If vacationers are already going to pay more for summer travel, they may as well pay to make it better.
NEW YORK MainStreet -- If vacationers are already going to pay more for summer travel, they may as well pay to make it better.
Airlines have already attempted six fare hikes this year, with Delta(:DAL) alone attempting to boost prices three times since January. Delta was only successful once, but alleged "discount" carriers Southwest(:LUV) and JetBlue(:JBLU) were behind the only other two fare increases that stuck.
All together, domestic airline ticket prices have risen between $20 and $40 this year regardless of fuel prices or demand. Since passengers' wallets aren't weighing them down anymore, they may want to consider springing for the following 10 items to cope with the stress and small spaces the airlines are charging a premium for:
Why buy a $10 pair of Maxell headphones or a $300 Beats Studio By Dr. Dre headset when a pair of earplugs will do? Because the big boys are padded and won't stick in your ears and irritate them when you're drifting to sleep, won't slip out of your ears just as a baby starts wailing and won't allow an airline to rob you of $5 to $10 more of your dollars for the privilege of hearing their radio stations.
Why an e-reader instead of a smartphone or tablet? Three reasons: Size, price and battery power. At six to eight inches and five to 12 ounces, the low-end version of Amazon's(:AMZN) Kindle, Barnes & Noble's(:BKS) Nook and Sony(:SNE) Reader can be had for half the price of a smartphone and a fraction of the cost of a tablet. Meanwhile, the Nook can hold charge for more than 10 days, the Sony reader for two weeks and a Wi-Fi-only Kindle for three weeks to a month.
A water bottle
Isn't there an alternative to paying $3 to $4 for a bottle of Coca-Cola(:KO) Dasani or Pepsi(:PEP) Aquafina at the terminal or $2 to $3 for drinks on the plane? Yep. Bring an empty water bottle in your carry-on and fill it at a fountain once you get through security. Problem solved, wallet fatter.
In-flight meals now go for between $2 and $11, while in-flight snacks are as extinct as Pan-Am -- airline and television show. But when cookies and chips crumble and fruits bruise in your carry-on bag, what's an ideal snack that won't leave you riding out a sugar high? Go with a granola or protein bar. They're highly malleable and a lot more portable than bananas or bags of chips.
A pillow-and-blanket pack
Airlines charge between $7 and $15 for those little threadbare blankets and pillows that once lived in the overhead compartments, but Amazon is teeming with tote-sized travel sleep kits from Travelpro, Lewis N. Clark and other companies that go for $15 to $23 and even come with blindfolds and earplugs.
An airplane cabin is basically a giant dehumidifier that turns your skin into the dermatological equivalent of dried apricots. Unless you want your loved one to kiss trail mix when you finally arrive at the terminal, bring a small bag filled with lip balm, moisturizer and other products that can be accessed easily from outside the carry-on.
The Knee Defender
Because when the person in front bought their ticket, they paid for a seat and not your lap. If you're a solid 6-foot-2 and the entitled little 5-footer in front of you still thinks your in-flight meal is best enjoyed through osmosis, the Knee Defender's two small-but-sturdy clips will keep the offender in his or her locked and upright position.
The discussion of seat reclining doesn't have to be so confrontational if it can be avoided altogether. Though most airlines have monetized the old tall-person tricks of sitting in an exit row or near a bulkhead, TripAdvisor's SeatGuru site can still help passengers find a little extra legroom and avoid seats with reduced shoulder room or cold spots.
A terminal map
If you're going to be stuck during a layover or a delay, it helps to know where the nearest food stand or TGI Friday's is. Either check out your airport's website or visit a site such as Airport Terminal Maps to find restaurants, lounges, showers, nail salons or Wi-Fi hotspots before the panicked masses beat you to them.
An exercise regimen
The folks in coach may be cramped and hunched into ridiculously unnatural positions for hours at a time, but they shouldn't be cowering in fear of blood clots and other foes of the sedentary flier. The American Physical Therapy Association suggests a series of heel raises, toe lifts, ankle circles, overhead stretches and other tight-quarters calisthenics to help take the edge off.
-- Written by Jason Notte in Boston.
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