It seems amazing that here in the third millennium – in this age of satellite technology, and international video calls over the Internet – that anyone still has to travel anywhere. We at Third Millennium Man are adept at face-to-face conversations across oceans, using computers or even mobile phones – but most of the time we find that we actually have to be there. Sometimes there’s no substitute for a flight and meeting that person in person.
Which means that we regularly do a lot of flying – much of it across the Atlantic. And once the novelty has worn off, that means hassle. Queues, security checks, delays, just to name a few. And that’s even before your flight takes off! But once we’re under way, we at Third Millennium Man believe that we have nurtured the perfect routine to make every flight as hassle-free as possible. While we can’t actually guarantee every flight you’ll ever take will be perfect (there’s always going to be weather, warm-air-pockets, turbulence, as well as other people’s kids and inconsiderate passengers), these five items will give you your best chance of still being sane by the time you disembark.
A Drawstring Wash Bag.
You were expecting some amazing technology, weren’t you? Sorry to disappoint.
But hear us out. We like the plain old Wash Bag for a range of reasons:
- They are cheap and readily available. We’ve all got at least one kicking around the place, especially after Christmas. If you haven’t, they are available for pennies. The example in the photograph came with some cheap smellies, several Christmases ago.
- They have drawstrings. Which means that, with a little ingenuity, you can hang it from the back of the seat in front of you and keep your tray table clear.
- They are waterproof. Should you hit turbulence, at least you know your bits and pieces are going to be safe from your beverage.
- It’s a Wash Bag. Which means someone is less likely to steal it if they think it just contains toiletries (it also helps that it’s plain black. Designer labels attract too much of the wrong kind of attention).
These Wash Bags weigh next to nothing. They can be folded up and stored easily. If your Cabin Baggage gets stowed in an Overhead Compartment, you can keep it next to the in-flight magazines in the pocket of the seat in front of you at take-off. No need to wake up the person next to you to get to what you need as soon as the seatbelt light goes out.
We usually keep them in a pocket of our Cabin Baggage until we’re through Security, then stuff the Wash Bag with whatever we need before boarding.
So what goes in the Wash Bag?
Bose ® QuietComfort 25 Acoustic Noise Cancelling Headphones.
The soft cushion surrounding your ear keeps out some of the noise, and the technology does the rest. They don’t keep all the noise out – no headphones do, as your inner ear will still pick up sound waves through your neck and your head. But they do make a drastic difference. You can even use them switched on and with the cable removed, to provide sufficient quiet for some restful sleep.
If tired old airline movies and music are your thing, you will be able to hear every nuance, every word, far better than with any other headphone, and certainly better than the rubbish ones they either hand out of charge anything up to €5 for. Slip them over your ears, switch them on – the engine noise fades into the background and you realise that you can actually hear what you’re trying to listen to clearly, and at a far lower volume than you would otherwise need to.
Be under no illusions, these are not what you would call ‘audiophile quality’. They won’t sound as good in your front room as a similarly-priced HiFi quality pair without built-in noise cancelling. They sound really good, make no mistake, but none of us use them at home. On the move however, they are absolutely unbeatable.
You might struggle to fit these in your Wash Bag along with everything else. Just hang them around your neck, and make sure you have all the leads you need, plus a spare battery, in the Wash Bag.
What we don’t like about these headphones? They come in a travel case that includes some business-sized cards which are all about the headphones. Bose’s contention is that if a stranger admires your headphones, you can gleefully pass him a card so he knows what to buy when he visits the headphone shop. Our view at Third Millennium Man is that the moment a stranger starts taking an interest in your headphones is the time to keep a very close and careful eye on them.
These headphones are an investment. Think they are expensive? You’ll just have to go away more often to justify the cost…..
An Inflatable Neck Pillow.
Ever seen someone getting on a flight with one of those thick, foam-filled C-shaped pillows? We’re stumped as to why folks use them. They are big, clumsy, non-adjustable, and get in the way. You can’t store them when you’re not flying. And they get very, very dirty!
Compare and contrast, if you will, the foam-filled pillow with our choice. Deflated, it folds up neatly to the size of a handkerchief. As you’re taxiing ready for take-off, you just add a few puffs of air. Once you’re at an altitude where the air pressure is lower, it will have puffed up to a more suitable size.
Can’t get comfortable? Find it a little too restrictive? Let some of the air out. Blow it up a bit if you need to. Lean back in your chair and let it rest under your chin (as opposed to across the back of your neck – who finds that position comfortable?) It doesn’t have to be rock hard to be effective.
You’ll find it is also washable. Just inflate it, use warm water and some hand soap, and your dignity is restored (some of the fluffy, foam-filled ones I have witnessed are filthy). Dry it, deflate it, and put it back in your Wash Bag ready for next time. Perfect.
Why do we use a Neck Pillow at all? I suppose we’ve just woken up mid-flight with our heads resting on too many strangers’ shoulders.
A travel-friendly Mobile Phone.
What do we mean, ‘travel-friendly’ I hear you ask? Aren’t all, ahem, mobile phones travel-friendly?
Well, yes they are. But some are more travel-friendly than others.
- It has a facility for a dual-SIM. Which means one SIM which you’ll use in your own country, using your own contract and data plan – plus the Pay-As-You-Go SIM that you buy in your destination country to prevent Roaming Charges (one correspondent paid the equivalent to £2 for a Pay-As-You-Go SIM in Malaysia that lasted a week, just to call the family back in the UK every night. Estimates are that he saved around £300 in Roaming Charges).
- You can remove the battery. Which means that you can buy spares and take them on your journey with you, should recharging opportunities be an issue.
- It has a 5.5″ screen. That’s not only useful for when you Skype the folks back home, but also for reading ebooks and .PDFs with the Kindle App, or watching all the movies and cartoons you’ve stored on your 32GB memory card (ever been stuck in a hotel room with just Indonesian television for company?). Which you could also do on your flight, or maybe watch some training videos (we like the ones from Lynda.com).
- It’s got all the processing power and all the memory you’ll ever need, even without the memory card. It is, when it comes down to it, an absolutely fantastic phone.
- It’s cheap. Off the top of my head, it’s around one-sixth to one-tenth of the price of that iPhone you’ve been coveting yet will never use to its full potential.
So now you’re comfortable in your seat. Your Cabin Baggage is stowed, and you have your Wash Bag in easy reach, to which you’ve added some sweets, lip balm, a tiny pack of anti-bacterial hand wipes, a few tiny luxuries and an eye-mask for when you fancy a nap. Your neck pillow is helping to de-stress you, your headphones are drowning out the engines and even the babble of those annoying tourists who can’t sit together so they just shout to each other through the whole journey. That screaming infant two rows in front of you can’t be heard over the sound of the film you’ve been saving for the flight. Bliss. If only you didn’t have to hold your phone up in front of your face through the whole flight…
A Mobile Phone Tripod.
Yes, this is an actual thing. They do exist. They do work. And they are as cheap as anything (the one in the photograph below was ONE POUND on our local high street).
What does it do? It holds your phone, so you don’t have to. Both hands are now free, and you can properly relax. Stand it on your tray table, or somehow attach it to the headrest of the seat in front of you. There’s no need to break off from your movie whilst you’re dining in your seat. Use it to hold your phone steady whilst you’re involved in video conference calls, or when you’re taking pictures or recording video for the folks back home. It’s possibly the best £1 you’ll spend this year.
Stow it in your Wash Bag. It’s small enough and weighs barely anything.
Enjoy your flight!
And that’s it as far as our five essential items go! Just find your seat, and place your Wash Bag on it whilst you stow your Cabin Baggage overhead. Sit down, pop your Wash Bag into the pocket in front of you, and you’re all set. You’ve got everything you need for the next few hours within easy reach. There’s obviously more to it, such as the essentials for your journey which you’d put in your Cabin Baggage (as opposed to your Hold Luggage) and we’re going to discuss such matters in future posts.
But do try out a few of our recommendations – some are ridiculously cheap, some you might be doing already, and some are just so immediately brilliant.
Let us know how you get on – log in and use the Comments Box below, and share your thoughts with us!