Now that the world is opening back up, here’s how to travel in comfort and safety. 

Air travel has been picking back up, with millions of people eagerly booking flights so they can hit the beach for a vacation, hug a loved one, or finally take that long-awaited honeymoon. But it’s understandable that air travel causes a bit of anxiety. 

“There are ways to feel even more confident when flying in the time of COVID.”

Ideally, you’ll have been fully vaccinated before your flight to keep you and those around you safe. And there is additional peace of mind in this: According to research published in JAMA, the risk of getting coronavirus on a plane is actually lower than contracting it in an office building, classroom, supermarket, or on a commuter train. That’s because the airflow in commercial jets helps protect travelers—half is freshly circulated from outside and half is recycled through HEPA filters, reports JAMA author Rui Pombal, M.D. Still, there are ways to feel even more confident when flying in the time of COVID. Wear a mask, stay seated as much as possible, and keep the overhead air nozzles blowing fresh air toward you. Finally, minimize eating and drinking so that your mask remains in place. 

Dr. Pombal also suggests limiting carry-on baggage. That’s to reduce interaction with other passengers and movement around the cabin. So, what to carry in this pared down carry-on? 

Here are 10 essentials to help make travel as safe and relaxing as can be hoped in these uncomfortable times. 

  1. Collapsible Water Bottle 

Gigantic water bottles may be the hot new celebrity accessory, but for a carry-on, huge metal or plastic bottles take up too much space. A roll-up silicone travel bottle pops into full size to be filled at the airport prior to the flight, then compresses when it’s empty for ease of deplaning. Some models even have filtration inserts. 

  1. Earplugs

To go along with the silicone water bottle, bring a pair of moldable silicone ear plugs.  According to Medical News Today, this type of earplug can help reduce pain from air pressure changes in a way that foam plugs can’t. And, whether you want to take a nap or just drown out the deafening snores of your napping seatmate, a set of earplugs will come to the rescue.  

  1. Makana Mask and extra filters

Onboard, use the heavy-duty filter for the Makana Mask—it’s well suited for use in crowded environments that call for extra protection. Pack some light-duty filters to deploy when you arrive at your destination and want to emphasize breathability over maximum protection. 

  1. Germicidal Wipes 

Even before COVID-19, there was evidence for the wisdom of wiping down tray tables and other nearby surfaces when you fly. No one asked for a side of Salmonella schottmuelleri with their pretzels! Bring a packet of wipes that are at least 70% alcohol to kill a wide range of bacteria and viruses. Swab off the tray table, armrest, and any display screen. Then use hand sanitizer to clean off your hands.  

Some travel experts also suggest taking a germicidal wipe with you when you go to the restroom, so you can wipe off the door latch before use. No mile-high club for you, viruses! 

  1. BYOB

Bring Your Own Blanket, that is. Disposable seat covers are readily available online, but they aren’t eco-friendly and are probably overkill. As Linus Van Pelt from Peanuts will attest, carrying your own blanket (or a large wrap) keeps you cozy and clean. The Wall Street Journal famously reported that some airlines only wash their blankets every five to 30 days. (We’ll resist the urge to insert a vomit emoji here.)  

  1. Pouch for Essentials

Fill a small pouch with the must-haves—like lip balm, hand cream, eye drops, gum, and a protein bar—so you don’t have to retrieve your carry-on or rummage around under the seat during the flight. 

  1. Actually Stylish Compression Socks

For flights longer than four hours, serious travelers suit up in compression socks. The socks help ward off swollen feet or “cankles,” and protect against the very rare, but catastrophic, deep vein thrombosis. Until fairly recently, compression legwear wasn’t exactly attractive. Today, options abound—including camo, stripes, houndstooth, and more. For general travel, 15-20 mmHg support is sufficient, but if you have specific health concerns, a doctor may recommend a higher level of support. 

  1. Entertainment 

Many airlines have done away with in-flight magazines out of concern for spreading germs. It’s also hard to know if your flight will have in-flight video—or whether the system will be working even if they do. Pack a tablet of your own and check to see if you need to download the airline’s app in order to access entertainment.

  1. Flip-Flops 

Clearly, walking around barefoot on a plane is both unsanitary and socially unacceptable, but your feet might feel better au naturel. If so, toss a pair of flip-flops into a gallon size zip top bag, for a mid-flight foot-refresher. They’ll also come in handy in hotel bathrooms, pools, and anywhere you want an inch of foam between your feet and the floor. 

  1. De-stressors

Some hearty souls are entirely unfazed by turbulence. But for those who start sweating and composing their final will and testament the minute the “fasten seat belt” sign goes on, packing a go-to calming aid is key. A few to try: a CBD-based gummy, a chewable GABA tablet, or a roll-on lavender essential oil. Whatever gets you through the flight.

In terms of physical comfort, air travel has always landed somewhere between riding the bus and visiting the dentist. With mounting safety requirements, added anxieties about COVID-19, the elimination of alcohol from many flights (what?!) and fully packed planes due to limited pandemic schedules—well, sign us up for that root canal. But with a quality reusable face mask and a little planning, this summer is a great time to jump back into travel. See you in the skies!