Yes, of course, it sounds glamorous flying from Wellington to Norway and back for a week on a work trip. But you try doing it. It's a recipe for exhaustion.

It was with all those hours in economy weighing on my mind that an email advertising a Kickstarter fundraising programme for the Travelmat by Thermalay dropped into my inbox last month.

Accompanied by a lovably amateurish video made by its inventor, Kaitaia-based globe-trotter James Bounsell, the Travelmat came with the sort of claim that is almost impossible to resist: it had placed second in the "Best New Innovation of 2018" at the annual Travel Goods Show in Las Vegas, beaten only by a robotic suitcase.

In exchange for a very reasonable $45, James sent me a prototype of the Travelmat, which is essentially a foam pad that turns an economy class seat into a much more comfortable economy class seat and includes a surprisingly effective alternative to a neck pillow, and sprouts a couple of snails' tentacles from the top of the pad.


Inside these two extensions are memory foam, which not only creates a more effective neck pillow than the usual sort, but allows all sorts of different head, neck, back and under-thigh support options. Given the tendency to get one of more cricks of some sort at some stage on any long-haul flight, this variety of deployments is one of the Travelmat's best features.

Not to mention the fact that it came in very handy on an unscheduled two-hour mini-van ride when the flight from Oslo to Stavanger was diverted to a town two hours and a ferry ride away. It also greatly improved an uncomfortably soft Norwegian hotel bed.

Admittedly, the Travelmat will make you something of a figure of fun. It packs down as a small bedroll, so unrolling it on the plane provokes a few comments and reduced the nervous flyer beside me to helpless laughter as I first wrestled the "tentacles" into position.

However, the fact that an Emirates crew member was among the most enthusiastic would-be purchasers, pressing me for website details suggests the Travelmat may find a ready market.

Kickstarter enthusiasts certainly thought so. Bounsell raised A$31,365 to get the first container-loads to New Zealand, Australia and the US under way, slightly ahead of the funding target he'd set.

Travelmat by Thermalay Cost: $45