When you’re facing a lengthy flight, there are certain little helpers that can make your hours in the air more comfortable – and mean you feel a lot fresher when you get to your destination. We’re talking about accessories that help you get some sleep, stay as healthy as possible and keep you hydrated when all that recycled air zaps your skin of moisture. This means the likes of pillows and eye masks, that are actually comfortable so you can get some essential shut-eye, and noise-cancelling headphones that cut out the whirr of the engines. We’ve found compression socks combat that post-flight puffiness, as well as storage options to keep everything organised so that you don’t need to rummage around for ages in the aisle or in a dimly lit cabin mid-flight. We put this lot to the test on a long-haul flight to the States, and also took advice from our in-house travel experts to bring you genuinely useful products that might just transform your travelling experience.
This structured pillow is the best travel one we’ve tried. The cushioned part is filled with reassuringly firm memory foam, which is supportive yet comfortable. You can clip the two sides together, which may not look super cool, but will stop your head falling at an awkward angle. It’s flat across the back with a grippy bit that helps it stay in position on a chair. All those features combine to mean you can actually get some sleep – and not wake up with a sore neck. As it’s structured, it’s not as compact as some, but it can still be squashed into its small carry bag.
This addition to Bose’s super-effective Quiet Comfort series was our writer’s pick of the noise-cancellers in a recent round-up. They certainly cut out the engine and cabin noise on a loud 747. The over ear cushions are comfortable and, worn in economy class coupled with the travel pillow to keep our head upright, helped us get some valuable beauty sleep. If you use these instead of the provided pair – they come with an inflight adaptor – it means that you don’t have to turn up the volume on the inflight entertainment or your own music to a level that might cause damage, as the sound is clearly defined and full. You can get these for Apple and Samsung devices and they use one AAA battery (remember to take some spares, because although you’ll still be able to listen to music without batteries, the headphones will lose their noise-cancelling capability).
The difference between this and a bog-standard eye mask is the addition of raised eye pads, which means you don’t get the material right against your eye so it’s more comfortable. The Velcro strap makes it adjustable and it comes in a handy little carrier. When on, this totally cuts out light. I slept through breakfast wearing it, which, depending on how you feel about aeroplane food, is either a good or a bad thing.
Aussie sportswear brand 2XU is known for its sports compression gear that helps improve blood flow to aid recovery and reduce swelling after exercise. Its 24/7 socks are sold at airports for anyone not needing medical-grade socks who wants to reduce the puffiness and muscle fatigue you can get after a long flight. If you’re not used to wearing compression socks, you might find these tight to begin with, but after a few wears you’ll get used to them. The idea is to improve circulation while you’re sat still and therefore reduce swelling. We certainly noticed our legs looked and felt less Michelin Man–esque than usual after a long hauler. These ones are a cotton mix so are more breathable and cooler to wear than some. They come in men and women’s sizes in a range of colour combos.
This from the French sensitive skin specialist Avène might sound a bit gimmicky, but it really does keep your skin hydrated and soothed. Avene says the low-in-minerals but silica-rich spring water used for the brand’s products is clinically proven to calm and hydrate sensitive skin. We don’t know about the science but found it a hard-working one for travelling. Spritz skin to refresh and replenish moisture during and after a long flight (just pat dry after spraying). On hols it will help sooth sunburn and reduce redness. Back home, it can also be used to set your make-up and on irritated skin after shaving. So yes, it’s not cheap for posh water but we think it will surprise you. It comes in a larger size but this one will fit in your hand luggage.
Knomo’s clever organisers give you somewhere to put all your tech – tablet, smartphone, cables and portable batteries – in a lightweight, slimline folder. This latest canvas version of the popular Knomad Air will fit a tablet up to 10 inches, including an iPad Air, as long as it’s not in a bulky case. It also holds the likes of cards, your passport, keys, pens and all the stuff that you might need easy access to in departures, on the plane and beyond. This new version is super well-thought-out, from the space for an extra battery pack down to the slot to thread your cable through while you charge your phone. It’s made from PET canvas, a fabric crafted from recycled plastic bottles that is eco-friendly but also really durable. If your tablet doesn’t fit this one, there is also a 12-inch version. Choose from khaki or black.
Having to fit all your lotions and potions for the flight into a flimsy plastic bag at the last minute can be a real faff. This set of three strong, transparent zip-up bags means you can come to the airport prepared and also easily find what you want in your hand luggage. The smaller two bags are ideal for your under 100ml toiletries, and you can put bigger things in your hold bag in the other (we use ours for sun cream). Any spillages won’t make it to your clothes and you can use them back at home to keep your make-up organised. This set has a pretty rose gold tone trim.
If your scent bottle is more suited to the dressing table (i.e. weighty and made of glass), don’t assume you have to leave your fragrance at home. Instead, invest in a travel-sized atomiser that lets you decant your favourite smell. This is one of the smartest and most effective we’ve seen. You just unscrew the top bit off your fragrance and line up the mechanism with the bottom of the Milano and pump. It will transfer up to 65 sprays of your perfume and the special seal means that unlike many cheaper models, nothing will leak and you can arrive at your destination smelling of roses (or whatever your smell of choice is). The transfer is easy and quick, we’d just recommend wiping the bottom of the atomiser to get rid of any perfume residue before you pack. The leather-look casing with silver trims looks expensive and is robust-feeling. It comes in eight colours including, classic black and this orange, that is easy to spot in your hand luggage. An added bonus: it arrives in a smart box, so is one you could buy as a gift for a jet-setter.
After getting the best night’s sleep we’ve ever had on a flight to the US, we wouldn’t be without the Go Travel pillow or the Bedtime Bliss eye mask now. Both of these will serve you well for non-air travel too. The Bose headphones are an investment, but remember that you can use them in the office and for your commute.