Travel doesn’t have to be overly uncomfortable, as long as you assemble a packable travel comfort gear kit. Being frequent flyers and in airplanes and trains way too often, we have explored many ways to stay comfortable. Because airlines in particular continue to cut back on the frill and comfort items they used to provide, knowing what travel comfort items you need to pack (and purchase) can make the difference between comfortable travel and simply surviving your travel experience. Need a pillow? Good luck. Want a blanket? Only in first class and even then, was that sucker washed recently? Trains and buses don’t begin to offer these items. How about your rental car? Dream on.
We’re here to help! Below are the cozy travel comfort gear items we don’t leave home without, and we recommend you pack along too.
Blankets, pillows, ear plugs and eye shades
The idea is to put together a selection of items that will help you get to where you are going without adding a lot of extra bulk and weight. The hope is, they will also support your comfort during the trip too. Just don’t pack too much since being weighed down isn’t so comfortable either.
Travel Blanket — A good one is packable, compressible, made of fleece, and can be used as a cushion or pillow. Another possible feature: A built-in pocket for items like eye-shades and ear plugs. These days, there are some that can pack into a self-pocket or pouch so you can create a lumbar support, pillow, or seat cushion (for today’s thinly cushioned airplane seats!).
Ear plugs — Regular foam noise-reducing ear plugs help to soften the roar of the airplane, the howl of a nearby child, your fellow passengers chatting, or the clank of a service cart. Good ones are made of soft silicone and are compressible but pop back into shape so they fill your ear canal to block noise. Some ear plugs are specially designed to also aid in making pressure changes easier to manage – ideal for folks who are constantly battling clogged and painful ears after or during a plane ride. Therese won’t travel without these (using them in hotels ands inns too), although Michael finds them bothersome.
Eye Shades — We personally can’t live without these on a long-haul flight — or a lodging with thin curtains. Nothing is better to block out the glow of the nearby galley, the overheard light your travel mate is using to read while you want to sleep, the lights in the train compartment, or the glow from the street in a hostel or inn. We have tried some that seem higher end, but are made of a fleece or a neoprene and are thus too warm. A cotton or blend is best.
Travel Pillow or Neck Support Pillow — Say ahhhhhhhh. Combined with a blanket and eye shades, this is the perfect addition to ensure a comfortable flight or other travel experience. From airplanes where the seats are stacked one on top of the other and barely recline, to cars or trains that don’t have great head or neck support, a lightweight pillow can make or break your travel. We like inflatable ones with a soft cover since they are light and not space hogs. They collapse to nothing, can be adjusted for firmness, and help to hold the head in a comfortable position when sleeping while seated.
There are a million variations on travel neck pillows, with the U-shaped neck version being the most common. Therese has found two different types work well for her (since carrying a bulky neck pillow is a non-starter): The long, cross-body, inflatable Travelrest allows you to “snuggle” with it and lean your head to the side on it in a car, plane or wherever. Then, there is the compact, fleece “HandyCosy” that uses a strap to wrap right around your neck so it stays with you – you can even sleep horizontally with it. We also have used the Cocoon Lumbar Pillow which does exactly what its name indicates, and a bit more. Read our review of it here.
Added clothing for travel comfort
Why do airlines almost always keep the AC on frigid? Either that or on Sahara hot. Therese likes to hedge her bets and be prepared for the ice box with layers to take on and off to stay comfortable and warm. Her travel comfort gear clothing list includes the following:
Vest or other light sweater – Yes, Michael actually just called Therese the “vest queen,” which she supposes she is. Thing is, vests to keep your core insulated are usually all you need. Therese prefer ones that will zip up to or onto her neck for that extra bit of travel comfort protection as needed. Then, at your destination, it can be used alone, or under or over other layers. Very multifunctional!
Scarf – If Therese is the queen of vests, then she is of scarves too. “I never travel without one!” Therese says. This does not mean some cashmere or wooly or fleecy thing, but even a lighter weight one (albeit not silky fine) that can wrap around your neck a couple of times. You look stylish and you stay warm too. A scarf is sometimes all she needs for extra travel comfort.
Extra socks – Why should you pack extra socks? On long-haul flights taking off your shoes to keep circulation going for warmth and then pulling on some extra socks can keep your feet warmer, while also protecting you from the grime and germs of the floors and bathrooms. In business and first class, airlines still provide socks to guests for this very reason. We like lighter ones we can just rinse easily at our destination and use again.
Gloves – Wait, did we say wear gloves? On a plane? While we don’t personally — Therese really adores a top with a thumb hole to pull down over her wrists for that little extra snuggly touch — we do know some people who get cold enough that light gloves help them with travel comfort.