Airlines and hotels are trying to minimize the din. Enter child-free zones, noise- cancelling headphones, and other creative measures.

What is the one mistake made by hotel websites the world over? Answer: we are always shown what their bedrooms look like with the lights on. Who cares? I`m there to sleep, so I want to know what I will see once I hit the light switch. Ideally, the picture will be completely black, with sounds of silence as accompaniment. I`m not alone here. The annual hotel guest satisfaction study from JD Power and Associates consistently lists noise as the number one complaint.


Acoustics are challenging for airlines too. Noise-cancelling headphones in first and business class have been around for years; now they are appearing farther down the plane, on such carriers as Air New Zealand. All Nippon Airways, and Qantas. Noise-haters can also nod their approval for Virgin Atlantic, which has used a “whispering coach” to train cabin crew to communicate at 20-30 decibels instead of the normal conversational level of 60-70 decibels. And quiet mavens will silently salute a growing trend for child-free zones (Malaysia Airlines and AirAsia X) and even child-free flights (Ryan Air).

On the ground, many trains have “quiet cars,” where passengers are not supposed to use mobile phones or speak above a whisper. My experience with such rules: They don`t work. Too many folks seem to think the restrictions apply to everyone else but them.

Hotels periodically show interest in what should be their number one objective: providing a decent night`s sleep. Some are truly committed to the cause. The Benjamin in New York, for example, offers guests their money back if they don`t sleep as well as they do at home. Some hotels, though, make a big noise about sleep and then, unlike their bedrooms, go quiet. Last year, one global brand trumpeted the trial of additional soundproofing- and even sound-absorbing headboards to muffle the snores of bed partners. All splendid stuff. I rang the chain`s press office to ask about a rollout to its hundreds of properties. “Nothing`s been taken forward,” I was told. “It`s not a priority”.

Since sleep happens to be a priority of mine, I book a room away from elevators and ice machines, pack an eye mask and ear plugs, and use towels to cover up those annoying little power lights on televisions and other devices. This, however, is a war one cannot win. Ask for a room at the rear of the property, away from the traffic, and you can guarantee it will be directly above the kitchen ventilators. And wherever you lay your head, that sales team celebrating a new account win is sure to parade triumphantly and bibulously past your door at 3am.

Here`s another no-win. Lufthansa says it now has the world`s quietest first-class cabins, thanks to insulation, foam padding under the carpets, and sound-absorbing galley curtains. It`s now quiet enough to hear people sleeping. ”We get remarks about snoring,” says a Lufthansa spokesperson.

So to all acousticophobics and photophobics (yes, those are official terms), my message is this: We can`t totally eliminate the noise and light, so what needs to change in us. We must learn to tolerate what fate deals. Sounds noble, doesn`t it? The only problem is I haven`t the slightest idea how to achieve this.

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