.
There are many ways to reduce the motion sickness that often comes from a bumpy flight. Capsules of pure gingerroot have been proven effective in some people. Wristbands that apply small beads to the acupressure points in your wrists also work for some. A homeopathic remedy is tobaccum, a small dose of a derivative of tobacco.
If you need to sleep on a flight, and you are also prone to motion sickness, a dose of Dramamine will not only keep you from getting nauseated, it just might make you groggy enough to put you to sleep. Many travelers and doctors recommended Meclizine (brand name Bonine) if you require medicine for motion sickness, but do not want to get as sleepy.
SUMMING UP Some of you might think all of these things are silly. We have tried almost all of them and give them favorable ratings. Some things are better than others, of course, but think about your personal needs and how you want to feel when you arrive for your cruise. Most of these products come with a satisfaction guarantee.