I am not a good traveler and I get whiny and irritable when I’m the least bit uncomfortable.
Even more so than usual.
There’s nothing I like better than tucking into my own bed every night and arranging the jumble of pillows just-so in my own very-special configuration. So unlike the rest of America, I sympathize with Paris Hilton and am not keen on sleeping in strange places or being cooped-up either.
But unlike Ms. Hilton, when I’m not comfortable, I don’t have any fancy lawyers to call so I have to fend for myself. Since summer travel season is revving up, I thought I’d share my top five travel items that I find indispensable for sleeping and keeping yourself in the best shape possible on your journey to Paris, or wherever else you might be heading.
Tempur-Pedic Eye Mask
If you’re a light sleeper, chances are just the slightest amount of light will wake you up. There’s lot of flimsy eyemasks on people’s faces out there, but they don’t fit very well and if you’re like me, any morning light entering can jolt you into an early-morning reality that you might not be reluctant to deal with.
The Tempur-Pedic Eye Mask is made out of that fancy memory foam and after wearing them for a minute or so, they conform to your face and block out every single itty-bitty morsel of light. If you’re trying to block out the world and get some sleep, to adjust quickly to the local time, get yourself a pair of these. Pronto.
While they’re yet to come up with a model that will eradicate the noise of all those people screaming into their cell phone at the airport, strap these over your head and prepare to sink into a world of bliss. You never realize how loud those airplane engines are until you switch on these headsets, and most annoying noises (the airplane engines, not the jerks on their cell phones) simply disappear.
Seasoned travelers swear by the Bose headsets, which are great (which I learned from swapping mine for a moment with the passenger across the aisle from me last week), but there a few less-expensive options. I have a pair from Sennheiser, which are lightweight and compact, and pack easily. But I’m looking forward to losing them so I’ll have an excuse to upgrade to the superior Bose. Either way, I won’t get on a plane without a pair of these in my carry-on.
I’m not a big fan of taking pills, which puts me in the minority with the Paris crowd. But I am a fan of getting a lot of sleep. (Which puts me in the majority in Paris..as in Paris, France.) And there’s nothing worse than trying to sleep when you’re uncomfortable sitting on a plane, crammed in coach with some knucklehead fast asleep next to you hogging the armrest or drooling on your shoulder.
I’ve tried a few prescription drugs, which puts me in the majority in France, and Hollywood, but even the heavy-duty Ambien doesn’t work for me. But Excedrin PM always does. (Actually, I take Target PM.) I take one pill and it puts me out pretty well. Two if I really want to get really knocked out. Some people report it makes them feel goofy the next day, but I haven’t had that problem. Or perhaps that just my normal state.
(Of course, first check with your doctor to make sure before taking any medication or pills.)
Pad & Pen
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve led guests through Paris (France) or met friends that are traveling who invariably pump me for local advice and shopping tips. When I start reeling names off, they panic and start ripping through their bags and purses looking for some scrap of paper to write it all down. Since I like to practice remaining calm while other people panic, even if I have paper and pencil, I don’t offer it and instead use this time to reflect on my very personal Zen koan—“Why do people ask a question when they are unprepared to deal with the answer?”
I love my sturdy Moleskine notebook, but I’ll often buy a few cheap spiral-bound note pads just for jotting things down, like addresses and phone numbers, which I can tear out and jam in my pocket to refer to later.
Big, Strong Zip-Loc Bags
Frankly, it’s just plain dumb to go anywhere without these. They take up less than .00001% of the space in your suitcase, and allow you to buy mustards, olive oils and wine while your traveling, and get them home with relative safely.
I use mine, doubled-up, for packing everything from Spanish olive oil to elegant chocolate…although they won’t properly contain the aroma of French cheeses. And you don’t want to get off the plane and have an “Oh my God!” moment.
I put everything I can into Zip-Loc bags. While I’m not a big fan of lots of plastic, I re-use them over and over and over again and I am certain I have a few circa 1994. And don’t be stingy and buy the cheap bag either: the best are the thickest ones intended for deep-freezing.
A few other things I pack along: A bar of good dark chocolate, Bach® Rescue Remedy, David Somerset’s Shaving Oil, homemade trail mix with chocolate chips, a Bucky buckwheat neck pillow (which is bulky but oh-so-comfy), and, of course, a trusted Sharpie or two.
What are some of your favorite travel must-haves?