For years, I’ve resisted becoming one of “those people” who board an airplane armed with loads of paraphernalia intended to make the flight more comfortable. I didn’t want to be that high maintenance, I didn’t want to use up valuable packing space with such things, and I believed that nothing could really make a long flight that much better, so why bother?
My conversion to high-maintenance flyer happened slowly. It started with compression socks. These are essential for long-haul flights, as they minimize feet and ankle swelling and reduce the risk of blood clots, so, you know, you don’t die during the flight. Fortunately, compression socks are no longer those awful nylon things; my favorite pair are purple wool. They come with the added bonus of keeping my feet warm on cold airplanes.
Next, my opposition to eye masks was broken. I still don’t find them comfortable, but until I tried wearing a pair on a red eye, I didn’t realize how much the small amounts of light on an airplane interfere with sleeping (or attempting to sleep). Don’t knock ‘em til you try ‘em, I guess.
I ditched my neck pillow years ago, after concluding that those ubiquitous donut-y pillows – which take up a huge amount of space – don’t actually do anything and actively give me a stiff neck. But now I’m in possession of one of those “turtle” neck pillows, which make you look like you were in a traffic accident but do keep your head upright, so you can sleep sitting up without that annoying “head bob” waking you up every few minutes.
The final obstacle for me was noise-cancelling headphones. They struck me as the height of high maintenance. Then, on a recent transcontinental flight, I was sitting near a dreaded “Talker”. She loudly shared her entire life story with the woman on her row (talking over the woman’s poor husband in the middle seat) for a non-stop four hours. Even without a Talker (or a similarly-dreaded Crying Baby) nearby, an airplane’s cumulative background noise takes a toll on your brain. I got off that transcontinental flight with a piercing headache and a new resolve to buy noise-cancelling headphones before I next took to the skies.
So now, here I am: fully geared up from head to toe, one of “those people” at last, embracing what little comforts and small reliefs can be found on a long flight. If all else fails, I’ll pop an antihistamine. Those things knock me out cold.