Seven Essential Items for Pandemic Travel
Preparing for my upcoming trip to France has me thinking about my personal safety and comfort during a long-haul flight. Even though it’s five months away, and I’m hoping the Covid-19 situation will improve, the reality is we’ll still be in a pandemic and the way we travel has changed irrevocably. If you’re planning to fly this year or next, here’s a few items I suggest you add to your pandemic packing list.
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A good supply of masks
Unless you want to be washing masks every day, pack plenty of disposable ones — ideally, one for every day of your trip plus extras. If you’re going on a long journey (three months like I am) check ahead of time for places where you can purchase masks.
I suggest bringing a few masks in your carryon bag. You’ll absolutely need a mask to enter an airport and during your flight. And possibly on the way to the airport if you take public transportation or Lyft. For a long-haul flight, that’s a lot of hours to have your nose and mouth covered. I sweat terribly while wearing a mask. Plus, my nose runs. So I’ll definitely need a change of mask during my 20-plus-hour trip. Masks are also required in most museums and indoor venues, as well as on all trains and busses. And don’t forget a mask or two for your return flight.
Be sure your mask provides a tight fit around your nose and chin. And if you’re using washable cloth masks, double up or bring extra layers of filtration. I’ll be wearing a tight-fitting N95 mask for maximum protection.
Bring some clean, quart-sized bags for storing your mask while you eat during the flight. It’s best to wait until the people around you have put their masks back on before taking yours off.
We all need plenty of hand sanitizer while traveling so you can immediately disinfect your hands after you've touched those security trays and put your shoes back on. I like to carry a small bottle attached to either my purse, backpack or belt loop. This way it doesn’t take up space in my bag and it’s always at the ready. If you like to travel in style, you might enjoy this refillable leather one. Just be sure to put it in your quart-size bag with the rest of your liquids when going through security.
I also carry a spray container the size of a large pen filled with isopropyl alcohol. I received mine from my doctor’s office, but here’s a spray container you can refill — and it’s also a pen. That fulfills two essential travel items.
These aren’t meant for your hands, but I’ll be carrying a travel-size packet of Clorox Disinfecting Wipes on my next flight. It’s unlikely I’d get Covid-19 from touching surfaces, but there are plenty of other germs on those armrests, tray tables and touch screens. Or I may bring a couple paper towels and a small spray bottle of my homemade disinfectant made with isopropyl alcohol, vinegar, water, tea tree oil and lemongrass essential oil.
When you travel, especially overseas, there will be several times when you’ll need a pen: when you fill out your customs declaration form on the plane, when you pick up your rent a car and maybe even when you check into a hotel. I also bring a pen because I like to spend part of my flying time updating my smaller-sized bullet journal.
Having a pen handy — preferably in black — means you don’t have to touch a public pen and don’t have to use hand sanitizer for the umpteenth time that day. Since I like to keep things minimal and light weight while traveling, I purchased these mini telescopic ball point pens in while, light blue and pink, but they also come in black and silver.
Your vaccine card
This is vital. Be sure to check health regulations for the country you’re visiting and see what their vaccination requirements are and if you need to apply for a type of health pass before arriving. I’ve been keeping tabs on France’s Passe Sanitaire. When they opened the application process to people outside of France, it quickly became overloaded and shut down to foreigners. You now have to visit a designated pharmacy to receive the pass. But the word on the ground is that your CDC vaccine card is golden for getting you into restaurants, shops and museums.
I slipped my vaccine card into a plastic holder to keep it from being smudged or damaged. Laminating your vaccine card is a bad idea as then it can’t be updated when you receive your booster.
You may prefer to have your vaccine card in your passport case. This one includes a separate area for your card.
Contactless credit card
Check to see if your credit card has radio-frequency identification (RFID) technology, also known as “tap to pay” by looking for the contactless symbol on the back of the card. You’ll see four curved lines that get bigger from left to right, sort of like a Wi-Fi symbol. Europe has been using contactless credit cards for years, and since the pandemic it’s become more popular in the US. You no longer have to hand your credit card over to a stranger or to stick it in a machine. With one quick tap of your card on the contactless reader, your credit card information is transferred in less than a second. Many places are no longer taking cash, so now credit is king during the pandemic.
If you’re taking a long road trip, bring along some toilet paper or stash a small Kleenex packet in your purse, pocket or backpack. Traveling through Europe, and even in the US, you never know what conditions you’ll find in a public restroom. Sometimes, you don’t know if you’ll find an open restroom at all. You might want to bring a large jar with a lid. And for us ladies, there’s the GoGirl.
And here's an eighth item: Trip cancellation and medical insurance
This isn’t something to pack, but it’s an essential one. For my next trip I’m definitely investing in travel insurance — both medical and trip cancellation. I usually travel during the offseason, so I don’t book accommodations far ahead of time. In fact, I usually don’t book all my accommodations and travel arrangements until I’m in Europe. But next year I’ll be traveling in late spring and summer, so I need to make reservations months in advance. Airbnb accommodations in France tend to have the strictest cancellation policy, which means I would receive zero refund if I had to cancel with a week’s notice. And I certainly wouldn't want to leave on a trip if I was feeling sick.
Even though seeing the doctor in most European countries is a fraction of what it costs in the U.S., a medical policy can protect you in the event of a medical emergency and insure you get the care you need. It’s going to take some research to figure out the insurance coverage I require and what company best meets my needs. I’ll write a post to let you know about the best options I discover. If you have a travel insurance company you recommend, please let me know in the comments.