With COVID-19 on the rise in many states across the country, annual getaways that typically dot our calendars during summer are essentially nonexistent. But if 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that life is unpredictable. In the coming months, you may have no option but to travel—for work, for emergencies, for any reason—and you should know that flying during the coronavirus is an entirely different experience than anything you’re used to.
While travel is certainly limited, planes and airports aren’t always the ghost towns you’d imagine them to be—at least not when I was traveling. A few weeks ago I had no choice but to cross the country by plane, and in my attempt to come up with some kind of game plan, I consulted both the airline and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for tips on what to bring in my carry-on. The CDC recommends bringing alcohol-based hand sanitizer (with at least 60% alcohol), face coverings, any personal prescriptions, and food and water in case restaurants and stores are closed. In addition to these nonnegotiables, there were plenty of other items that made my trip more comfortable—and some I wish I had more of.
It’s not just me, many essential workers, international students, and city dwellers are packing up and heading home, or relocating for the only job available to them—and if you’re thinking about taking to the skies anytime soon, staying safe is easily your number one priority. From finding a way to get to the airport to choosing your seat, each part of your trip will require some extra planning. After I experienced it myself, here’s my checklist of things you need when flying during the coronavirus.
No amount of research was going to bring me peace of mind, and the idea of wrapping myself in cling film definitely sounded tempting. But I’m happy to inform you that was not necessary. What is necessary? Face mask, wipes, and hand sanitizer. Ideally, you’d want to bring a handful of each item, but especially cotton face coverings because most airlines require you to keep yours on for the duration of the flight. After a few hours of nonstop wear on the plane, you’ll be happy to have a fresh face mask to switch into as soon as you land. Another thing I brought, per the CDC’s recommendations, was a mini first aid kit. (FYI: I also packed disposable gloves because public bathrooms gross me out, but the CDC says they are not necessary.)
On to my packing strategy, which is very much like a game of Tetris—and my usual of M.O. of organizing things in clear makeup pouches totally worked in my favor. When it came time to load the security bins, I didn’t have to waste time rifling through my bag to pull out a laptop or liquids (i.e., unnecessarily touching and, in my anxious mind, contaminating them). In lieu of a handbag, I also opted for a roomy, foldable tote that I could throw in the laundry machine upon arrival (a pro tip from nurses and health care workers). Win.
Everlane The 100% Human Tie-Dye Face Masks (5-Pack)
Megababe Squeaky Clean Hand Sanitizer
Lysol Disinfecting Wipes (240 count)
Welly Quick Fix Kit
State of Escape Tote
$320.00, Neiman Marcus
Madewell Large Crystalline Half-Moon Pouch
Airport restaurants may be closed, and if you’re flying during the coronavirus, there’s a good chance the carrier you booked is taking steps to ensure physical distancing—whether by blocking out middle seats, deplaning row by row, or scrapping food and beverages.
I’m used to traveling with my own food and snacks, so all the usual suspects, like a lunch bowl, utensils, and water bottle, came with me. I doubled down on reusable bags and other easy-to-wash, multipurpose items, like food wraps and a dishcloth. I’ve found wrapping fruits in Bee’s Wrap Paper helps avoid bruising the produce, which I could then repurpose for leftovers. A small dishcloth also came in handy to cover the table I was eating on while waiting in the airport terminal. (And yes, that too went straight into the laundry machine.)
Porter Seal Tight Bowl (24oz)
$30.00, W&P Design
W&P Stainless Steel Utensils
Bee’s Wrap Eco-Friendly Reusable Food Wraps (3-Pack)
Three Bluebirds Swedish Dishcloths
$5.00, Thrive Market
Hydroflask 12 oz Kids Water Bottle
Baggu Reusable Bags (Set of 3)
Snack cravings almost always hit at the worst time, and I was determined to (a) steer clear of all airport convenience stores and (b) avoid any food that might be handed out on the plane. Since I knew I had a 12-hour journey ahead of me (thanks to a layover), I made sure to pack light but high-energy options, like dates and chocolate-covered almonds. I stashed the goodies in zip-lock sliders and brought extra food scrap bags for compostable waste (like date pits or banana peels), which I then disposed of properly after the flight. The clear bags made it easy for me to spot my treats at the bottom of my tote—another win for minimal touching.
Skinny Dipped Peanut Butter Almonds
$4.00, Thrive Market
Joolies Organic Medjool Dates
$9.00, Thrive Market
Ziploc Slider Storage Quart Bags
Repurpose Food Scrap Bags
$3.00, Thrive Market
Things I wish I had more of
There wasn’t exactly anything missing from my arsenal, except some items I wish I had more of. The high alcohol content in hand sanitizer hits my skin hard—something compounded by the dry airplane air—and I realized too little too late that I had only had a few squeezes left of my trusty hand cream. I went through my pack of tissues faster than my snacks and had to ration what was left.
Weleda Skin Food Cream
Kleenex Go Packs Facial Tissues
One nice-to-have would’ve been compression socks. It’s not something I’d “normally” bring on a plane, but I wasn’t comfortable relying on my usual trick of walking up and down the aisle to stretch my legs. Finally, the one thing to keep in mind is what you want after the plane, and for me, that was cleansing wipes—a lot more of them. I wanted them in the taxi when I got picked up and, later, at gas stations before touching the pump.
Knee-High Compression Socks
EO Hand Cleansing Wipes
$21.00, Thrive Market
It’s natural to spiral when you don’t know what to expect, but looking back now, the experience wasn’t nearly as horrifying as my anxiety made it out to be. The cab company I booked had wiped down the seats (whew), and when I got to New York City’s LaGuardia terminal, it was organized and social-distancing friendly—with bright yellow floor markers to encourage distancing and TSA employees and flight attendants all wearing face masks.
That said, nothing about flying during coronavirus is “easy,” and being extra careful about everything you touch is exhausting as hell. One good thing that came out of it? Travelers weren’t jostling for overhead bin space or rushing to deplane, which almost made up for the fact that I was sitting for hours with a face mask on. Things are evolving every day, but my mantra for approaching travel during the coronavirus is in line with every move I make these days: Stay safe, stay smart, and don’t forget your face mask!
As news about the novel coronavirus pandemic rapidly evolves, Glamour is committed to bringing our readers the most accurate and up-to-date facts. As a result, information in this story and others like it may change, and we will update when necessary. For the most recent news about COVID-19, please visit the CDC, the WHO, and your state’s department of health.
Originally Appeared on Glamour