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Remember when flying was sexy? To be fair, neither do we. But we’ve seen Mad Men. We know that back in the day, the bros were eating beef stroganoff in pinstripe suits and sipping highballs on Pan Am, and frankly, we don’t think it’s fair that air travel in 2022 feels like traveling inside a sad milk carton with off-brand snacks. We deserve better, friends—especially during these wackadoodle COVID-19 times. We deserve to fly with a little more comfort, and a lot more panache.
Why not pull up to LAX in a wearable, duvet-like housecoat, toting a rhinestone-encrusted water bottle and a fresh
strawberry vape pack of gum? Why not take a few extra steps to make your upcoming trips all the better, and impress the person you’re traveling with as you whip out the best KN95 masks out there? Airport chilling is like edging during sex: You’re excited to be on the precipice of your blastoff, but everything you can do to give the buildup more attention and suspense makes the whole experience so much better. Plus, making your ‘rona-protection, pre-flight purchases outside of the airport will cost way less and feel more luxurious than getting your credit card declined at Hudson News. The only thing that could ever calm us down on a Spirit Airlines flight is a squirt of Aesop hand sanitizer, a memory foam neck pillow, and a suitcase that rolls better than the hottie from the Scottish Olympic curling team.
While COVID restrictions are starting to relax in many states post-‘Cron surge, they remain largely in place for air travel. So maybe you’re booking a long-delayed vacation, and looking for non-ugly masks to wear in airplanes, or the best sanitizer that won’t give you lizard skin; perhaps you’re on the hunt for anxiety-reducing gadgets, or a vaccine card holder to stay organized. Whatever you may need in your travels, here are some of our favorite products for making flying during the pandemic feel easier (and safer).
The most effective face masks
Any face covering is better than no face covering, but at this point in the pandemic, why would you wear anything less than the face masks that have been proven to provide the best protection? We’ve broken down the pros and cons of KN95s, N95s, and KN94s, and some of our favorites include the all-black KN95s, because they go with everything and don’t make us feel like we’re wearing a face diaper, and these neon-loop, black KN95 masks that we can (actually) tell apart from our roommate’s.
Mask lanyards kick ass
Travel days have a talent for making us lose our shit in every sense of the word, and something as simple as a mask lanyard will keep things rolling smoothly. This tortoiseshell lanyard by Zeelool would look so chic with a black KN95.
The best neck pillows
We thought travel neck pillows were for chumps for the longest time. But we were reckless, bendy spring chickens back then, flying from cramped hostel to cramped hostel without a care in the world. Now that we’re getting older and feeling a tad less pliable, the guaranteed comfort of a wearable pillow is a welcome relief. Did you know that every inch that our melon head moves out of vertical alignment, another 10 pounds of pressure are applied to the neck? Noooo thank you. That’s where brands such as Cabeau come in with a 4.4-star rated neck pillow that’s described by some reviewers as “a lifesaver in the middle seat” thanks to its comfy, memory foam material.
Or maybe you’d like to silently declare yourself the Amy Sedaris of the flight? In that case, here’s a jumbo shrimp neck pillow that will give you sweet Worcestershire sauce and lemon wedge dreams.
Sanitizer that doesn’t smell like a tire
Of course you can buy hand sanitizer at the airport, but it will cost you thrice the amount of your well-earned doll hairs and won’t make you smell like a rich person. Why not add a little sploosh of luxury to those hard-working hands? Aesop is the herbaceous brand loved by everyone from the Kardashians to my Midwestern mom, and their sani smells of mandarin rind, rosemary, cedar, and great credit.
The futuristic wellness brand OEM also makes a fast-evaporating, non-sticky hand sanitizer with an original Hinoki scent profile that smells like “fresh air, paper, dry woods, fresh linens, pine needles, and a hint of lemon tea,” so that you can feel like you’re walking through a calm Japanese forest instead of schlepping through LaGuardia airport.
Small bottles are cool and all, but this odorless vial of JustHuman’s hand sanitizer makes us feel like we’re in Grey’s Anatomy, and it has a 4.5-star rating on Amazon. “I have chemical sensitivities and the nose of a bloodhound,” writes one happy customer, “and this is the first hand sanitizer I’ve ever found that is totally odorless and doesn’t give me a headache.”
Keep your vax card fresh
If you don’t have a vaccine card holder yet, you truly live on the edge. We love that about you, but you can only store your vax card in your bra for so long. Find a proper vaccine card case, for the love of Shrek—they’re even making them in the Pantone color of the year now, and this affordable holder will also stash your ID and credit card for easy access when it’s time to order a Bloody Mary from the flight attendant.
The best on-the-go sanitizer wipes
We like to think that Daddy Sagan would want you to wipe down your seat, before you cozy up to a few hours of Cosmos on JetBlue. FLYGIENE makes some of the most coveted sanitizing wipes on Amazon with a 4.6-star rating, and reviews praising the fact that “they come in a resealable plastic bag, so you can keep them all together, and just grab the one you need, or split them all in your purse, backpack, luggage, car, office drawer, etc.”
Protect your mask, because it protects you
There’s nothing worse than dropping your mask in your airport chili, or having a perfectly crisp N95 get all musty after sitting in the bottom of your backpack. Keep your masks as fresh as possible with this carrying case, which reviewers say is “perfect for carrying several masks: either cloth, disposable or both.”
An at-home rapid COVID-19 test
You never know when you’re going to need to do a little nose swaberoni, and while the US government is providing four free at-home rapid tests for every household, it’s always a good idea to have a self-administering rapid test in your luggage, and this set of two tests is both compact and FDA and EUA-authorized.
Fidget toys for nervous flyers
Sniffles have never felt more stressful, man. Even the most innocent of sneezes could be madame ‘rona, and some people just turn airplane time into an alternate reality in which they can act extra weird, chatty, and disgusting—so yes, if you have in-flight anxiety, you might really enjoy having a fidget toy to disassociate a little bit. Many ASMR-worthy fidget toys have come for the fidget spinner’s crown, but we think this incognito pen-turned-fidget-toy is the coolest for the plane. You can use it to annotate your books, make a mini-motorcycle, or scribble that weird “S” thing everyone drew in school on your sleeping neighbor’s hand.
Clear toiletry and makeup bags
I was once rightfully chewed out at an airport in Germany because I forgot that some security checks require all carry-on liquids to be visible. If only I had used this trio of TSA-approved toiletry bags, I might’ve escaped the verlegenheit.
A collapsible water bottle
No more getting swindled by those $7 Dasanis. Your airport coinage should be reserved for kitsch keychains, duty-free treasures, and unhinged gossip rags only. This collapsible water bottle by Que has a unique, spiral design that takes up very little space in your precious carry-on, but is easily expandable for filling up at the fountain.
Earplugs that are concert-approved
Earplugs, like neck pillows, are another underrated lifesaver when traveling—and if you swear that you just don’t like them, chances are you’ve probably only ever had the uncomfortable orange niblets handed to you at shows. Rec Room editor Hilary Pollack wrote an honest review of Loop’s earplugs, which helped her survive three hardcore shows and a metal festival in bliss. “Not only do they look like cool Klingon jewelry,” she writes, “but Loop’s earplugs reduce volume instead of rendering your surroundings a muffled mess.” Absolutely perfect for when you need to drown out any screaming bébés or in-flight Karens, but don’t want to be completely unaware of your surroundings.
A silky eye mask
This mulberry silk eye mask by Brooklinen has become a favorite among our editors for its cool, smooth feel, reminding us that when it comes to silk—real silk—your skin can feel the difference. This is the kind of eye mask that will live on your nightstand, will be a lifesaver on the plane, and will come in handy if the lighting in your hotel room or Airbnb is weird. Never underestimate the power of being able to block out the world for a little snooze time.
Safe travels. Bring us back a shot glass souvenir?
The Rec Room staff independently selected all of the stuff featured in this story.