Airlines are doing all they can to attract travelers and get people to look past their fears of flying during the Coronavirus pandemic. Alaska Air recently had a BOGO sale on tickets. Malaysia Air is offering unlimited domestic travel for a set price. And United, Delta, and American Airlines waved their fees for flight changes (which used to hover around $200 per incident). You have to admire the hustle – it may be the only way any airline can survive in one of the industries that have suffered the most recently.
If you’ve decided to capitalize on the current deals, or you need to get somewhere that requires air travel this holiday season, you’re probably still worried about spending hours in the closed environments of airports and airplanes during a pandemic. Especially because COVID-19 cases are currently spiking. Just as you were getting the hang of being a smart packer for air travel during normal times, this new virus required an entirely new packing list. Here are things to pack for air travel if you’re heading home for the holidays.
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Extra face masks
If you have a long trip ahead of you, bring several face masks. Wearing the same mask for hours on end can begin to feel stuffy, and grimy. You’ll be glad to change into a fresh one every few hours. If you do opt for disposable face masks, keep in mind one study found their efficacy diminishes after four hours of use.
Comfortable face masks
Try out several types of masks before you travel, and find the one that is the most comfortable. Airplane and airport staff will be very strict about you keeping your mask on at all times, except when eating or drinking. So if you find that you packed a mask that’s too tight or doesn’t breathe well enough, you are in for a long and uncomfortable day. Know your masks, and find one you can comfortably wear for a long time.
Between door handles, conveyor belts, escalator rails, elevator buttons, check-in kiosks, and more, you will touch a lot of surfaces that thousands of other hands touched that day. Bring a big pack of disposable gloves. Take them off to eat, drink, or touch your face (like if you choose to redo your mascara between flights).
Plenty of snacks
Because of staff cutbacks and economic hardship, a lot of airport restaurants have shut down so finding sustenance once you’re in the airport may be difficult. Furthermore, even if you do find it, that may not be the safest option for food. Remember that many hands touch the bags of chips and packaged sandwiches at the kiosk. Consider packing your own food.
Your own pillow
Even though many airlines give out pillows, and claim to have cleaned them between flights, you can’t take any risks with something that will go directly on your face. Pack your own pillow. The safest move is to pack a neck pillow that props your head up, that you don’t need to lean against any public surface like a wall or window.
It’s a good idea to bring disinfectant wipes to wipe down your seat area on the plane. This includes the armrests, the personal TV screen, the tray table, any magazines provided that you may want to read, and seat recline buttons. The airline may not have had time to properly sanitize all of these surfaces after the last flight and before yours.
A washable carry-on
It will be very difficult to keep your bag off of public surfaces. You’ll need to put it in those nasty bins to send it through security. You’ll put it on tables and chairs that are covered in germs. So you don’t want to carry that germy bag into your hotel room or other destination. Look into a machine-washable, carry-on size bag that you can put in the laundry the moment you arrive at your destination.
Sunglass case and/or lanyard
If you’re bringing sunglasses, bring either a case for them and/or a lanyard to wear around your neck. The idea is to stop yourself from putting these on public surfaces like your tray table or tables in the boarding area. You don’t want anything that goes directly on your face to sit on public spaces in an airport.
Dish towels/paper towels
Even if you wipe down tray tables, you may still want to bring a couple of dish towels. You can put these down on your tray table, or other tables in the airport where you choose to eat. Remember that you’ll inevitably rest your silverware, or hands, directly on those surfaces. So putting something between you and the germs of those who came before you is a smart idea.
At this point, you’re used to packing hand sanitizer. So pack plenty of it. While other liquids are limited to 3.4 ounces, the TSA is currently allowing you to bring hand sanitizers up to 12 ounces. Though, it could be worth it to grab some small ones, anyway, to make them more accessible. Many have small clips so you can attach them to your purse, or belt loop, for easy access.
You’ll probably use your hand sanitizer more than usual when traveling, but all of that alcohol can dry out your hands. Bring some deeply hydrating hand lotion along, too. Remember the dry air of the airplane is also rough on your skin, so you’ll be extra happy to have this with you.
Your boots or loafers may be fine enough in the airport, but once you’re an hour into a flight and your feet begin to swell, you may find yourself with the urge to go barefoot. But that airplane floor is filthy. So make sure you pack shoes that are comfy to slip on in the plane, like stretchy ballet flats or Uggs. At the very least have thick socks, if you must remove your shoes.
Phone wipes and ear pods
Between checking your gate, flight time, hotel reservation, and more, you touch your phone a lot when you travel. But you also touch a lot of other surfaces, then you touch your phone, and then you put your phone up to your face. Bring wipes that are safe to use on your phone, and wipe it down often. Then use ear pods to take calls, so you don’t have to put your phone right up to your face.
We already touched on packing your own food, but fruit deserves special mention. For health points, you may want to eat an apple or orange during your trip. In fact, vitamin C could do your immunity good. But remember that fruits are unpackaged items. Many, many hands touch them, picking out the perfect banana before you show up. They’re about as filthy as airport food gets. So pack your own whole fruit.
Blankets are something else the airline may provide, but you’re safer packing your own. You just don’t know if the airline properly cleaned that blanket, after somebody else drooled on it. And it is important to stay warm on the plane, so your immune system has a fighting chance. This may be the time to invest in a Snuggie, so you can be sure your blanket stays on you.