Every traveler has their own preference when it comes to preparing for a flight. Some dress in hopes of scoring a free upgrade while others value comfort at all costs.
Backpack versus wheeled luggage, carry-on only versus maxed out weight limits, aisle seat versus window seat… the list goes on. No matter what type of traveler you are, we’re here to share the best travel packing tips for your next flight.
Travel packing tips for after Coronavirus
Travelers who typically travel light might find that they need more items on hand for a post-Coronavirus (COVID-19) flight than they have in the past.
Opt for a carry-on that’s large enough to store your essentials, but small enough to easily fit within aircraft overhead bins. You don’t want to risk having your bag checked at the gate for being too large or too heavy.
1. Pre-printed boarding passes and important documents
Try to minimize contact wherever you can during your trip. If your airline allows, print your boarding pass in advance rather than at the airport. Some airlines have a dedicated app you can download beforehand to store your boarding information on your smartphone. This will likely speed up your check-in process and reduce the amount of document shuffling between you and airline staff.
Many airports have moved to a no-touch tech system where you can drop off your luggage at the luggage counter before moving onward to security, so long as you have your boarding pass and ID in hand.
Could this no-touch technology be a glimpse at the future of travel?
2. Reusable water bottle
Cut down your time spent at public drinking fountains by packing a reusable water bottle for your flight.
While you won’t be able to take a full water bottle through security to departures, you can refill your bottle after you move through. This will cut down the number of trips you’ll need to take to the drinking fountain. Don’t plan on being able to purchase bottled water at a convenience store inside the airport, as they might be closed.
As a bonus, having water easily accessible will help you stay hydrated throughout the journey, supporting your immune system.
To cope with the reduced demand and as an attempt to limit passenger-to-passenger contact, some airlines have scaled back their in-flight meal options. Many airports have closed their restaurants and cafes, leaving few dining options for travelers with growling stomachs.
Though many airlines still offer pre-sealed or packaged snacks and meals, they may not be filling enough to keep you satisfied for a long-haul flight.
Pack enough snacks for the flight itself and for any stopovers you might have. If you’re on a short-haul flight, it’s best to eat before or after you board the aircraft, so that your mask can stay on while you’re in the air.
Snacks that won’t need refrigeration like crackers, nuts, dried fruits, and sandwiches are top choices. Squeeze-packages of peanut or almond butter, salsa, and other condiments can also dress up a flight meal in dire need of a kick. Chocolate is also a must (right?). For some menu inspiration, we’ve covered the foods you can and cannot bring on a plane.
4. Masks and mask storage bags
A mask is a new item on the packing list for many travelers, and it can be a challenge to know when to wear one, how to wear one, and which one to pack along for your travels. Our guide to wearing masks covers the ins and outs of wearing a mask while traveling.
The WHO recommends storing used reusable masks in a sealed plastic bag in between washings. A sealed plastic bag will also help keep disposable masks clean before you use them. Some airports provide masks for free or at a low price, but others require passengers to have a mask on prior to entering.
Either way, it’s worth bringing your own comfortable mask as well as a few spares. Some airlines, like British Airways, request that passengers change their masks every 3 to 4 hours.
5. Face shield
A face shield is a clear plastic shield that is worn over the face, often in combination with a mask. According to the United States Centers for Disease Control, a face shield should wrap around the sides of the face and fully cover the chin. Some airlines, like Qatar Airways, mandate face shields during flights.
Wear gloves if you don’t have access to soap and water and are in a high-touch area, like the security screening area or crowded lounge. Before you get to the airport, practice properly putting on and taking off gloves by removing one glove with the gloved hand. Then, use your ungloved hand to remove the remaining glove from the inside of the glove. Wash your hands in between each use.
When you’re travel packing, throw in a travel-sized soap to use just in case soap dispensers are empty at an airport or airplane bathroom.
WaterAid, an international non-profit dedicated to providing people with clean water, recommends handwashing with soap and water frequently and thoroughly as the most effective way to remove bacteria. Washing both hands for a minimum of 20 seconds is the best way to protect yourself from viruses like Coronavirus (COVID-19).
If you want to help communities around the world have clean water to prevent the spread of illnesses, such as COVID-19, consider donating to WaterAid.
8. Travel-sized hand sanitizer
After soap and water, hand sanitizers are the best way to keep your hands clean as you travel. Ensure your container is well within the carry-on limit by only packing bottles 100 milliliters or less. Keep all liquids in a clear, sealable plastic bag so that they don’t get confiscated during security screenings.
Note that not all hand sanitizers are created equal, as some are much better at killing viruses and bacteria than others. The WHO advises using an alcohol-based sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
9. Sanitizing wipes
Pack sanitizing wipes to sterilize commonly used surfaces during your flight. Before sitting down and settling into your seat, use your wipes to disinfect the armrests, tray table, entertainment system, and window area. You can also use wipes to clean off other high touchpoints, like bathroom door handles and airport seating areas.
10. Medications and toiletries
Pack all medications you might need in a plastic carry-on, with a note from your doctor for any medications that could require a prescription at your destination.
With so many airport shops and pharmacies closing, it may not be possible to purchase medications while you’re in transit. If you must quarantine upon arrival, it’s best to have every medication you’ll need for the duration of your quarantine as you might not be able to get it easily otherwise.
11. Laptop or tablet
Despite many airlines pausing their entertainment and WiFi systems, binge-watching movies and random television shows don’t necessarily have to be a thing of the past.
Enjoy television shows, movies, podcasts, and games by downloading your favorites onto a tablet or laptop before your trip. Some entertainment apps like Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, and Google Play allow you to download content onto a device for offline enjoyment. The free TED app also lets listeners download interesting talks onto their devices.
With longer wait times and fewer socializing opportunities in this new Coronavirus travel era, nothing beats a book when it comes to curbing boredom. Travel the world vicariously with intriguing stories like Around the World in 80 Trains by Monisha Rajesh, an adventure tale that spans seven months and 72,400 kilometers (45,000 miles). Some other worthy titles are Red Dust: A Path Through China by Ma Jian, A Stranger’s Prose by Emmanuel Iduma, and One Day I Will Write About This Place by Binyavanga Wainaina.
FAQ – Frequently asked questions about travel packing during Coronavirus
Some airlines and airports offer masks to passengers, but you should still bring your own. Pack a few masks and change them every few hours to prevent them from getting soiled.
A face mask covers your mouth and nose and is typically made of cloth. A face shield is a large, clear sheet of plastic that covers your entire face rather than just your nose and mouth.
If you’re used to throwing everything together in one bag, consider stowing like items in packing cubes or smaller bags. Group food, entertainment, and toiletries in separate compartments. This way, you can access the exact items you need easily without having to rummage, minimizing the number of things you touch.
Consult local authorities or your healthcare provider if you feel unwell before or after travel and revise your plans accordingly. These travel packing tips are to be used as a suggestion, rather than official health advice.
Want to read more?
Much of the world is slowly reopening to travelers. Read more in Skyscanner’s latest coronavirus updates:
- Coronavirus travel questions: Your COVID-19 queries answered
- Tips for flying during coronavirus: essential face mask information
- The new world of hotels: What your hotel stay will be like during coronavirus
- Wellness travel: why it could be the post-coronavirus stress-buster you need
We update our coronavirus travel advice daily with changes to travel restrictions.