China’s financial center Shanghai might be a glamorous city of lights but its Pudong International Airport is a utilitarian facility whose subtle hello contrasts with Shanghai’s intensity. Even the lounges are… well, practical without any of the spectacle that awaits you in China’s largest city.
Headphones are a lot like mobile phones – a lot of size variation and features but at the core performing the same basic function. What you really want from a good pair of headphones when traveling is excellent sound quality, particularly in noisy environments like airplane cabins. Lightweight reliability in a discreet package are all also assets the Bose QuietComfort 20 Noise-Cancelling combines elegantly.
What There Is To Love (Hint: A Lot)
Although I’ve been using the QuietComfort 20 headphones as my primary pair for the past few years, before I first put them on I was skeptical. Mostly because these aren’t cheap headphones coupled with the fact that I thought all headphones are pretty much the same. They are not.
First let’s start with the earbuds themselves; Bose has shaped the QuietComfort silicone ear tips in an unorthodox design to maximize comfort. These replaceable ear tips (the QuietComfort come with two pair) make the headphones themselves barely perceptible after a few minutes while at the same time doing an excellent job of cutting out ambient noise. (Not to be mistaken with the actual active noise-cancelling feature. More on that in a bit.)
Another small feature I wouldn’t have noticed if I didn’t put my own QuietComfort pair through traveler hell, is the small metal band around where the headphone cable meets the earbud. Those of you who’ve ever had this happen to a Macbook charger probably know that a lot of gadgets die because of cable fray. You end up spending a lot of money to replace something that an extra millimeter or two of rubber could have prevented if the manufacturer had bothered to design something you’re actually going to use. Bose has made the QuietComfort 20 to last, here, take a look at mine after more than 45,000 miles of flights:
On the other end of the cable though is the most enticing feature of the QuietComfort 20: electronic noise cancellation.
Once You Experience Noise-Cancelling You Won’t Fly Without It
The small little rectangular block at the base of the QuietComfort 20 headphone jack is actually a rechargeable battery pack, powering the noise-cancelling feature. Basically, noise cancellation reads the sound waves around you and eliminates them by producing inverse waves. Understanding how it works isn’t really important to know that once activated, the music coming through your headphones now sounds like you’re listening in a quiet room, even if you’re in a jumbo jet at cruising altitude.
Noise cancellation isn’t perfect, there is a slight buzz and perceivable pressure, plus really high pitch noises seem not to get blocked as easily. The low hum of train wheels on tracks however, perfect.
The lithium ion battery lasts 16 hours when charged full, a process that takes about 2 hours. Unfortunately the battery isn’t replaceable but Bose says you can get 3 years of continuous use before you’ll notice a decrease in battery life. Of course, you don’t need noise cancelling to use these headphones but after getting use to it, you’ll find flying without it on nearly unbearable.
A Price For The Peace
Though the QuietComfort 20 aren’t waterproof or specially designed for use during sports, I’ve found them to be decent jogging headphones. Additionally, Bose has done a good job of adding practical functions to the QuietComfort. For instance it’s got a high quality microphone, embedded volume control, plus a little button for a fast way to temporarily stop noise cancelling (like when you need to hear a boarding call). Voted the 2015 Traveler’s Choice by Tripadvisor, these Bose headphones can also eliminate ambient noise when nothing is playing; they don’t even need to be plugged in. You can get better naps on bus journeys, concentrate on work, a good book, or pensively zone out as you watch the sunset on a train ride across England.
Yes, the Bose QuietComfort 20 are expensive at $299, but for a product this well built that will get – and can handle – heavy use, it’s worth spending more for the QuietComfort than 3 other pair of cheaper earbuds over the same time. Simply put, the Bose QuietComfort 20 Acoustic Noise Cancelling are the best headphones a traveler can buy today.
Istanbul’s Ataturk Airport is one of the world’s busiest (13th internationally) with over 56 million passengers traveling through in 2014. With so many people, long lines aren’t uncommon but this little tip can get you around big delays and on to your gate much faster than everyone else.
When you arrive in the departures area, immediately to the left of the large flight status display hanging on the wall is passport control, then airport security. Almost everyone goes through here and lines are 10-20 minutes or longer at peak hours.
Instead, skip this passport control and keep walking left, passin Nero Cafe on your right, following the restroom sign. You’ll notice not too much further down is another, nearly deserted, passport control and security check.
This alternate entrance is there to accommodate nearby check-in counters for Al Algerie and other lesser traveled African airlines. What this means is there’s is almost never a line at this passport control and you’ll get through it plus security on average in 3-5 minutes.
Staying in shape is hard enough when you’re not traveling all over the world but there are a lot of covert exercises you can do in an airport that are challenging enough to be worthwhile.
Get Your Tracking Software Ready
Before getting started you want to make sure you’re able to keep track of the mini-workout ahead of you. Walking is an important exercise anywhere and most airports are large enough for a good 5 kilometer warm up. iOS users, here’s how you can enable the Health app on your iPhone, which will show you the number of steps you’ve taken plus distance walked. Android users, the free app Runtastic is a good choice.
Now you’ll know exactly how much walking around you’ve actually done – since we’re all terrible at estimating important things like travel budgets. Be sure also to do little speed ‘boosts’ in your walking, accelerating for intervals. In an airport you’ll blend in as another late passenger rushing for flight.
Squeeze And Flex
Fitness expert Yasmin Al-Atrache recommends incorporating glute squeezes and core flexes into your airport walk at intervals you’re comfortable with. One variation of the glute squeeze is essentially flexing your butt cheeks as hard as you can for 15-30 seconds at a time. For every 2 minutes of your walk, stop and glute squeeze, for a total of 10 times.
To extend of mix up the muscles engaged during an airport workout, incorporate core flexes. Much like glute squeezes, a core flex is tightening the muscles in your smooshy belly region as hard as you can for 15-30 seconds.
These aren’t the most covert motions to pull off admittedly but they are effective, burning about 90 calories every 10 minutes (without a backpack on). 5 sets of 30 seconds each while maintaining correct posture as shown below will make you feel a bit less guilty about that fancy flavored latte you drank before entering the security line.
Keep Up The Burn
More conspicuous are wall push ups, which look a lot like stretching, perhaps masking any anxiety you may feel about working out in an airport.
You can mix these in with the other exercises mentioned above at 2 minute intervals of your walk, 10-20 times each should push your heart rate higher. (Heart Rate, $1.99 on iOS and Instant Heart Rate, free for Android, use your mobile phone flash to establish a pre and post-workout pulse to make sure you are pushing yourself adequately.)
Know Your Limits
Obviously an airport workout like this is more about maintenance and health, since there’s only so much strength training you can do without heavy weights or significant sweating. Don’t count on eating whatever you want after sightseeing either – wandering around tourist sites burns far fewer calories than you think. In case you won’t be training Brazilian jiu-jitsu in Rio, you can maintain intense workouts with these backpack accessories, bicep curl a backpack full of gadgets, or burn 50 calories in 5 minutes with this hotel room workout.