It’s not just that I think my plane, train, or bus is going to crash into something. I'm also anxious while traveling because I’m afraid of being processed and shipped like a like a poorly packed meat-and-cheese gift basket with a rapidly approaching expiration date. I will undoubtedly arrive dried out, dented, crushed, and smelling like a fetid summer sausage.
But travel happens, and unless I want to have a FaceTime-only relationship with my family for the rest of my life, it’s going to keep happening. In the interest of avoiding becoming the next person to get dragged off the plane in a viral video due to a complete mental breakdown, I dove into the world of products designed to make travel less miserable. What I found was a bevy of surprisingly affordable gadgets, treatments, and treats for uptight jet-setters like me. If you’re looking for the perfect holiday gift for the traveling neurotic in your life, look no further.
The Fear: Sleeping is an issue even when you’re not on a giant metal tube that inexplicably makes it to 30,000 feet in the air.
The Fix: Trtl Sleep Scarf
I was initially skeptical of the Trtl pillow because it looked like a bougie neck brace. Then I put it on and realized: “Where have bougie neck braces been all my life?” Unlike the sad, impotent mini-potato-sack pillows the flight attendants sell or the U-shaped strangulation pillows that take up half my carry-on bag, the Trtl is compact and actually holds your head in place so you’re not bobbing all over the place when you doze off post-Bloody Mary. And the wraparound scarf hides the brace part so you look fancy instead of incapacitated. $30
Even if you charge your phone, laptop, and tablet until the very last second you leave your house, we all know you’re going to get that low battery alert somewhere over Nebraska. That means being reduced to a flight magazine that someone already did the crossword in. Avoid that fate by bringing more power along with you.
The Anker PowerCore Fusion Portable Charger holds up to three full charges for your phone. A second product, the PowerPort II, is a portable plug that allows you to charge both your phone and laptop at the same time when you only have access to one outlet. (Double check that it's compatible with your device; it’s more Mac friendly than PC.) $26
The Fear: Total dehydration and/or going broke from buying water at the airport.
The Fix: KOR Nava Filtered Water Bottle
Thanks to the geniuses who invented the filtered water bottle, I’ll now gleefully be drinking water from the tap of not-at-all clean airport bathrooms instead of paying $7 for a bottle of water. It’s also an option for adventurers driving, hiking, or biking through areas where the local water supply sketches you out. $22
The Fear: Fear itself, death, a lack of Xanax, and all the other things anxious people consider on a day-to-day basis, magnified.
The Fix: Park Life CBD Infused Sublingual Strips
Sure, you can knock back a couple of $17 martinis at the airport bar before you hop on the plane, or down some tiny wines mid-flight, but prepare to feel like death when the buzz wears off. CBD is the wave of the future (or at least the current wellness trend I’ve bought into) and CBD-infused sublingual strips are an arguably more evolved way to chill out your nervous system before traveling. If you live in a CBD-friendly state, you can pop one of these under your tongue before you board. They also come in individually wrapped packets, which means you could also take one at the family holiday dinner table the minute you hear a political discussion begin. $20-40
The mental stress of traveling combined with the physical stress of cramming my 5’11” body into a seat appropriately sized for a small tween is a one-way ticket to Back Spasm City. A company called TriggerPoint offers a variety of muscle relaxation products, but the most portable of the bunch is the Foam Deep Tissue Massage Ball. You can put the ball between the seat and your back and gently lean forward and back again, place it in your butt/thigh/thutt area and do some gentle circle motions, or use it as a foot roller. Clinical studies have shown that myofascial foam massage reduces muscle fatigue and improves circulation; you can also avoid stank-eye from the flight attendant for stretching in the aisle. $11-15
The Fear: Sobriety plus anxiety, minus your bed to crawl into.
The Fix: Garden of Life Essential Oils Starter Kit
If you’re going drug-free this holiday season, essential oils are a viable relaxation option for a lot people (particularly those who couldn't give a shit about whether it's science or the placebo effect that's calming you)—not only while you’re traveling, but also when you’re trying to fall asleep on the air mattress in Uncle Bob’s basement. The lavender and geranium oils from this kit offered me the highest level of chill, while the frankincense and lemon helped me lean in to some uncharacteristically positive thinking that can be so elusive during the holiday season. People use these oils in diffusers sometimes, but for travel, I find it best to put a couple drops on a cotton ball and gently inhale. Starter kit: $35
The Fear: Not having the energy to deal with whatever’s on the other end of my flight/train ride/road trip.
The Fix: Matcha Love Tea
For me, exhaustion plus gas station coffee equals jitters and explosive diarrhea. My alternative is matcha—a finely ground, shade-grown green tea that offers a caffeine boost without turning my stomach into a volcano. Matcha Love offers single-serve packets that you can pour into your water bottle, shake up, and drink on the spot. If you’re craving a hot-beverage high, they also have traditional tea bags if Rest Stop Randy is cool enough to let you use the hot water spout. $12
The Fear: You’ll get off the plane looking how you feel: rattled and parched.
The Fix: Patchology Travel Skin Treatment Kit
After spending 3 to 12 hours in a flying cesspool of recycled air, I usually exit a plane with skin that looks it’s about to burst into flames a la the Nazis from Raiders of the Lost Ark. This skin treatment kit includes two five-minute facial masks, an eye rejuvenating gel, and (yes) a lip mask. The masks are translucent so they’re gender neutral and may make you look like Odo from Deep Space Nine for a hot second, but if the dude in 34B isn’t self-conscious about eating that steaming box of pork lomein on the plane, then I’m okay with looking like a shapeshifter for a minute so my face doesn’t flake off. $20
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