I Took an International Flight During COVID — Here's Every Sanitizing Product I Packed
Updated: Apr 9
The COVID-19 outbreak canceled vacation plans the world over in 2020, leaving us nostalgic for even the most mundane of travel rituals — from packing, to eating airplane food, to riding public transportation. And while we don’t know exactly what’s in store for the rest of 2021, we do know things could look a bit different the next time we board a plane.
For example: Remember when we used to make fun of those people who traveled with Clorox wipes and sanitized every inch of their seat before takeoff? Or when packing a “face mask” meant one of those eucalyptus or rose-scented, moisturizing sheet masks you’d buy at the Sephora counter last-minute because you felt like treating yourself? What about when hand sanitizer was a seasonal novelty you happened to grab if you walked past a Bath & Body Works mega-sale at the mall?
Sigh. The reality of it is, there are extra precautions we’ll need to take when traveling from here on out. But that’s OK — we’d just recommend creating your own preventative first-aid kit of sanitizing essentials and bringing it with you every time you travel. You can even store it in your carry-on after your trip so it’s ready to go for your next one.
I took my first international flight since COVID in December 2020. Here’s every sanitizing and cleaning item I brought along for the ride. At Just Packed, we know carry-on space is sacred, so consider this list just the essentials.
COVID-19 Travel Checklist
Face masks are required for travel during COVID-19, but what type of face mask should you buy to wear on an airplane and beyond? You want your mask to be lightweight, comfortable, adjustable, and washable. Reusable masks come in many shapes and forms — opt for a wired mask for structure, a gaiter-style mask for breathability, or my favorite mask from Trtl, the brand known for its innovative travel pillows, which is magnetized and can be worn three different ways.
You can find sanitizer wipes in convenient travel packs, and use them on all the germiest parts of a plane, train, rental car, bus, or hotel room. Purell and Clorox wipes are trusted go-tos, and brands like EO, Germ-X, and Honest make wipes that are proven to be effective but also gentle on the hands.
Hand sanitizer stations are popping up everywhere, but it’s still important to have your own stash on you at all times while traveling. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the higher the alcohol concentration, the more effective it is. You want to aim for 60 to 95 percent per their guidelines. These days, all your favorite skincare and cleaning brands are making their own sanitizers. Purell, Mrs. Meyer’s, Dr. Bronner’s, and Clark’s Botanicals all make quality hand sanitizer, but a brand called Touchland has garnered a cult following (yes, there is such a thing as a hand sanitizer cult in 2021) due to its ingredients—67% alcohol, plus aloe vera and essential oils for hydration—plus, its power mist application, which never leaves hands feeling sticky, and adorable packaging.
The CDC does not recommend wearing disposable gloves in your day-to-day life, but you may want to wear a pair through airport security or on public transportation — and then carefully dispose of them, sanitizing your hands before and after use. Many will use latex, medical-grade gloves, but there are plenty of latex alternatives, including PVC and vinyl, which are a bit more lightweight, and plastic, which typically has a looser fit.
It may feel dramatic, but bringing your own airplane seat cover is a great way to ensure you’re not sitting in germs for hours on a flight. Northcore, NiceSeats, Seat Sitters, and more brands make versions that are easy to slip on before you sit, and SerenitySeatsKit makes a shockingly chic looking seat cover that comes with organizational pockets for anything you’ll need in flight, plus a mask, wipes, and calming essential oil roll-on.
Keeping your toothbrush sanitized is important for an obvious reason: you're going to be putting it in your mouth multiple times a day. But how do you sanitize a toothbrush? NewWay's travel-friendly UVC toothbrush cover makes it easy. It's rechargeable, has long battery life, and is simple to clean. It even comes with a wash tray and stand.
We rarely go anywhere without our phones these days, making them by default one of the germiest items we own. The PhoneSoap UV sanitizer and charger fits all smartphones and kills 99.99% of germs while charging. That's what we call a win-win. It can even be used to sanitize other items, such as keys, watches, headphones — anything that fits inside.
While our immune systems can suffer in low-humidity environments, doctors say coronavirus thrives in them. MOVTIP's portable mini-humidifier can help. You can set it up to spray continuously for 12 hours, or intermittently for 18. Either way, it can help you throughout the night or humidify a dry hotel room while you're out for the day, keeping everyone healthy.
Vitamin C, E, and B6 are all powerful immune boosters, so have a good vitamin-filled meal before you travel (think spinach, kale, broccoli, chicken, salmon, hummus, and nuts). Then pop some vitamins in your carry-on, or go for a supplement like Airborne gummies, which combine vitamins A, C, and E, plus magnesium and zinc.