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by Cindi Wilson

Turn a long economy flight into a comfortable one. If you want to peacefully endure the conditions 12-hour cabin travel can present, here are the travel companions you need to bring along. 

Six essential companions for comfort and convenience:

1) Isotoner Slippers ($20 at department stores): The shoes are the first to go, as soon as I find my seat. I immediately slip into my black velour bow slippers, and stash the shoes in the hold above. One slipper slides into the other to keep them compact and together in my travel bag. They also keep my feet warm from those cool plane breezes. 

2) Inflatable Neck Pillow & Plush Eye Mask ($30 for the Nap Travel Flight Kit at Brookstone): This u-shaped neck pillow is covered in a soft plush material, gently cushioning the neck. It saved me on my last flight when I had a back row seat with no tilt due to the lavatory walls. The kit includes a matching eye mask, which comes in handy when your neighbor decides to read through the night.

3) Bose Noise-Canceling Headphones ($349 for over the ear, $299 for on the ear models): This is my most expensive item, but I love them dearly. You can substitute other brands, some for as little as $60-$80. The noise-canceling feature is critical when you have the sounds of crying children, the couple fighting behind you, and the sound-leaking mp3 coming from the headphones of the person beside you. I put them on, slide the switch on, and wait for the silence. Finally all is quiet and right with the world. 

Whether you want to enjoy far better sound for the airline movie or simply yearn to sleep better, you can’t go wrong. (Note: Remember to bring extra batteries, and 1- and 2-prong plug adapters as configurations differ by plane.)

4) iPod or mp3 ($199 for the iPod nano 8GB, electronic/department stores): I chose this one because of the slim design, cool colors and 2000-song capacity. But you can find an iPod shuffle with 240-song capacity for $79 or an iPod classic with 20,000-song capacity for $237. It works great with my Bose headphones, and provides my entertainment when the audio on my seat stops working in the middle of the movie. (I miss the movie, but at least I have some tunes.) I also load my Zen music or soft alternative music for sleeping sweetly. 

5) Book Light ($10 at Borders): The Mighty Bright book light has one LED, folds compactly and has a pull-out neck to illuminate your book. Its strong clip attaches to the book, or it has the ability to stand free. I use it when I want to read at night and don’t want the overhead beacon to disturb my fellow passengers. 

6) Lighted Gel Pen ($15 at Brookstone): The gel grip cushions your hand as you write and the LED at the tip illuminates your writing. It’s perfect for when you get those deep thoughts in the middle of the night that you just have to write down, when you are inspired to work on your travel journal, or when you decide to fill out your customs documents. Discreet and functional, it even comes with two spare ink refills. 

These six essentials have been life savers — or at least life improvers — on flights that could have turned out much differently. And they all fit compactly in my carry-on travel bag.

Here’s to your comfort on your next trip!


Cindi Wilson has been a corporate traveler for over 30 years — in economy and business. She is currently pursuing far-flung travels in economy. When at home, she resides in Luxembourg, Europe.

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