There are two types of travelers in this world: those who can sleep on planes, and those who can’t.
This one ability — or lack thereof — can make a literal world of difference, particularly for flights any longer than six hours. It’s a matter of landing feeling functional (albeit a bit groggy and stiff) versus arriving at your destination feeling as if you’ve undergone some twisted form of sleep deprivation in an otherworldly dimension of crying babies, armrest battles, and movies with a max rating of 55 percent on Rotten Tomatoes.
For travelers who fall into the latter category, it’s worth exploring any avenue to secure some precious in-flight shut-eye — even if the methods elicit more than a couple raised eyebrows from fellow passengers.
These products that may look a little ridiculous, but may also just do the trick for finally slipping into glorious, elusive slumber in the skies.
The Ostrich Pillow Light
The internet went wild for this pillow’s bigger brother a couple of years ago, presumably because of its truly ridiculous aesthetic. Since then, the manufacturers at Studio Banana Things have toned it down a bit with this mini version of the viral sensation. One minor disadvantage of this product versus other travel pillows is that it doesn’t come with a clip for attaching to the outside of your carry-on, meaning it takes up precious cargo room — but using a mini carabiner is a simple fix. The pillow also doubles as a surprisingly comfortable eye mask.
To buy: ebags.com, $30
The Evolution memory foam travel pillow
These memory foam pillows have just about everything you could want in a travel pillow, and to top it off, they come with a two-year satisfaction warranty. This product is a major upgrade from the standard, beaded neck pillows that have become synonymous with overpriced airport gift shops. With sturdy, ergonomic design and real memory foam, they’re effective enough to be worth the investment.
Pro tip: If you can find these pillows in airports outside of the U.S. (such as in South America or Central America), you may be able to secure one for about half the price due to exchange rates.
To buy: ebags.com, $40
The NodPod is another product that may make your in-flight neighbors do a double take — but it’s worth the spectacle if it actually works. The product is designed to cradle your head in a manner replicating the way humans naturally sleep when inclined. It’s currently available for pre-order.
The SmartTravel portable footrest secures around the seatback tray table to solve the where-the-heck-do-I-put-my-feet issue that’s altogether too common in an era of limited legroom and oversized carry-ons.
The most useful thing about the Cocoon sheet — other than the fact that it folds up into a manageable, portable ball — is that it’s also a versatile product for any number of travel scenarios beyond getting comfortable on a plane. For outdoorsy travelers, it’s a handy camping companion, and for backpackers, it’s a nice guarantee against sketchy hostel sheets. The company also makes easily packable, portable travel blankets.
Bucky eye mask
Bucky eye masks are a vast improvement over the flimsy mask that came with your last international flight care package. They make look a little Martian, but they’re available in a variety of colors and patterns — some that actually verge on stylish — and come equipped with a strong strap that won’t lose elasticity the third time you use it.
To buy: amazon.com, $10
Bose QuietControl noise-canceling, wireless earbuds
These earbuds don’t necessarily look ridiculous—unless you glance at the price tag. But there’s a reason that owners of these $300-a-pop puppies rave that they’re worth every cent. They solve three of the most common issues of standard earbuds: background noise, comfort and frustrating wires that somehow always end up tangled around your entire body.
For serious travelers who are willing to drop a pretty penny on a night of sound sleep, these may be worth it. For those seeking the noise-canceling power of these headphones for a fraction of the cost, consider the Rohm portable white noise machine—although this product is more suited for a hotel room than an airplane, it gets high reviews for effectiveness.
Hydrating facial mist
Before you scoff at the seemingly superfluous nature of this product, it’s worth giving it a try on your next long flight. This mist by Kiehl’s contains a combination of lavender, geranium, and rosemary that moisturizes and refreshes sensitive skin in dry conditions (like inside a plane cabin). Lavender is also known for its calming, slumber-inducing effects.
We’ll do you a favor and refrain from delving into the statistics behind bacteria and germs on the average commercial airliner. If you’re losing sleep on planes not because of physical discomfort but because of the mental ick factor of traveling in a less-than-sterile environment, carrying these on-the-go Clorox wipes for your tray table and arm rests may help ease your mind.
To buy: target.com, $1
Rumpl high-performance blanket
Those of us nostalgic for the days when stewardesses handed out free blankets at the start of a flight are out of luck — most airlines (at least in the U.S.) have forgone these comforts as cost-saving measures. This can be a major, sleep-inhibitive problem in the seemingly sub-zero temperatures of the average airplane cabin. Rumpl, an easily compactable and surprisingly warm travel blanket, is a life-saver for those who tend to get cold while in flight. The blankets come in a series of vibrant colors and are available at REI, as well as online.