Cervical Collar As Travel Pillow
There was an article in the WSJ by Nancy Keates about travel pillows, with expensive (and supposedly brilliant choices) that all seemed ugly and borderline-helpful, if at all. The best option was in the comments section with the piece. A reader named Bruce Quinn wrote:
I live in California and frequently work on the East Coast. That means I either fly from 3 pm (pacific) to 10 or 11 pm (eastern) or take a red eye flight. The usual "C" shaped pillows sold in airports don't do anything for me. I use a regular foam/velcro neck brace which costs $10-15. The term of art is "cervical collar" - foam with a velcro closure. Carried by some drug stores or easily available from that giant mail order site that begins with "A" and sounds like a river. It's what you use for a "sprained neck" but keep your head up for sleeping on night flights. It's a fraction of the cost of any specialized doo-dad (as reviewed here) and works just great for me. Embarassment factor - well, the lights are off and I'm asleep. Don't forget to add foam ear plugs and an eye mask.
From The New York Times, in an article about gifts for the frugal traveler, Seth Kugel writes:
When I wrote in September about the science of sleeping in planes -- and in particular, how hard it was to sleep sitting up because your brain can't fully rest when it's charged with keeping your head from flopping over -- several readers suggested a foam cervical collar, the kind you see on people with whiplash. I tried out the one pictured, not on a plane but on a nonreclining chair in my apartment, and had a really great nap. Of course, there was no one climbing over me to go to the lavatory, but that's another problem.
I love the goofy picture of the $12.99 collar they show at Amazon:
(They linked to the "firm" one, so that's what I got, in small, for $10 plus, I think, $5 shipping.)
If you can afford it, I'd also add what Santa Gregg got me -- the gift of silence: Bose QC15 asshole-cancelling headphones (or, as they're sold, "noise-cancelling"). They block out a huge amount of noise, especially the low bass and wearing them means I can sleep when I need to, no matter who's doing laundry or tearing up the street with a jackhammer down the block. Of course, I figured out that I need to sleep with the c-shaped airplane pillow (the thick velour-covered kind from the airport, not the "memory foam" kind) on top of my pillow so I can lie on my side. (The donut hole fits the earpiece and the top part goes out the open neck part!)
UPDATE: A few years into being with Gregg, he showed me this pillow in the SkyMall catalogue -- which I bought.
I reminded him of that this morning, and how he refused to sit next to me if I ever used it.
Gregg corrected me: "I didn't refuse to sit with you; I refused to get on the plane with you."