Seven Essential Items for Pandemic Travel
It looks like Covid-19 is here to stay. And now we have Monkeypox and who knows what the future may bring. If we want to keep traveling and seeing the world, we have do everything we can to stay safe during our journey. I first published this post six months ago before taking a three-month trip to France — my first air travel since the pandemic started. Through my recent travels I've gained new insights and have updated this article with additional suggestions for personal safety, especially during a long-haul flight.
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A good supply of disposable masks
Unless you want to be washing masks every day, pack plenty of disposable ones — ideally N95 masks. Even though planes filter the air, and most flights no longer require masks, you're still packed in close quarters with a lot of people. The fact is, there are people traveling who are positive for Covid-19, who either don't know they have it or want desperately to get home and not be stuck in a hotel room. If one of them is sitting near you, there's a good chance you're going to get sick. So why ruin your well-deserved vacation?
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 wear a tight-fitting N95 mask for maximum protection. Bring some clean, quart-sized bags for storing your mask while you eat during the flight. Or use a mask storage case that's big enough to hold an N95 mask. It’s best to wait until the people around you have put their masks back on before taking yours off.
Calculate how many masks you'll need based on how many days you plan on spending inside museums and other attractions where you are close to other people. Personally, I don't wear a mask outside if I am well and I can keep a six-foot distance from other people. It's a personal choice. If you’re going on a long journey for a month or more, check ahead of time for places where you can purchase masks. Pharmacies in France sell KN95 masks, but they only go around your ears. I prefer the true N95 masks that fit around your head.
Bring at least one extra mask in your carryon bag or purse. It was so hot in the airport, I quickly sweated through my mask and was happy to have a spare. For a long-haul flight, that’s a lot of hours to have your nose and mouth covered. And don’t forget to save a couple masks for your return flight. It was definitely nice to have a change of mask on my 27-hour (door to door) return flight during a heatwave.
Clorox Disinfecting Wipes and Wet Ones Antibacterial Hand Wipes come in a small travel size which is handy for wiping down surfaces in planes and hotel room. 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.
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 or my new favorite container that comes in a variety of designs. Just be sure to put it in your quart-size bag with the rest of your liquids when going through security. Although, I just realized I never did this on the four flights I went on and no TSA agent said anything.
I also carry a spray container the size of a large pen filled wth either plain isopropyl alcohol or my homemade disinfectant made with isopropyl alcohol, vinegar, water, tea tree oil and lemongrass essential oil. I received a pen-sized spray bottle from my doctor’s office, but here’s a spray container you can refill — and it’s also a pen, another one of my travel essentials.
Your own pen is one handy thing to have while you travel. Having a pen handy means you won’t have to touch a public pen and won’t have to use hand sanitizer for the umpteenth time that day. You may need a pen to fill out a customs declaration form on the plane, when you pick up your rent a car and maybe even when you check into a hotel. I find that in Europe I often have to sign credit card receipts because I’m using a foreign credit card. I also bring a pen because I like to spend part of my flying time updating my smaller-sized bullet journal.
Since I like to keep things minimal and lightweight while traveling, I purchased these mini telescopic ball point pens in white, 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 review their vaccination requirements and health regulations. Just be sure to have your vaccine card with you and make a photocopy to keep in an alternative location in your luggage or email it to yourself along with a copy of your passport.
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 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.
Traveling through Europe, and even on roadtrips through the US, you never know what conditions you’ll find in a public restroom. Bring some toilet paper or stash a small Kleenex packet in your purse, pocket or backpack. I also carry a small packet of these tiny soap sheets in my purse. They are super lightweight and take up very little space. Unfortunately, sometimes I can't find an open restroom at all. In those instances, at least 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 recent trips to France and Canada, I purchased travel insurance. 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 ensure you get the care you need. I'll let you know which insurance company I used and how it worked out in a later post. If you've had experience with travel insurance — good or bad — let me know what you think in the comments below.
For more travel essentials I recommend, see the BEH Travel Boutique.