SkyMall Monday: Sling Couture Fashion Face Mask ACTUAL REVIEW

Travel is a grimy, germ-filled activity that tests the limits of our tolerance for all things bacterial. Recycled plane air, cramped buses and less-than-hygienic hotel rooms all conspire to infect us. Staying healthy on the road is essential if you want to enjoy your holiday or get the job done on a business trip. However, you also want to look good when you’re traveling so that you can woo a sexy local or dress the part of a savvy business traveler. How do you keep germs at bay while also looking like the dapper gadabout that you are? Rather than compromise form for function, you deserve to look your best while continuing to feel your best. No one knows that better than the mad scientists at SkyMail. That’s why they provide you with a way to deter bacteria while inviting attention. It’s time to get sassy while staying healthy with the Sling Couture Fashion Face Mask.

I traveled with the Sling Couture Fashion Face Mask from the subways of New York City to the wide open spaces of Yellowstone National Park to a hot air balloon in Turkey’s Cappidocia region. Did it keep me healthy and appropriately dressed?


If you’re an avid SkyMall Monday reader, you’re already familiar with Sling Couture. We reviewed their signature arm sling earlier this year. It kept us looking sophisticated while convalescing. But preventing infections and diseases is a much tougher task. I was skeptical that a flashy mask could help me avoid picking up a bug while on the road, so I put it through a series of rigorous tests.

Available in 12 styles, there’s a Sling Couture Fashion Face Mask to suit every person and mood. I tested Red Glitter, which brought out my eyes.

I headed underground to the New York City subway armed with my Sling Couture Fashion Face Mask and stood prominently in the middle of a train car. New York City subway trains are far from sanitary. Along with muffled announcements and loud music escaping from headphones, coughing is a ubiquitous sound on the subway. No matter how many people wheezed, coughed or sneezed, I stood clear of the closing doors in my shiny mask and stood out as a fashion icon in a city known for style.

From there, I took the skies and flew west to Jackson, WY. Planes are Petri dishes of bacteria. The air is stale, the space is cramped and you can feel every cough and sneeze on the back of your neck. However, I read the SkyMall catalog with no problem despite several passengers sounding as if they had typhoid. And I did so while not being one of those overly casual fliers wearing a tracksuit.

The toughest test of all soon followed as the Fashion Face Mask came with me to Turkey. The air in Istanbul is thick. Approximately 12 million people live in Turkey’s largest city and, despite its many cosmopolitan neighborhoods, it still struggles to fully modernize. As I crossed the Bospherus from Asia to Europe, I donned my mask. I stayed healthy while also looking as if I belonged in the European Capital of Culture.

If there is one downside to the Sling Couture Fashion Face Mask, it’s that the mask itself is not particularly breathable. But breathability is not a major concern when evaluating face masks. They are less like doctors masks and more similar to masks used by painters or construction workers. That said, they do a fantastic job at keeping asbestos at bay.

Travel is taxing, exhausting and, at times, sickening. Protect yourself and celebrate your style with the Sling Couture Fashion Face Mask. You’ll look good, feel good and only slightly confuse everyone around you.

Be sure to check out the gallery of photos from my travels with the Sling Couture Fashion Face Mask.

Check out all of the previous SkyMall Monday posts HERE.

50% of air travelers will fly with the flu to avoid a fee

I’m a one of the those people who always seems to get sick after a long plane ride. A few days post-trip, I suddenly get a runny nose, sore throat and all the other telltale signs of a cold, most likely contracted from a sick passenger. Usually it’s minor, and I’m out of commission for only a few days.

I guess I’ve just been lucky that it hasn’t been the flu, because, according to a recent TripAdvisor survey, over 50% of travelers would choose flying with the flu over paying a fee to change their flight. As if we needed more reason to get a flu shot before we travel this season, now we know that someone with the flu may end up on our flight, just to avoid the fee.

Out of 2,327 people, 51% said they would fly while sick with the flu rather than pay the $150-$200 fee (plus any change in price) imposed by most airlines in order to change their flights to a later date. This is obviously, alarming news, but I can see why it is the case that people would rather cough up some germs on their fellow passengers than cough up the extra cash to change the tickets. Especially because costs for the new dates will often be higher, meaning you may end up paying more like $300-$400 per ticket for the change.

In the case of inescapable commitments, I can understand why someone would not change the ticket. But for a leisure trip, I would consider it. Of course, I don’t want to get others sick, but from a purely selfish standpoint, I don’t want to spend my time in the air shaking and shivering with the flu, or to spend my entire vacation laid up in bed. But then again…if I felt well enough to get on the plane despite having the flu, I would definitely do it rather than incur the extra charges and have to change all my travel plans.

On his blog, Christopher Elliot offers a solution – airlines need to lower or waive the change fees during flu season. We need to stop financially penalizing those who get sick and allow them to change their flights easily, or they will continue to fly and risk spreading the flu to other passengers.

Gadling + BootsnAll – Picks of the Week (5.15.09)

Welcome back to Gadling’s weekly “Picks of the Week” feature, brought to you by our friends at travel website BootsnAll. How does it work? We input thousands of travel variables into the Gadling mainframe computer, and out comes five of the best and most interesting travel stories from BootsnAll this past week, ready for your reading pleasure. Got your 5.25″ floppy disk ready? Alright, here’s what we found:

  • The Venice of the… – Venice Italy is arguably one of Italy’s, if not the world’s, most popular tourism destinations. So popular in fact, that it’s spawned a fair share of “imitators.” As Roger Wade points out, pretty much any city that has a canal or waterway is laying claim to the nickname, including spots in Iraq, Russia and India. Check out his list of “Fake Venices Around the World.”
  • Life and Death in New Orleans – New Orleans is renowned for its spooky above-ground tombs, a feature of the city obviated by its elevation below sea level. Jessica Spiegel takes a photographic tour of New Orleans’ many atmospheric burial grounds. Don’t be afraid – the images are downright beautiful.
  • Drunken Culture – go on, admit it. You like to have an alcoholic beverage now and then. Lucy Corne is in on your secret – and knows how to help you make the most of it. She’s compiled a list of 10 places where you can drink and pretend like you’re soaking up all kinds of local culture. It’s OK…we promise to tell everyone that you went to Dublin to see the Book of Kells. No really, go see that too after you finish your Guinness.
  • Staying Healthy – when you’re out traveling, having fun and throwing caution to the wind, it’s suprisingly easy to forget to take care of your body like you might at home. Never fear, Eileen Smith has six cautionary reminders to make sure you spend your trip having fun and not in the hospital.
  • Thailand English – ever considered teaching English abroad? It can be a highly rewarding experience, but also one not without its challenges. Chabli Bravo spent the past seven months teaching English in Thailand and has a few suggestions to make the experience as good as possible. Even if you want to teach English elsewhere, it’s a post that’s certainly worth a look.

Well folks, looks like we’re out of room for this week. We’re just going to have to save all the other great links for next time around. Tune in again next Friday for more Gadling and BootsnAll Picks of the Week.

Cuba Libre: Being sick and discovering “Cash Cab” in Cuba

[Though this might look like the U.S. Capitol, it is actually Havana’s Capitolio. The strange resemblance makes even stranger sense when you get to the “Cash Cab” comparison at the end of this post.]

Peter and Frank planned to leave for Trinidad on Monday, leaving Lora and I in Havana. They had hoped for a noonish start to their day and planned on renting a car for the remainder of their stay. (Road trip in Cuba? Yes, please! I tried my best to convince Lora to hit the road with the boys, but she was nearly out of cash, had somehow forgotten her ATM and credit cards in Canada, and therefore was relying on the three of us to fund the remainder of her trip).

The boys dilly-dallied for a good two hours by having lunch and weighing the pros and cons to Cuba’s expensive car rental rate, which would come to a whopping $75 per day. By the time they decided to go for it, the car rental guy informed them there were no more cars available. So, that evening, Lora and Frank went to see the famous cabaret show at the Tropicana. They paid nearly U.S.$100 each for three hours of entertainment. Peter and I were less interested in seeing scantily clad women wearing chandeliers on their heads, so we walked to a delightful little paladar called La Cocina de Lilliam in the Embassy district and splurged on a delicious three course meal with red wine.

This paladar was a pleasant contrast to the crowded yet intimate La Guarida in town. La Cocina was set in the side courtyard of a large, lavish house. There were waterfalls and fountains spread about the courtyard as well as plenty of green plants and birdcages with cockatiel and parakeets. Peter and I had a really nice conversation about traveling and other things that time seemed to float by undetected. Somehow we didn’t get home until midnight. Soon after, Lora and Frank returned from their cabaret date. After a nightcap of Cuba Libres, smoking a bit more of our Cuban cigars, and listening to the ocean on the patio, we retired at 1 or so.

It is never a good sign waking up pre-dawn with with a cold sweat, headache, and stomachache. The only time I felt this ill was when I ate a sweet (but apparently foul) mango in India and found myself on the toilet for two full days. My body felt weak, and I felt tired and gross.

Peter and Frank left early in the morning for Trinidad, but I couldn’t get out of bed. I slept almost all of Tuesday. Lora still made the most of her day, visiting la Plaza de la Revolución (with an enormous monument for pre-revolutionary figure José Martí) by cab and walking around our Miramar/Playa neighborhood. She found a cinema just a few blocks away and decided to have a quick dinner and catch an 8:30 movie (for just a dollar!). To her surprise and dismay, she was the only one interested in viewing this film and was turned away by the cinema attendant. Had I gone with her I think she would have been able to see it. So Lora was home by 9 p.m. and we watched a film on TV (I slept through most of it) and made it an early night. I didn’t eat anything all day.

My mysterious illness was a doozy (Pete and I think the lamb at La Cocina could have been the culprit), but I felt quite lucky to be in a 5 star hotel. I mean, things could have been much worse! I could have been like my friend Brody in the middle of rural Laos, who had to visit the village doctor to get hooked up to an IV and take an anti-vomit shot in the butt. If my situation had been more dire, I could have found myself in a Cuban hospital without travel insurance and maybe even lacking cash for medical care.

In the end, I think this sickness just made me appreciate the important things in life – like friends and a warm, comfortable bed. While I would have enjoyed seeing more of Havana, staying at the Melia Habana and with Lora was so comforting. In addition, as I am usually a solo traveler, I could have easily been much more depressed all by my lonesome and staying in some tiny casa particular.

The following morning I felt well enough to sit up and watch some TV, where I discovered my new favorite game show. Since I don’t have cable nor any real interest to watch TV here in Hawaii, leave it to my travels and stay in a 5 star hotel in Cuba (of all places) to hook me onto “Cash Cab” on the Discovery Channel. What a perfect and delightful premise and show! I watched 3 whole hours (that’s 6 episodes) of Cash Cab. It is utterly ironic how I stumbled upon this particular show in Cuba, though, for the contrast between the high-paced capitalist capital of New York City (the setting of Cash Cab) and my current environs couldn’t be more stark.

My excitement over this kind of game show just reaffirmed my Western upbringing. As I watched contestants win over $1,000 during a short cab ride (which is more than twice as much a Cuban citizen makes in a year), I wondered what Cubans thought of such a show. I was, however, watching it in English, so I imagine only educated and wealthy Cubans could actually comprehend the nature of the show. Regardless, the show’s premise is both perfect for the intended Western audience and quite jarring for Cubans (along with being a disgusting display of capitalism at work).

For a complete listing of my Cuba Libre posts, please click HERE or skip straight to the good stuff —

Don’t let illness wreck travel: Be prepared

If you read Gadling’s travel series Catching the Travel Bug about being sick on the road, you found stories that attest to the fact that even seasoned travelers get sick from time to time. Travel to a new place and there are germs that your body is just not used to. But, if you’re prepared, whatever bug you catch won’t stick around to totally ruin a vacation or linger with continued health problems once you return.

Before you embark on a trip, make sure you’re immunizations are up to par. According to the World Health Organization, only 34% of the people who travel to places with hepatitis A get immunized against it. Dumb. When heading to places with malaria, only 8% take malaria prevention pills. Double dumb. The result of this neglect is that 30,000 travelers get malaria every year. Gad!

Considering that even a cold can put a damper on a vacation, malaria would do a real number. Typhoid wouldn’t be too swell either, another disease that’s preventable with a shot. In the Columbus Dispatch article where I read about this laxness towards immunization, one doctor told about a family who refused to get immunized when heading to a country in Africa known to be a high risk area. The teenage boy came home with typhoid as a result. He ate street food, and worse, drank local water.

In general, I think street food is not a problem if it’s being served cooked, it’s hot–meaning coming right off a grill, and you can see it being prepared, but local water? Nope.

Although getting immunized can add to the sticker price of a trip, it’s money well spent. Both malaria pills and immunizations have a certain time frame to be administered in order for them to be effective. If you’re planning on going to a country that is high risk where these treatments are recommended, don’t wait until it’s too late.

By the way, if you do get those shots, hang onto the record of when you got them. Some are good for several years so you can make the sticker price of shots go down by taking another trip to one of these locations before a shot expires.

Here is a link to a resource for what health details need to be taken care of before you travel to most African countries. And, here’s a link to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that has other travel health information.