July 22, 2024

Adventure Destinations League

Navigating Travel Wonders

Air Travel is Chaos. This Gear Will Help Get You Through the Exasperating Delays.

Flight cancellations. Traffic jams. Train delays. Is any mode of transportation safe from massively frustrating obstacles? It seems not. Airline travelers felt the effects of staff shortages during summer 2023 with increased delays, and extreme demand during the 2022 holiday season, which culminated in thousands of travelers stranded due to flight cancellations. And there’s no guarantee that travel this winter will be without interruptions.

If this is the new normal of travel, the only way to make it through endless hours stranded in a terminal is to plan ahead. By packing the perfect carry-on (complete with an extra outfit in the event of lost baggage), you’ll have everything you need to make the delay a little more tolerable. Here’s the gear we’d bring to get through the stress and frustration of a travel delay.

A portable phone charger

This power bank is small and light, and its rounded edges make it easy to slip into a pocket. It comes in only one color, but it has two built-in cables and enough capacity to charge most smartphones up to three times.

Most airports and train terminals have charging stations, but if the area is packed with frustrated travelers trying to juice up their devices, you may not be able to find a free outlet. Bringing along a portable power bank ensures that your devices don’t die before your departure. Compact and lightweight, the Belkin BoostCharge Plus 10K doesn’t take up much space in your carry-on, and it has the ability to charge two devices at once, so no need to play favorites between your phone and tablet.

An uber-long phone charger

This 6.6-foot cable rated for 100 watts performs just as well as Apple’s MacBook Pro charging cable—for about half the price.

A long charging cable is ideal, especially if you do manage to snag a free outlet while preserving your power bank’s reserve. At 6.6 feet, the Cable Matters USB-C to USB-C charging cable will easily snake through airport lounges to juice up your devices. This powerful cord can even recharge large laptops (like the 16-inch MacBook Pro) at full speed. (And if you realize at the last moment that you’ve left your charger at home, here’s some buying advice to keep in mind when you hit up Hudson News.)

A compact travel pillow and an effective eye mask

This space-saving travel pillow is ideal for side sleepers: It’s a fleece scarf with a built-in one-sided plastic brace. It’s not ideal for folks who shift position while they sleep, but side-sleepers will love its comfort and convenience.

This silken eye mask feels wonderfully soft against the skin, and the adjustable strap fits it to almost any face.

If you have hours (or an entire night) to wait out before a flight, a nap may help stave off crankiness. A cozy travel pillow, along with an eye mask to block out harsh fluorescent lights, can turn an uncomfortable situation into a slightly more comfortable one. The Trtl Pillow, ideal for side sleepers, supports your head from one side. It’s essentially a scarf with a plastic plate in it, so it packs down to the size of a sandwich and lays flat against the back of your bag. The Alaska Bear sleep mask, made of soft mulberry silk, breathes even when pressed against the skin and blocks external light well. You might not get the best sleep of your life, but some rest is better than none.

A reusable water bottle

The spout on this bottle is easy to drink from (and simpler to use than a sports cap), and the flip lid stays secure and out of your face.

Sipping from your own bottle while waiting for your flight beats refilling the crushed plastic water bottle you overpaid for at the terminal. The Takeya Actives insulated water bottle was a crowd favorite during testing. It excels as a commuter bottle: Its plastic top features a spout with a twist-on flip cap, so you can drink on the go without the worry of water dribbling down your chin.

A calming game for the Nintendo Switch

This Nintendo Switch game offers mellow music, soothing colors, and undemanding gameplay.

Certain video games can be a great way to relax. Trade the chaos of the airport for a calming island that’s all your own. In the Nintendo Switch favorite Animal Crossing: New Horizons, you are plunked down onto a deserted island that you construct over time. If the idea of spending a few hours fishing, gardening, and catching bugs sounds like a soothing reprieve, this game (or something similar) may be for you.

A way to read (or listen) to books

Amazon’s most affordable Kindle is also its most portable, with a 6-inch screen that has finally been upgraded with a higher pixel density for sharper text and support for USB-C charging. Those features bring it in line with far more expensive e-readers. The Kids version costs an extra $20 but comes with a slew of perks that make it an excellent option if you can spend a little more.

An audio subscription from Audible includes a monthly credit for one ebook, along with two free original stories.

If you lean on books to get you through bouts of boredom, an e-reader is monumental. We recommend the Amazon Kindle (2022): It has a massive, affordable ebook catalog, and the ability to connect to your library. The Kindle is also able to play audiobooks if you’re a hybrid reader who likes to switch between the two. For folks who strongly prefer audiobooks, an Audible subscription is ideal. Each month, subscribers get access to one audiobook and two Audible originals. All you need is a good book and a pair of noise-cancelling headphones to enjoy.

Fun card games

Unleash chaos in the airport with a round of Coup. It plays quickly, packs up small enough to easily fit in most bags, and encourages you to betray your friends.

If you’re traveling with a buddy, kill time with a card game that whips up some friendly rivalry. Coup, which hinges on deceit, ticks all the boxes a good travel game should: It’s small enough to fit in your bag, it doesn’t take up too much space on a table, and it’s a quick play, with rounds lasting around 15 minutes.

Good noise-cancelling headphones (or earbuds)

The Bose 700 over-ear headphones provide excellent noise cancellation in a comfortable, lightweight design that’s traveler friendly.

This wireless pair of earbuds offers excellent noise cancellation, great sound, long battery life, and lots of extra features for an affordable price. But the touch controls are slightly limited.

Terminals are hectic, especially after mass delays and cancellations. Tuning out the noise can help you keep calm in a stressful situation, but you’ll want to make sure you don’t completely block out helpful announcements. The Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 are great because you have the option to turn off noise cancellation to be more aware of your surroundings. The Soundcore Space A40, a pair of noise-cancelling earbuds, is a more affordable option that offers good sound, and a 40-hour battery life. Once you’re officially en route to your destination, you can flip the noise-cancelling feature back on to drown out your surroundings and dial into your favorite comfort Netflix watch.

An app that helps you breathe through it

This user-friendly meditation app can hopefully bring you a moment of calm with its warm colors, adorable illustrations, and range of sessions.

A quick meditation session can help melt the tension from your shoulders. Headspace offers a large variety of meditations; we love the guided sessions for beginners, but the app also provides less-structured programming for pros. With a good pair of headphones, you can almost pretend you’re relaxing on a white sand beach and not in a hard-back chair outside a Hudson News.

This article was edited by Annemarie Conte and Ben Frumin.