Best Airline-Inspired Products For Home And Travel

Airline design Bordbar beverage carts
Courtesy Bordbar

Most souvenirs remind us of travel to a specific place, but how about products to remind us of the journey? Some crafty designers have made home and travel products inspired by (or even made of) airplane designs.

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Baggage tag: You can use your initials or your favorite airport code on the baggage tag design of this messenger bag ($129).

Beverage cart: Ever thought those narrow beverage carts would look cool in your home? Bordbar has vintage and new customized beverage carts from 329 euro for a small galley box, 979 euro for the full size trolley.

Boarding pass: With mobile phone check-in, paper boarding passes might soon be a thing of the past. Take your laptop out for security in this snazzy sleeve, which you can customize with your name and flight info ($28.95-32.95).

Flotation device: The same designer as the belt below has taken flotation devices and fashioned them into sleeves for the iPad and iPhone, but we still wouldn’t recommend getting them wet (49-69 euro).

Remove before flight tag: Rather than wear one of those funny-looking neck pillows, use one made with an aircraft tag, complete with a loop for carrying. Don’t feel you have to follow the “remove before flight” instructions though, it works perfectly on a plane or at home ($25).

Safety card: You shouldn’t actually take the safety card from the seat pocket, but you shouldn’t leave your passport there either. Keep it safe with this $20 passport holder (slim wallet also available, $18).

Seat belt: Stay buckled in for safety with a white belt made with a real airplane belt (79 euro). Keep in mind you’ll likely still have remove it for TSA security.

Gadling Travelers On Their Favorite Gear

Brookstone Neck PillowGadling contributors are, by occupation, a well traveled lot and they’re hard on their kit. They want stuff that works – stuff that lasts, stuff that’s genuinely useful, stuff they’re never sorry they packed. While you’re hunting little extras to gift your favorite traveler, consider this list of favorites from some of the most traveled people on the Internet.

McLean Robbins: As a traveler who can’t manage to ever get comfortable on an airplane or with hotel pillows, I can’t leave home without this Brookstone accessory. I purchased it on a whim before a long-haul European flight where I thought I’d be stuck in a middle coach seat, and have used it on even short domestic flights ever since. The pillow is great in its U-shaped form, but I place it under those flimsy hotel pillows for extra support too. Best of all? It compacts nicely into my carry-on bag as well.

Jessica Marati
: Melatonin. This natural sleep aid is the best way to get rest on redeye flights and combat jet lag. I don’t travel without it.

Chris Owen: I usually pack specifically for each trip but one thing that always makes it is my bag full of cords, plugs, power converters and backup battery power. It’s called a Flex Pack and made by Victorinox.

Dave Seminara: I travel with a Princeton Tec headlamp so I can read in hotel rooms (or tents) after my sons go to bed! [Note: There's always a headlamp in my pack too. And if you get one that's got a red light mode, you can dig around in your bag or find your way to your bunk in the hostel without waking and/or blinding your roomies.Kyle Ellison: The two things I never travel without are duct tape and nylon cord, both available at your local hardware store. With the tape you can fix a rip in your backpack, seal a cut on your foot, create a waterproof barrier on anything, make labels, bookmarks, a lid for your food ... anything really. With the cord you can make a clothesline, tie a tent down, fix a backpack, make a tourniquet, a belt, shoelaces ... again, it's a life saver.

Mix these in with a Leatherman multi-tool (opening cans, getting out splinters, cutting your tape and cord, opening wine bottles, sawing through wood, unscrewing air ducts in hotels, which are vibrating, fixing your glasses, hammering in tent stakes, etc.) Unfortunately, your multi-tool can only travel with you via land travel or checked baggage.

Laurel Miller: This small, rip-stop compact folding duffel bag. It has zippered side pockets so you can stuff it into itself, and it compacts to the size of a sandwich. I keep it in the bottom of my backpack and use it to bring home the inevitable souvenirs or press materials that accumulate on my travels. It also makes a great overnight bag, especially if I'm on a big trip that has some side trips where I can leave my backpack behind.

Meg Nesterov: I love the TotSeat portable high chair. It fits in a purse/bag, weighs almost nothing, and is handy anytime I want to put my baby in a regular chair and have her stay there. It is way superior to the other "travel" high chairs that are as big as phone books (if that reference even makes sense anymore), though it is essentially like tying your child to a chair!

Alex Robertson Textor: It's super un-techy but I don't like to travel without my Moleskine Classic Large Ruled Notebook. Notes feel more substantial in a paper notebook.

What do you want to add to your travel kit this year? What are you giving your favorite traveler?

[Images courtesy of Brookstone and Leatherman]

11 tips for sleeping on planes

I have been blessed with the gift of being able to sleep on virtually any moving vehicle. I’ve slept in large airplanes, small propeller planes, trucks on unsealed roads, cars, trains and boats. I sleep without the help of drugs, herbal supplements or any other gimmicks. I find my seat and my brain seems to decide, “Hey, this is going to be boring; let’s just skip it.” Several hours later, I wake up as my plane is on final approach.

My personal record for continuous sleep on a plane is 11.5 hours on a flight from Sydney to Los Angeles. Granted, that was in first class on V Australia, so the conditions were optimal. But my coach class record is 8.5 hours of uninterrupted sleep on a flight from Detroit to Tokyo. I followed that up with a 2.5 hour nap later in the flight. I would say that, on average, I spend 85% of my time on airplanes in an unconscious state. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

So, how do I do it? Well, if I could guarantee a solid slumber on a flight, I’d be hosting an infomercial right now selling the Mike Method for two easy payments of $49.95. Sadly, I think I am just lucky that I can sleep anywhere. However, there certainly are a few things that you can do to create an environment more conducive to sleeping on a plane (or any mode of transportation, really).1. Relax
Whether you’re on your way to an important meeting for work, visiting your in-laws or just going on vacation, the act of transporting yourself from one place to another can, in and of itself, be stressful. The same things that keep you awake at home – stress, anxiety, pressure – will keep you awake on the plane. Clear your mind and sleep is more likely to come.

2. Remove Contact Lenses
I always fly with my contacts out and my glasses on. Plane air is dry and sleeping with your contact lenses in is never fun. I’m much more apt to fall asleep if my contacts are out and my eyes are comfortable. In fact, when I’m ready to go to sleep, I take my glasses off and clip them on my shirt. They’re close by for when I wake up, but without them my body knows that it’s time power down.

3. Familiar Music
An iPod (or other portable music device) is a great way to block out the noise around you. But for optimal results, create a playlist purely for sleeping. Fill it with music that is soothing (for you) and, most importantly, very familiar to you. If you listen to music that is new to you, your brain will stay active trying to pay attention to the unfamiliar stimuli. Find some comfort music that you know backwards and forwards so that your brain can listen to it on autopilot. I have a playlist on my iPod entitled “Sleep.” I’ve listened to that 400+ song playlist on countless flights over the years. It has changed minimally and the moment it starts, my mind begins to shut off.

4. Earplugs/Noise-Canceling Headphones
If music isn’t your thing, simply block out the noise with good old-fashioned foam earplugs or new-fangled noise canceling headphones. Whatever you need to block out the crying babies, sniffling germ-carriers and endless announcements from the flight crew about how the in-flight entertainment system needs to be reset.

5. Dress Comfortably
THIS DOES NOT MEAN THAT SWEATPANTS IN PUBLIC ARE SOCIALLY ACCEPTABLE! However, packing a change of clothes for long flights can be very helpful. If you don’t want to carry around a pair of pajama pants, wear an outfit that is comfortable and breathable. Bring layers so that you can handle whatever the plane’s climate control system throws at you. And take off your shoes when nap time comes. But trust me, put them back on when you visit the toilet.

6. Have a Drink
Notice that I said a drink. Drink too much and you’ll only guarantee yourself numerous trips to the lavatory and some fitful half-sleep followed by dehydration and a headache. If one glass of wine makes you drowsy, don’t feel bad. Just don’t let that one drink turn into a party at 35,000 feet.

7. Travel Pillows
This is going to shock many of you, but I do not use a travel pillow. At least not on planes. But I know more than a few people who swear by them. If you’re one of those people, find one that works for you and stick with it. The more you make it a part of your routine, the more likely you are to get comfortable with it.

8. Sit With Friends
Every little creature comfort can help when you’re not used to sleeping on planes. Having friends around you rather than strangers may help you relax and get comfortable. Plus, you won’t feel bad if your snoring keeps your husband awake. He probably deserves it.

9. Sleep Masks
Again, this one isn’t in my toolkit, but it may work for you if you are easily distracted or are a very light sleeper. Sure, you’re going to look like a moron, but if you need to block out everything in order to sleep, then you need to make sensory deprivation your top priority. What’s more important to you: Looking cool in front of people you will never see again or arriving at your destination well-rested?

10. Pack Snacks
Many people eschew sleep out of fear that they will miss the in-flight meal. While microwaved chicken is pretty underwhelming, it is often the only substantial meal you’ll receive on a long-haul flight. Pack a few filling snacks (ie, trail mix, dried fruit, a sandwich or Handi-Snacks) and you can eat whenever you stomach desires. Once you’re not held hostage by the flight’s feeding schedule, you’ll be able to relax, sleep and wake up to a treat of your own choosing.

11. Sleeping Pills
Call me a purist, but I consider sleeping pills and herbal supplements to be cheating. However, if you genuinely cannot fall asleep naturally and truly need to sleep on a flight, then I suppose I can understand going the pill-popping route. But I will put an asterisk next to your name in the record books.

It’s not rocket science, but falling asleep on planes can be challenging for some people. Hopefully these tips help you drift off to your happy place rather than enduring the mundanity of air travel. Your mileage may vary, and I can’t guarantee that you’ll be a plane sleeping machine like me, but utilizing some or all of these suggestions should help you get comfortable and sleep through almost any flight.

Do you have your own method for falling asleep on planes? Any tricks worth sharing? Drop us a line in the comments.

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SkyMall Monday: SkyRest Travel Pillow ACTUAL REVIEW

Over a year ago, I reviewed the SkyRest Travel Pillow for SkyMall Monday. It was the fourth product ever to get the SkyMall Monday treatment. In retrospect, it should have been first, as it is perhaps the most iconic SkyMall product ever. You proved that in our SkyMall Monday reader poll by voting it the Gadling reader favorite. In response to your overwhelming support of the SkyRest Travel Pillow, I vowed to give it a proper hands-on review. And I am proud to say that I have done just that. Earlier this month, I flew from LaGuardia to Ft. Lauderdale with the SkyRest to see just how comfortable it is. This, ladies and gentlemen, is a very special SkyMall Monday. Here is my actual review of the SkyRest Travel Pillow.

I should start by noting that I am a champion sleeper on all moving vehicles. No drugs. No pillows. Just my iPod, my “Sleep” playlist and, well, that’s it. I often fall asleep before takeoff. I’ve slept on Cessnas. I’ve slept in window seats next to the engine. I’ve slept in 4WD trucks on unsealed roads. So, using a pillow as a sleep aid is something of a foreign concept to me. That said, I approached the SkyRest with an open mind and vowed to put it to a proper test.

The SkyRest is inflatable, and when deflated it packs down to a relatively small size. I say relatively, because when it’s inflated, it’s big. But I’ll get to that momentarily. While it won’t take up a significant amount of room in your luggage, it won’t slip into a pocket either. If you are a casual or business traveler who isn’t overly concerned about minimizing the size of your gear, then the SkyRest’s deflated size shouldn’t be an issue. If you’re a backpacker, however, it will probably take up too much real estate no matter how much you compact it.

Inflation of the SkyRest is remarkably quick and easy. The valve prevents air from escaping while you are inflating the pillow, which helps you avoid the two steps forward, one step back drama that comes with inflating many pillows or sleep pads. Despite it’s immense size (again, we’re getting to that), the pillow fully inflates in under a minute. That is not an exaggeration. In one minute, the SkyRest goes from an awkwardly folded amorphous blob to a fully inflated travel pillow. And I was neither lightheaded nor winded upon completion.

Now, about the size. It is big. I mean, really big. It’s 14″ wide, 12″ deep, 11″ high in the front and 17″ high in the rear. Even Jenna Jameson thinks it’s big. The instructions make a point of recommending that you sit in a window seat to avoid blocking your seatmates from getting to the aisle. I defied this logic and booked my normal aisle seat on the flight to Ft. Lauderdale. I’m a jerk, but we’re not reviewing my behavior. We’re testing the SkyRest.

When I inflated it on my flight south, I felt compelled to warn my neighbors in advance. “Hi, I’m, um, about to inflate a very large travel pillow. It’s really big. If you need to get by me, you may want to do that now.” The man next to me nodded and then asked if he could squeeze past me. He never returned. He actually changed seats before even seeing the fully inflated pillow.

The pillow quickly inflated and I rested it on my knees. Depending on your height and preferred sleeping position, you can balance the pillow on your knees or the tray table. The SkyRest is quite comfortable and, since it’s inflatable, you can adjust the firmness to your liking. The angled top resembles a human buttocks, but don’t let that deter you from resting your head on it. The microfiber texture is soft and smooth, so there is no risk of chafing. There is, however, a real risk of being mocked. And stared at. People were looking (and giggling) at the SkyRest and me as if I had six heads.

I attempted to sleep with the pillow on both of my flights and found that the act of leaning forward to sleep just wasn’t for me. I tend to sleep on planes (and trains, automobiles and hovercrafts) in an upright position. Healthy or not, it’s what is comfortable for me. I found leaning forward with the SkyRest for any length of time placed undue strain on my neck and upper back. Thus, the SkyRest did not provide me with much comfort. Eventually, I had to deflate the pillow and stow it away to allow myself to actually get some sleep in my normal seated position.

That said, several people on both of my flights expressed that they preferred to sleep on planes while leaning forward. Once they got over the immense size of the SkyRest, they were open to the idea of a travel pillow that wasn’t simply a neck support. They seemed willing to perceive the SkyRest not as a novelty, but as a real alternative to traditional travel pillows. And, I completely agree with them.

Everyone’s sleep habits are different. The SkyRest Travel Pillow isn’t for me. But it’s for someone. For lots of people, actually. Assuming, of course, that those people also have plenty of room in their luggage, an affinity for being stared at and own garish Hawaiian shirts.*

* I do not own a Hawaiian shirt, so I made sure to wear my loudest shirt in an attempt to replicate the proper SkyRest experience. I hope I met your expectations.

Check out all of the previous SkyMall Monday posts HERE.

SkyMall Monday: Anniversary Gift Card Giveaway

Get the champagne on ice, don your finest party hat and put out a cheese plate, because today we are celebrating the ONE-YEAR ANNIVERSARY OF SKYMALL MONDAY! On October 13, 2008, Gadling charged me with delivering to you, our dear readers, one SkyMall product review per week. Did I want that responsibility? Yes. Do I enjoy doing it? Of course. Should I be celebrated for it? Absolutely. But you know who else should reap the benefits of our weekly SkyMall dalliances? You! So, to celebrate the first anniversary of SkyMall Monday, we’re giving away a $100 gift card to…SKYMALL!

First things first. Let’s take a walk down memory lane and look at some of the best products featured in SkyMall Monday over the past 12 months. From massive travel pillows to motorized coolers to umbrellas built for two, I’ve reviewed plenty of amazing gear that you most certainly now own. And to make things interesting, we have a poll to decide which SkyMall Monday was your favorite.

After the jump, a look back at some of our favorites and your chance to win that $100 SkyMall gift card.

  • SkyRest Travel Pillow - Do you like sleeping on planes and being an asshole? Then why not block everyone sitting next to you from using the restroom while you sleep on a giant wedge of cheese balanced on your lap.
  • Baseball Bat Pepper GrinderYou love baseball. You love seasoning. You feel insecure about the size of your penis. You own this.
  • Wine Glass Holder NecklaceAs the old saying goes, “Keep your friends close and your functional alcoholism closer.”
  • The Double UmbrellaOne of the first SkyMall Mondays remains one of my favorites. What better way to avoid the rain and show everyone from your old high school that you’re not Most Likely to Die Alone? (Note: It appears that SkyMall no longer sells the Double Umbrella. This is a travesty!)
  • Cruzin CoolerIf your cooler had sex with a go-kart and gave birth after the typical ice chest gestation period of four months, the doctor would slap this bad boy on the ass, fill it with Schlitz and ride it down to Daytona Beach.

Now for the fun stuff. Vote for your favorite SkyMall Monday in our poll below and leave us a comment letting us know how you voted. Read the legal muckety muck for more details, but one very lucky commenter will be picked at random to receive a $100 SkyMall gift card!

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To enter the contest for the chance to win the $100 SkyMall gift card:

  • Simply leave a comment below telling us which SkyMall Monday you voted for.
  • The comment must be left before Friday, October 16, 2009 at 5:00PM Eastern Time.
  • You may enter only once.
  • One winner will be selected in a random drawing.
  • This random winner will receive a SkyMall gift card worth $100.
  • Click here for complete Official Rules.
  • Open to legal residents of the 50 United States, including the District of Columbia who are 18 and older.

Special thanks to Joey O’Donnell and all the folks at SkyMall for the gift card and for having a sense of humor.

Check out all of the previous SkyMall Monday posts HERE.