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7 Must-Haves for a Comfortable, Easy Flight

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You may only brave the long lines and baggage fees once or twice a year, but you’ll be able to fly like a pro once you steal these travel tricks from frequent fliers. Here are the top gadgets and accessories that travel pros say they never board a plane without—and we’re betting that you’ll want to stow them in your carry-on, too. 

1. NOISE-CANCELLING HEADPHONES

“I often pop them on as soon as I sit down and flip on the noise cancellation feature to help me begin relaxing right away before a long flight,” Zach Honig, editor-in-chief of travel tips website The Points Guy, says of his headphones of choice, Bose's QuietComfort 25 Acoustic Noise Cancelling Headphones. Bose has released a new version (the QuietComfort 35, $350 at Bose.com), but Honig says he still prefers the older model ($299 at Amazon.com), which has been tried and tested—and he knows won’t fail on him mid-flight.

2. PURELL

Honig brings along a travel-size bottle of hand sanitizer that he dangles from his backpack ($26 for a 12-pack at Target.com). “Sometimes, I’ll put some on a napkin and wipe down the seat controls and tray table, but I usually just use it for my hands before each snack or meal,” Honig says.

3. BLOW UP NECK PILLOW

These take up very little space in your bag and can be fully inflated in 30 seconds, says Miami-based Halle Eavelyn, author of the travel memoir Red Goddess Rising, who travels at least every quarter but sometimes monthly to speaking engagements and for vacation. “I use them once and then they fold into my same little travel case when I’m done,” Eavelyn says.

4. FACE MASK

An airplane cabin is so dry that it absorbs moisture from anywhere it can, including your skin, says Ava Shamban, a Beverly Hills dermatologist who travels frequently for work. “To combat dry air and fight aging at the same time, use an ultra-hydrating product to revive your skin post-travel. Since it’s a little difficult to do the face mask on the plane, it’s best to do this one as soon as you get to your hotel.

5. EYE MASK

While many airlines pass out eye masks these days (or have them available for purchase mid-flight), one pro goes a step further by bringing his own fluffy one that’s a step above the rest. Johnny Jet, Los Angeles-based founder of Johnnyjet.com, travels around 150,000 miles annually—but he doesn’t go anywhere without a Lewis & Clarke eye mask ($8.99 at Lewisnclark.com), which is plush and blocks all the light.

6. MELATONIN

This is a must for Eavelyn, who pops a pill of the sleep-regulating hormone the minute the flight leaves. “Get into the new time zone the minute you take off, no matter what the airline is telling you by their cabin lights and meal times,” she says. “It also helps with jet lag, so I keep taking it the first few nights I’m traveling.”

7. A CHANGE OF CLOTHES

Eavelyn says she always brings a change of clothes in case her bags don’t arrive with her—and if you're checking the majority of your baggage, it's smart to pack more than one outfit (including clean socks and underwear) in your carry-on. “On long layovers, I also change into those clothes at the airport because it’s a huge refresher,” Eavelyn says.

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The Real Bay of Pigs: Big Major Cay in the Bahamas
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When most people visit the Bahamas, they’re thinking about a vacation filled with sun, sand, and swimming—not swine. But you can get all four of those things if you visit Big Major Cay.

Big Major Cay, also now known as “Pig Island” for obvious reasons, is part of the Exuma Cays in the Bahamas. Exuma includes private islands owned by Johnny Depp, Tyler Perry, Faith Hill and Tim McGraw, and David Copperfield. Despite all of the local star power, the real attraction seems to be the family of feral pigs that has established Big Major Cay as their own. It’s hard to say how many are there—some reports say it’s a family of eight, while others say the numbers are up to 40. However big the band of roaming pigs is, none of them are shy: Their chief means of survival seems to be to swim right up to boats and beg for food, which the charmed tourists are happy to provide (although there are guidelines about the best way of feeding the pigs).

No one knows exactly how the pigs got there, but there are plenty of theories. Among them: 1) A nearby resort purposely released them more than a decade ago, hoping to attract tourists. 2) Sailors dropped them off on the island, intending to dine on pork once they were able to dock for a longer of period of time. For one reason or another, the sailors never returned. 3) They’re descendants of domesticated pigs from a nearby island. When residents complained about the original domesticated pigs, their owners solved the problem by dropping them off at Big Major Cay, which was uninhabited. 4) The pigs survived a shipwreck. The ship’s passengers did not.

The purposeful tourist trap theory is probably the least likely—VICE reports that the James Bond movie Thunderball was shot on a neighboring island in the 1960s, and the swimming swine were there then.

Though multiple articles reference how “adorable” the pigs are, don’t be fooled. One captain warns, “They’ll eat anything and everything—including fingers.”

Here they are in action in a video from National Geographic:

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This 1940 Film on Road Maps Will Make You Appreciate Map Apps Like Never Before
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Douglas Grundy, Three Lions/Getty Images

In the modern era, we take for granted having constantly updated, largely accurate maps of just about every road in the world at our fingertips. If you need to find your way through a city or across a country, Google Maps has your back. You no longer have to go out and buy a paper map.

But to appreciate just what a monstrous task making road maps and keeping them updated was in decades past, take a look at this vintage short film, "Caught Mapping," spotted at the Internet Archive by National Geographic.

The 1940 film, produced by the educational and promotional company Jam Handy Organization (which created films for corporations like Chevrolet), spotlights the difficult task of producing and revising maps to keep up with new road construction and repair.

The film is a major booster of the mapmaking industry, and those involved in it come off as near-miracle workers. The process of updating maps involved sending scouts out into the field to drive along every road and note conditions, compare the roads against topographical maps, and confirm mileage figures. Then, those scouts reported back to the draughtsmen responsible for producing revised maps every two weeks. The draughtsmen updated the data on road closures and other changes.

Once those maps were printed, they were "ready to give folks a good steer," as the film's narrator puts it, quietly determining the success of any road trip in the country.

"Presto! and right at their fingertips, modern motorists can have [information] on any road they wish to take." A modern marvel, really.

[h/t National Geographic]

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