Travel Props for 2009

| April 10, 2009
More of my favorite practical travel accessories to make your adventures more convenient and comfortable.

ITEM ONE: Have you ever been freezing cold on a plane with no blanket available? Or worse yet, you had to pay for a thin airline blanket? I finally got smart and found a lightweight, convenient, warm travel blanket specially designed for airplane seats. It's called the "Cabin Cuddler" ($31.95) and it is offered here: Cabin Cuddler through

This blanket is unique for its shape and pockets. You place it on your airline seat and sit on top of it, slipping your feet into a special pocket. There is also a pocket for a small inflatable pillow at your head. The blanket is cut with separate wraps for your arms and legs, allowing your hands the freedom to function without disturbing the rest of the blanket. You can buckle your seatbelt so it is visible to the flight attendant and still wrap and unwrap your arms with the upper part of the blanket to moderate your comfort level.

If you just want a basic blanket, you can also order one from this web site for only $10.00, but I really recommend the Cabin Cuddler for its convenient design. It comes in its own zippered pouch with a carrying handle that attaches to your carry on.

ITEM TWO: I was recently introduced to the "Cruising Caddy," though I think a better description might be the shore excursion caddy. This is a hands-free tote bag to carry a water bottle as well as other essential, off-ship items. There are plenty of pockets for easy organization, such as a Velcro-sealed secure area designed for your passport, ID, ship card and money.

The advantage to the bag is that you can manage a sweating water bottle and keep it away from important documents like your passport and other personal items. There is also a large outside elastic pouch for things like sunscreen, hand sanitizer, a camera and a map.

While an insulated water bottle carrier with extra pockets is an excellent idea, I found that when I put a large water bottle in the main pouch, it made it difficult for me to access my ship card from its secured area in the Velcro pouch. Also the large water bottle made the bag heavy across the unpadded shoulder strap. I understand a padded strap is in production and as long as you carry a smaller bottle of water, these issues would probably be resolved.

There is a separate, 1/8-inch think bottle insulator, which serves as a barrier to the heat from your hand, is easy to grasp, and keeps your hand dry from a sweating bottle. But since this is the this insulator is on a hot day in the Caribbean. The key hook as pictured can be used for a key card tether if you get your card punched, which the cruise ship will do. This item can be purchased from: The cost is $24.99.

If you are like me, you may prefer to carry your ship card, ID and money in a smaller, close to the body, thin cross body pouch, like a passport holder. In this case perhaps an inexpensive insulated water bottle carrier with an extra pouch would do the trick. I picked up just this kind of a water bottle pouch on our last cruise that Carnival was selling for $6.00. The only drawback is when I carry it, I will clearly be advertising for Carnival Cruise lines.

The "Cruising Caddy" is definitely a nicer, well made bag but for me, I would prefer to carry it hiking around my home rather than on foreign soil off the cruise ship.

The Carnival Water Bottle Carrier for $5.99

ITEM THREE: My husband is the perfect height to sleep in an airplane seat. He just tilts his head back and nods off. He never wakes up with a neck so sore he can hardly move it.

I am not so lucky on the other hand. I have tried multiple pillows, rolled up blankets and neck supports -- most with somewhat disappointing results. What I find that works best are "adjustable air" pillows. I like the fact that they deflate, taking up very little packing space, and they adjust to your individual needs.

My original pillow pick was the Custom Comfort Neck Pillow from Tamperseal.

Custom Comfort Neck Pillow from Tamperseal

But I now have a new favorite, the SkyRest Pillow. I still can't believe how well this unusual pillow worked for me.

The adult human head weighs about 12 pounds - think of a hefty bowling ball. Our neck muscles are designed to support the head easily when we are upright in good posture. Any position other than straight vertical or horizontal can put a strain on your neck.

The innovative design of this SkyRest Pillow from works with the tendency of your head to naturally fall forward if you sleep in an upright position. The SkyRest is the only pillow I have seen that provides support for your head in a forward position.

To use this pillow you turn your head to the side and bend slightly forward onto the pillow. You hug the pillow within your arms and lock your hands in the pouch provided on the front. Drifting to sleep now comes easily.

Normally, letting your head go unsupported would leave your neck muscles in agony even after a short twenty-minute nap. I thought I might experience neck pain just because my head was turned to the side. But when I awoke from my two-hour nap, I was pleasantly surprised that my neck did not hurt at all. The pillow puts the body into an angle that efficiently supports the head without straining the neck. It can be used on your lap or if it feels better to you, on your tray table.

I actually tested it in the dreaded middle seat and found it did not bother my neighbors on either side. I also tested it in a bulkhead seat, which meant my angle was farther forward without a seat back in front of me, but I still found it comfortable.

This pillow is also very convenient. Following the simple directions it inflates with about 10 short breaths in about 15 seconds, and it deflates in five seconds. The pillow itself is a very soft, brushed cotton cover attached to vinyl. A removable, washable cover is available and I plan to get one although it is not mandatory.

The only drawback was my hands getting very sweaty inside the hand pouch, which is vinyl only on one side. To solve this problem, wrap your hands in a small cotton towel before putting them in the pouch. I am told the manufacturer may solve this problem with an updated version of the removable, washable cover.

SkyRest Pillow: $29.95

ITEM FOUR: I have a hard time regulating my body temperature and often feel cold when I am traveling. Airplanes are often cold, especially in the window seats, but my problem is not limited to air travel. I also get cold in airports and even inside cruise ships where they often put the air conditioning on a setting like "meat locker."

Take my advice, even if you are going to a hot area like the Caribbean, always include something to wrap around you while you are walking around airports, hotels and ships.

What is something that works great for me: the 35-DegreeBelow Fleece Shawl. Despite the rather dramatic sounding name, it is extremely lightweight, packs easily, and has pockets to warm your hands and carry your ship card. It is "machine wash and dry," comes in 20 colors and is only $15.00 plus about $4.72 shipping from

ITEM FIVE: A hat can really come in handy on sunny days, but many people think they are too hot, don't pack well or they just look dumb.

I have the answer to all of those concerns; mesh hats from the headnhome hat store.

This link is to the exact hat that I picked out. What I love about it is that it looks GOOD on me -- or should I say I look good in it? Even better.

It has mesh for air exchange so it doesn't get too hot and is made of rainproof leather for style. It crushes for packing but springs back into shape beautifully. It provides UVA-UVB sun protection, which research shows is especially important for the top of your head. This model has a surprisingly stylish chinstrap that lies to the back of the hat when you don't need it, but can be pulled forward on a windy day. On our last Caribbean cruise we ported on a very windy day. My hat would have been lost had it not been for the chinstrap.

Recommended Articles