So here's a travel tip I picked up while travelling overseas recently — if you're planning to take your own pillow aboard an aeroplane, be prepared to cop an inordinate amount of abuse from complete strangers. Especially if it's a big'un.
Aeroplane pillow picture from Shutterstock
Last week, I travelled to San Jose, California to attend Nvidia's GPU Technology Conference. Like most economy passengers, I wasn't particularly relishing the 14+ hour flight in cramped, uncomfortable conditions. It's one of the most painful first world problems in existence.
In a bid to make the trip more tolerable, I decided to bring a pillow as part of my carry-on luggage. As I'm sure most of you will agree, airline pillows are farcically small and essentially useless; much like airline blankets and headphones. To get a proper amount of sleep, something bigger is needed.
Now admittedly, I did overdo it a little. My pillow is one of those enormous boomerang-shaped jobbies that two people can use simultaneously. My reasoning was that I'd be able to fold it over and push it into the gap between the chair and window. In the meantime, I had to carry it slung over my shoulder like a comatose, stumpy toddler.
On reflection, I suppose it was a teensy bit precious and/or obnoxious for a grown man to be walking around with an over-sized pillow. Nevertheless, the open hostility this item attracted was not anticipated.
The trouble started almost immediately after entering the airport. The attendant who checked in my luggage wanted to know why I was bringing a pillow. "You know pillows are supplied on your flight, right?" she asked. She gave me the distinct impression that my BYO pillow antics were something she was willing to tolerate: despite being stupid and bordering on wrong.
While walking through the terminal, I could feel unfriendly eyes on me. On more than one occasion I overheard people talking about me. I'm pretty sure someone said "check out that dickhead with the pillow." Yep. I was the airport dickhead. For daring to take a pillow on a plane.
Things came to a head while going through immigration. The officer I dealt with seemed downright angry in the presence of my pillow. He literally asked me if I wanted the airline to tuck me in and read me a bedtime story during my flight. No really. This is a thing that actually happened. In an attempt to diffuse the weirdness, I asked if he could throw in a warm milk too. He didn't laugh. HE DIDN'T LAUGH.
This was definitely the low-point, but the whispering, pointing and sniggering didn't stop. Me and my pillow were bad juju. In conclusion, you need to have a pretty thick skin to take your own pillow on an international flight. Everyone else should try some of these sleep hacks for long-distance flights instead.
Incidentally, I still took the pillow on my return flight home. Who cares what stuck-up airline passengers think?
What's the weirdest item you've ever attempted to take on a plane with you? Share your stories in the comments section below.