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TravelHaven Tips – Five Air Travel Essentials

With air carriers eliminating amenities like free snacks and drinks and increasing fees for anything they do provide, like in-cabin entertainment and ‘comfort supplies’ (blankets and pillows), passengers better pack their own kit. Here are some suggestions from The Street’s Jason Notte.

Water bottle
Yes, TSA staff will confiscate a water bottle – if it contains liquid. But an empty bottle poses no threat and should go right on through with your carry-on. Whether it’s a fancy sports bottle or a re-cycle from the supermarket shouldn’t matter (clear is probably your best bet though). Once you’ve passed the checkpoint, you can refill for free at the airport water fountain, instead of paying $2 to $3 per cup of beverage on some flights.

Bar food
No, not pretzels and beer-nuts. We’re talking food in bar form – like granola bars, protein bars, candy bars. More and more airlines are charging even for a bag with a few tasteless crackers. Bag snacks like cookies and chips are fragile and take up too much room in your carry-on. Security shouldn’t have any problem with the bars.

E-reader
The average e-reader isn’t a lot bigger than a smartphone. Models from Amazon (Kindle), Barnes & Noble’s (Nook) and Sony (Reader) are priced between $140 and $200. For travelers, the biggest benefit over smartphones and even tablets is battery-life of days, rather than hours for their closest cousins.

Their large capacity (1500 books or more) will ensure entertainment through even the longest weather delay and more books are easy to download as long as there’s a wifi connection. They can also pull up periodicals. Most are also equipped with MP3 players, dictionaries and translators and slip easily into any carry-on.

Noise-canceling headphones
Sure, the plastic earphones that came with your MP3 player can pipe sound to your noggin. So why pay extra for fancy headphones? Well, will those earplugs screen out a seatmate’s chatter, the whine of a jet engine or a toddler, or Regis Philbin on the TV at the gate?

Besides, one-size-fits-all earbuds really don’t. They can slip out of big ears and hurt little ones. A decent pair of headphones is much more comfortable. Check them out.

A pillow-and-blanket pack
Some airlines have decided that you should pay up to $15 for the pillow and blanket they supply – if they even supply them. And you just might want them if you’re stuck in a drafty terminal, trying to sleep on a steel-and-plastic bench. Several companies make sets that fit into small tote bags for as little as $15. You always know you have them, not to mention you know whose head has been on them.