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Innovation Insights by Stephen Shapiro

I am on the road nearly 200 days a year. With over 30 years of travel under my belt, I’ve discovered many simple and free ways to make your travel more enjoyable. Here are my four favorites. I hope you like them as they’ve made my life a lot better.

Keeping Window Shades Closed

After a long flight, it feels to great to hop into bed for a good night’s sleep. Although I typically need to wake up relatively early the next day, sometimes the sun wakes up before I need to. The bright light shining through curtains that are not completely closed is sure to wake me up. How do you keep the shades tightly closed? I used to travel with clothes pins or chip clips, when I realized that I could use the clips on the hangers provided in most hotel closets. Simply place the clips where the two shades meet and you will be able to sleep as late as you want.

A Disposable Neck Pillow

This one is technically not 100% free, as you need purchase a beverage. But the hack involves the part of your purchase that you would typically throw away: the bottle. When I don’t want to bring a bulky travel pillow, I find that a bottle placed under my neck is a great substitute. I’ve tried all different types of types of bottles over the years and have found that the shape of a 20 ounce plastic Coke or Diet Coke bottle works best. The indentation hugs your neck and gives you better support than other bottles which have a different shape. It’s up to you if you want to use it full or empty. Full gives it a firm and cold feeling which can be nice on a hot plane. I prefer it empty as it gives a softer feel. If you drink the beverage before take-off and you want a softer pillow, be sure to reopen and close the bottle when you reach cruising altitude. As the plane climbs and the air pressure outside the plane decreases, the bottle will get harder. Of course this means as the plane descends, the bottle will get softer and softer and will start to collapse.

Airplane Lumbar Support and Back Massage

This one also uses the same beverage bottle. But instead of putting it under your neck on the side, you put it at the base of your neck in the back. Press your body against the chair, then lean forward slightly. The bottle will move down your back a couple of inches. Press back again and repeat until the bottle is on your lumbar area. I tend to leave the bottle there for a while as it makes the seat feel more comfortable. Admittedly this one might not be for everyone. But for me, I never board a plane without a Coke bottle for this use.

A Small and Free Clothes Steamer

Although this tip may not make your travels more comfortable, it will make you look better. My clothes get quite wrinkled during a typical trip. Although I don’t mind using the iron on my cotton shirts, I never use one on my wool pants and jackets as it can make them look shiny. Therefore I usually travel with a clothes steamer. Unfortunately even the smallest steamer takes up a good amount of space in my carry on luggage. The alternative? Again this involves a bottle, but not a beverage bottle. Get a small hairspray or other similar refillable spray bottle. After you are done using the contents, don’t dispose of the bottle. Keep it, clean it thoroughly, and use it as a makeshift clothes steamer. Of course you can buy a small, 2 ounce spray bottle for under $1 if you prefer. With your clothes on a hanger, fill the empty bottle with water and lightly spray your clothes. Then, take the hotel’s hair dryer and use it to dry the clothes while gently pulling down on the item to remove the wrinkles. Play with it. It works exceptionally well.

What other clever travel tips do you have that make your trips more comfortable?

This article originally appeared on the Inc. website

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