In 10 years of corporate life, I have racked up over 1 million miles (almost 900,000 on Delta alone). That in itself is not that remarkable until you consider that most of this has been domestic (US) and most of it in coach. Much of this is crisscrossing the country from my home in Seattle to the east coast, which means a lot of red-eyes. For almost 2 years, in addition to my work travel, I commuted weekly from my job in Minneapolis to Seattle; the 4:25 Friday afternoon returning to MSP on the 12:50am. I learned a lot about how to comfortably travel over the years and I am often asked to share my “secrets”. It starts with the right gear. I call it the “Holy Trinity” and by the time you finish reading – you will see why.
The “Holy Trinity” of Air Travel
Forever, I used Bose noise cancelling headphones – standard issue for any road warrior. Over the years I tired of the bulky earmuffs that provided an oasis in 29C. They are awkward to carry, take up way too much of the precious space in my carry-on or briefcase (another story for another time). Mostly, you can only sleep with your head in one of two positions. Chin down, leaning forward – a position favored by most of us while seats are in their full and upright position while waiting take off, and the other being after the plane is in the air and you have the seat leaned all the way back, possibly ruining the day of the workaholic whose laptop you just broke in the process. Head back, mouth open, loud snoring emanating from the orifice. Fortunately the air is so dry; the drool evaporates before it can contaminate the immediate area. The headphones are the equivalent to blinders for a horse – they greatly restrict head movement, keeping you focused straight ahead.
Today my sanctuary of choice are Shure 315 noise blocking ear buds. If you have ever noticed the ear pieces worn by Beyoncé or race car drivers, odds are pretty good they were made by Shure. Ahh, the freedom to roll your head, sleep on your side, rest your head on the shoulder of the guy (or gal) in 29B (middle seat) while totally blocking outside noise. I didn’t say cancel noise. – I said noise BLOCKING! These bad boys fit into the ear canal and effectively block out any outside noise. This makes your listening pleasure of your favorite tunes and movies a pure joy. Most people will not even notice you are wearing them. You don’t have to listen to airplane noise, the guy or gal in 29B snoring and then wakening themselves up every few minutes as he or she is briefly choking on phlegm. You can operate in your own little world, assume any position in the seat you like, and not mess up your hair for that meeting shortly after landing. These are the bomb! (Whoops – sorry to all the hard working folks at TSA. Didn’t mean to get you excited). Not only do they, in my opinion, provide superior sound quality and noise blocking capabilities, they do not require batteries (no extra weight), and they fit in a handy little zipper case that easily fits in the front pocket of my jeans.
Proper eyewear is essential for long flights and red-eyes. I used to never be able to sleep on planes. I tried the standard stuff: the cheap black eye masks that fit like a glove on your face but are so tight you either have to have your eyes open or closed, there is no in between. My old standby was two double Black Label scotch on the rocks before boarding. I figured I would get drunk and pass out. That didn’t work well for me when I was commuting. Three hour flight + two hour time change= five hours. Unfortunately the math didn’t fit the logic. Nothing like waking up with a buzz and going straight to work. That trick only lasted a couple of runs when I discovered the Temperpudic eye mask. This is a little bulky because it is made with the signature foam the company is so famous for and at $35 – a little on the steep side for my tight-wad self. So I did what any self-respecting person would do, I asked my wife to buy them for me as a gift, that way I could justify the cost. A couple of things about this mask: it is adjustable and has very comfortable velour-like material. Because of the foam, it provides total blackout, and for the piece de resistance… it “cups” over your eyes – giving them the space needed for the eyelids to blink allowing you to enter REM sleep. What’s even better is REM sleep while listening to REM on my Shure earbuds. Now that’s a winning combination.
The next part of the holy trinity, or mirepoix as referred to on the Food Network, is the footwear. I prefer very comfortable, sheepskin lined Ugg slippers. For years I would pack my custom Ugg moccasins – they were custom in that the dog chewed off the laces on one so I cut them off other, trimmed the leather on both so the matched. Those Uggs have more miles on them than my ass has had in a seat. They could probably make their own way to the nearest Chick-Fil-A in Hartsfield, provided it’s not a Sunday of course. This year the family bought me a new pair. Gone are the days of loafers or trainers, followed by the change of footwear once I got to my seat, as is the pungent odor concealed in the overhead bin. Now, I am sporting a new pair of Uggs. These are at home whether I am in my jammies at home or headed to SeaTac. They look like Romeos and are a stylish addition to any outfit.
There you have it, the three essentials – the holy trinity of travel. I tend to carry my own snacks and food (no stinking onions), collapsible water bottle, a good book, iPad with lots of good books, iPhone for music and my favorite app – Audible (audio books). As I get older, I take my chances and check my luggage more often than not, but I still primarily travel with a carry on and can do so even on a two week trip to Australia or Europe. Never ceases to amaze me all the crap people pack when the travel. You would think they are the only people in the world with a washer and dryer, much less a local dry cleaner.
Dan Chappelle is President of WealthyTravelAgent.com where he develops sales leaders for the travel & tourism industry. He assists sales professionals achieve their full potential by expanding their vision, shifting their mindset, and transforming their businesses to produce tangible results. An internationally known travel industry expert, sales executive, and speaker, Dan has earned an enthusiastic following among travel agents and industry leaders worldwide. He has been featured in numerous trade and consumer publications and is an instructor for the Travel Institutes’ Professional Educators Program, providing insight for travel professionals. You can contact Dan by email at Dan@WealthyTravelAgent.com.