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Gear & Gadgets

Easing the Downs of Flying

February 11, 1996|JUDI DASH

Flying has its ups and downs, from cabin pressures that can build to painful levels in sensitive ears to lights and sounds that make grabbing a little snooze problematic. Add rough baggage handling, and chances are great that either you or your luggage may emerge from a flight out of sorts. Following are some products that may ease the discomforts of flying. Many may be available in local stores. Prices do not include shipping and handling.

Easing ear pain: An estimated 42 million air travelers suffer from ear pain during takeoffs and/or landings each year. The problem is more acute in smaller planes, even though they fly at lower altitudes. EarPlanes are soft silicon rubber earplugs with a filter that slows the speed of air entering the ear so it can gradually adjust to the change in cabin pressure--usually most dramatic on landing. I tried earPlanes on a recent flight while battling a head cold and found that, while I still had to do a lot of chewing and swallowing to keep my ears unclogged, the earplugs did seem to prevent the extreme pain I've felt in the past. The disposable earplugs are recommended for two flights only, after which they should be discarded for health reasons. EarPlanes are recommended for people over 12; children's earPlanes are available for those 5 to 12.

EarPlanes are about $5 in drugstores.

Best-dressed baggage: Lugvelopes are nylon suitcase covers that slip over suitcases to protect them from damage in handling and to thwart thieves. The covers, which are available in a rainbow of colors and variety of styles--from wheel-aboard-bag models to sizes for large standard suitcases--slip over the bag like a tube top with openings at both ends. The ends have pull ties to keep the covers on tight and reinforced toggle clasps with holes for padlocks (not included). The covers won't stop a thief from simply picking up the bag and walking away with it, but rifling through luggage is certainly made more difficult. Since Lugvelopes are as yet not widely marketed, they also provide a nifty way of identifying your bag. I found Lugvelopes work best with standard luggage styles. Wheel-aboard bags required too much maneuvering to get the covers to fully enclose the bag while leaving wheels free to roll. The material kept slipping down over the wheels even after I thought I had the cover in place. Make sure you leave the luggage handle easily accessible; bags are quite unwieldy when totally enclosed in a Lugvelope, a situation to which baggage handlers are unlikely to respond kindly.

Lugvelopes are $29.95 to $39.95 from the manufacturer, Travel Technologies; tel. (800) 982-3239.

Teeth relief: After a long flight, there's nothing quite as unpleasant as that stale, fur feeling in the mouth, particularly after an overnight sleep. Many passengers rush to the restrooms to freshen up, toothbrush in hand. But sometimes the lines are so long or the landing schedule is so abrupt that that solution isn't feasible. That's when a Toothette comes in handy. Working like a disposable toothbrush--but with no water required--this firm, pink foam sponge on a stick is pre-soaked with mint-tasting toothpaste that is activated by your saliva. Slightly abrasive, it removes debris and leaves a fresh taste, like you've just brushed. Toothettes, which are designed for one-time use, come 20 to a package, plenty for an overseas trip. Worked for me.

Toothettes (Item KR519N) are $3.85 for a package of 20 from Magellan's; tel. (800) 962-4943.

Reducing engine drone: The drone of airplane engines hour after hour can be maddening and is often associated with headaches, stress and fatigue. NoiseBusters are headphones programmed to reduce annoying low-frequency airplane noise by producing their own noise on the same frequency but in an opposite phase from the unwanted noise. That sounds complicated, but the effect is to cancel out or reduce the total sound effect. The headphones, which work with a small battery powered controller with a belt clip, allow other sounds--such as talking or movies--to filter through. I tried NoiseBuster on a long-distance flight. I found its own noise hard to get used to at first (I couldn't sleep to it), but it did reduce the engine drone substantially.

NoiseBuster is $99 from the manufacturer, Noise Cancellation Technologies; tel. (800) 278-3526.

Gear & Gadgets appears the first week of every month.

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