Photo of the day – Approaching Rio

Many of us love the window seat when traveling. Even in cramped coach class, you can feel like you have your own little nook with a place to prop up your tiny airline pillow (in case you don’t fly with a SkyRest like Mike Barish) and a great view of the sky and landscape below. But few of us ever get the best window seat, up in the cockpit, where the view is framed by hundreds of tiny lights and controls. Fortunately own resident pilot Kent Wien shared this nighttime arrival in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. See more of his beautiful sky photos here.

See any stellar views on your travels? Add your pictures to the Gadling Flickr pool and you may see one as a future Photo of the Day.

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: Top 10 SkyMall Mondays of 2008

2008 was a big year for SkyMall Monday in that, you know, I created SkyMall Monday in 2008. We laughed, we cried, we grew as people. But mostly we just laughed. With the new year just days away and with everyone and their mother posting year-end top 10 lists, this week seemed perfect for a look back at the Top 10 SkyMall Mondays of 2008. So, grab your credit card, throw logic out the window and come along on a magical ride through some highlights from our favorite mile-high catalog.

10. TimeMug – Certainly many of you have made a new year’s resolution to get yourselves organized. Well, what better way to get your life in order than to have a clock on your coffee mug? You may have left your watch at home and forgotten your phone in the car, but your latte will know exactly how late you are for your meeting.

9. Slumber Sleeve – Easily the second-best pillow of the two pillows SkyMall Monday reviewed this year! The Slumber Sleeve allows contortionists and husbands who have been forced to sleep on the couch to maintain bloodflow to their extremities. It’s a niche market, but the Slumber Sleeve really filled it up good and tight.
8. Flair Hair Visor
– As a bald man, I’m typically offended by anything that makes us aerodynamic individuals feel as if we should hide our glorious domes. But when you come across a product that is so dignified and subtle, you can’t help but promote it. The Flair Hair Visor says, “I have such tremendous self-esteem that I am certain you must be pointing at me and laughing as a gesture of respect.” I accept your compliments.

7. Portable Desk – You’re a man (or woman) on the go and you just have to work, work, work! But there’s nowhere to sit as you wander around the coffee shop/airport/freeway. What do you do? Well, you strap it on. (Note: Thank you to my editor who looks the other way when I use that phrase).

6. Noseaid – When you care enough about your child to put a clothespin on his nose and then just walk away.

5. SkyRest Travel Pillow – Getting comfortable in a cramped airplane seat can be tough. Trying to sleep in that seat is even tougher. You could try a neck pillow, but they’re so small, convenient and easy to carry. What you need is something so obtrusive that everyone knows that you’ll be sleeping through the drink service. You need a giant wedge that will block your neighbors from going to the bathroom. You need the SkyRest Travel Pillow.

4. Double Umbrella – Keeping two people dry in the rain is the world’s oldest problem. Sure you could buy a golf umbrella, but then you’d be a giant douchebag. You could carry around multiple umbrellas, but then you’d have the hassle of keeping then both up in bad weather. Or, you could own the world’s first umbrella built for two people who like each other but not enough to stand close together under one umbrella.

3. NECKpro Traction Device – Tethering yourself to a door is never a bad idea. So what better way to alleviate neck and back pain than to strap yourself to a door and crank yourself away from stress? And what a handsome design! Frankly, I’ll find any excuse I can to run this photo repeatedly.

2. The Slanket – As I began compiling this list, I thought for sure that The Slanket would end up in the number one spot. How could it not? It’s the original blanket with sleeves! I even spent an hour completely entranced by the incredibly cheesie Slanket website. But at the end of the day, I’m just not a blanket guy. I prefer to put on a sweatshirt. Our flaunt my tremendous wealth by turning on the heat.

1. Cruzin CoolerMany people have blamed the collapse of the Big Three U.S. automakers on their lack on innovation. Well, one amazing advancement in transportation has recently come from the great minds of America’s business leaders. I speak, of course, of the Cruzin Cooler. Part cooler. Part go-kart. All awesome. It holds 24 12-ounce cans and has a top speed of 13 miles per hour. But it’s not about the numbers. Facts and figures are so cold and emotionless. SkyMall Monday is about people. I believe in bringing you hope and joy and warmth. To that end, just look how pleased these Cruzin Cooler owners look.

Happy New Year, SkyMall Maniacs. See you in 2009 with a whole new batch of products designed to make our lives more magical.

Check out all of the previous SkyMall Monday posts HERE.