Planning Summer Trips? Here’s What Experts Recommend You Pack to Stay Safe

As vaccinations continue to rise, travel is on everybody’s mind. Here’s what top experts say you need to pack in order to do it safely.

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Whether people in your circle have finally been vaccinated and you want to go visit them for the first time in a year, or you’re a globetrotter (at least under normal circumstances) who is getting a severe case of cabin fever, you’ve finally decided that the time has come to fly. But while the pandemic is (hopefully) on the wane, COVID-19 is still very much out there, so travelers should—and in some cases must—take precautions.

To that end, here are a few items you should pack along for the safety of yourself and others. We’ve gathered input from experts like Jasmine Reed at the CDC, Perry Cooper at Seatac Airport, Dr. Abe Malkin of Concierge MD Los Angeles, and Dr. Salvatore Pardo, Chair of Emergency Medicine at the Long Island Jewish Medical Center Valley Stream. 

These are 12 recommendations that you can absolutely trust.

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At this point we’re all more or less experts on face masks, but it bears repeating that you are required to wear one while flying. “We have required masks here since last May and now that is included in the federal mandate for transportation facilities,” says Seatac’s Perry Cooper. “There are plenty of options that are out there.”

According to Dr. Pardo, “I would look for an N95 type mask for periods of time when you are in close proximity to others, such as when you are on a plane, train, or bus. A disposable procedural or washable cloth mask is to be worn over the N95. During times where there is casual contact and you are able to socially distance responsibly, a washable cloth mask or a disposable procedural mask will suffice. You can preserve the N95 mask by letting it air dry when not in use. The type of N95 mask should not have a ‘port,’ since these contain a one-way valve, which would not protect others.

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Keeping your hands free of germs while on-the-go can be a challenge, which is why we’ve all become accustomed to the omnipresence of hand sanitizer. These handy travel bottles from Purell can be clipped onto a belt loop or carry-on for easy access.

A hand sanitizer which has an alcohol content of greater than 60% should be used,” says Dr. Pardo. “When possible, thorough washing with plenty of soap and water is preferred.

And if you’re wondering about whether you should double-up your hand protection with gloves, forget it. According to Dr. Malkin, “Disposable gloves can actually do more harm than help in this situation. Healthcare workers use them between patients for single-use, so they go through a great number in a day. If you are wearing the same pair and touching everything, however, you're actually spreading more germs. Unless you plan on layering gloves and disposing of them often, it's better to frequently wash your hands and use hand sanitizer.”

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When you’re moving through a public space like an airport or airplane, it’s hard to know exactly how clean different surfaces are. Disinfecting wipes provide a simple solution for heavily touched areas of dubious cleanliness, and these specific wipes from Stall Mates are easy for packing and disposal.

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According to the CDC’s Jasmine Reed, you should bring “your own snacks and drinks so you don’t have to stop as much and can avoid crowds.” Kind Bars are about as travel-friendly as food gets, but feel free to substitute them for whatever your favorite travel snack happens to be.

According to Dr. Malkin, “To avoid the transmission of the virus while traveling, it is best to not eat or drink while in an open, public area. In recent news, we see the numbers are decreasing and restaurants are opening back up. If you do not personally feel ready to dine out, but would like to pack snacks for a long transit, keep your food in a sealed bag separated from clothing, personal hygiene items, etc., in your carry-on luggage. Try to enjoy your meal in an area that you remain six feet in distance from others in an outdoor space.”

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These days most airports offer some form of charging station, and while convenient, they’re exactly the sort of place where people tend to congregate. Keep away from the crowd by packing along your own portable charger. It’s also useful once you get where you’re going, allowing you to explore your destination without worrying about running out of juice.

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In an era when sneezes and runny noses make everyone paranoid—even if we do know that these aren’t common COVID-19 symptoms—it’s a good idea to pack along these convenient means of keeping your bodily drips and sprays corralled. Come to think of it, we should probably be doing a better job of keeping our sinus gunk wrangled whether there’s a pandemic or not.

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This nifty little tool makes it easy to keep a bit of distance between yourself and buttons, doorknobs, and bathroom fixtures. What’s more, its copper-coating is anti-microbial, meaning it won’t carry along whatever germs there might be to pick up.

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At this point, most airlines are doing a pretty good job of disinfecting their planes, but if you’re looking for some added peace of mind, these seat pocket and tray table covers will do the trick. They'll not only help cover potentially contaminated surfaces, but they make it all-around easier to stay organized while flying thanks to the inclusion of multiple stretchable pockets.

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Flying often means talking to a lot of airline representatives, flight attendants, TSA staff, and so on, and all that jabbering can lead to mask slippage. With this bracket, you’ll be able to go about your journey without constantly having to readjust, which is not only bothersome but can lead to virus transmission.

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There are a lot of different wipes and sprays on the market for cleaning your phone, but this cool UV sanitizer will provide a deep clean fast. It can also be used for other small items like keys, jewelry, wallets, glasses, headphones, and more. And while there are a number of similar products out there, this one is highly portable whereas many others tend to be prohibitively large. It also has an aroma humidifier so that you can make your phone smell like your favorite scent, because why not?

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Pens always seem to be in short supply in airports and on airplanes, even though you often have to provide signatures or fill out customs declarations. Then the one pen that someone happens to have ends up getting passed around to everyone—what an easy way to transmit a virus. By packing along this sleek number, you not only have your own pen, but it will write at any angle (which can be helpful on-the-go).

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Sure, this isn’t really something you pack along (except in the form of your digital insurance card), but I have learned from personal experience that not having travel health insurance when you need it can be nothing short of disastrous. And in the event that you do catch a severe case of COVID-19 while abroad, you want concerns about payment and treatment to be the last of your worries.

According to Dr. Pardo, “As one ages and acquires significant medical issues, it is a good idea to acquire travel health insurance. Also, if you are participating in any risky activity, such as alpine skiing, rock climbing, etc., it may be a good idea to make sure you have a way to be medically evacuated should there be an emergency.”

There are a variety of travel health insurers out there that allow you to purchase coverage for short-term trips, but many offer only limited benefits or no coverage for COVID-19 related matters at all. SafetyWing provides relatively expansive protection, and it covers COVID-19.

According to SafetyWing representative Barbara Jovanovic, “Our Nomad Insurance covers COVID-19 just like any other illness. The coverage is automatically a part of your plan, and you are covered as long as it was not contracted before your coverage start date, and does not fall under any other policy exclusion or limitation. Testing for COVID-19 is covered only if deemed medically necessary by a physician.”

Nick Hilden is a travel, fitness, arts, and fiction writer whose work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Men’s Health, the Daily Beast, Vice, Greatist, and more. You can follow his weird adventures via Instagram or Twitter.
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