How to travel like a germaphobe during a pandemic

The hoarding is getting a little out of hand. If you know what magical powers toilet paper possesses, please enlighten me.

While I think the pre-apocalypse hoarding is rather ridiculous, I do think that social distancing and taking extra precautions to minimize germ spreading is warranted.

Right now, germaphobes have the right idea. Decontamination and limiting exposure is your best defense. Unfortunately, that’s hard to do when you’re on the road.

If you’re one of the few people still traveling during this pandemic, here are a few tips on how to minimize your exposure to COVID-19 and other viruses. Courtesy of your neighborhood germaphobes.

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Before your trip

Things to pack
  • Disinfecting wipes (e.g Clorox) in a ziplock bag. Target sells those in travel packs too.
  • Hand sanitizer.
  • Spray hand sanitizer, if you can find some. Seventh Generation has one.
  • A hoodie to cover your head when in crowds or leaning against surfaces you haven’t sanitized. That’s the “dirty” hoodie.
  • A travel water bottle or mug which does not have the drinking piece exposed.
  • A bag or bag compartment to store your “dirty hoodie” when not in use.
  • A pair of slippers/flip-flops.
Things to do
  • Be sure to know what you can pack in your carry-on to minimize the chance of having to open your luggage and have security go through your stuff.
  • Wear shoes with socks.
  • Do not wear anything metal so you don’t get a pat down.

If you’re renting a car

Before getting in, wipe down the following:

  • Entire seat, including head rest, arm rest if any.
  • Steering wheel, wiper and signal controllers.
  • Gear shifts.
  • Hand brake.
  • Door handle, window buttons, and compartments on the door/in the middle where you might put your stuff.
  • All the buttons you’re going to use. Radio, GPS, etc.

If you’re taking planes/ trains/ coaches

At the airport/terminal
Going through TSA (security)
  • Store your hoodie/jacket/outerwear in your luggage, don’t put them in those dirty bins.
  • Make sure there’s nothing in your pocket and you don’t have anything metal on you, so you don’t get a pat down.
  • If you took your shoes off, wipe your socks/feet before putting back in your shoes.
  • If you took your laptop and toiletry bag out, wipe them before putting them back in your bag.
  • Wipe your luggage handle and zippers if you’re the over-achiever type 🙂

If you’re planning to put that lid to your lips and sip, make sure you don’t put it on the counter/table/tray to let your drink cool off.

Meal buzzers

If you order a meal and they give you one of those buzzers, make sure to sanitize your hands after you return it, and before you start touching your meal.

Stay away from coughers, kids, pets

If possible, wait in an area that is not crowded. Sometimes we’ll go to a different gate if there’s still a lot of time before our boarding. Stay away from anyone who’s coughing, and don’t play with other people’s kids or pets.

On the plane/train/coach
Your seat

Once you get to your seat, make sure to wipe down the following before you even get in.

  • Your entire seat, including head rest.
  • Your arm rest.
  • Your belt and belt buckle.
  • Your screen/ any buttons such as light, assistance, remotes for screen, etc.
  • Your tray AND THE BACK OF THE SEAT IN FRONT OF YOU. Otherwise, your tray is dirty again the second you close it up for take off.
  • Once you’re set up, check out the food menu, decide what you want, then put it back and sanitize your hands. Don’t put anything in that dirty pouch.
  • Your phone is probably dirty by now. You used it after touching your shoes, or opening your Uber’s door, you scanned it at the gate. Sanitize it.
  • Sanitize your hands thoroughly AFTER opening your silverware, food cover, and other packaging. Basically you want to sanitize your hand right before using it to touch your food.
  • Try not to drink anything in cups where the attendant touched the rim with their hands. Some airlines now ask them to hold the cup with the paper napkin. Slightly better but still iffy. Order stuff that comes in a can or bottle, or have them pour it into your travel mug, without touching if you want to be really vigilant. Better yet, have your own drinks.
  • Avoid using the bathroom if you can
  • If you have to use the bathroom, wear your “dirty” hoodie. If you have enough wipes, consider bringing one to wipe the door handle, tap, and walls. It’s inevitable that you’ll touch various walls and surfaces in that cramped space.
  • When you’re done, make sure to close the lid before flushing, wash your hands thoroughly with soap, use a paper towel to open the latch/door. I often take the paper towel to my seat, store it in the “dirty pouch” where the magazines are, then throw it out when the attendants come through with their garbage bags. It’s easier than trying to throw it into the bathroom bin without re-contaminating my hands.
  • Take off your dirty hoodie before getting back to your seat.


Whether we’re at a hotel or AirBnb, we always do these.

The bed
  • Wipe down bedside tables, light switches on each side of the bed.
  • Take any throw pillows and banish them into a far corner of the closet.
  • Sanitize wherever the throw pillows were. I was appalled to come into my hotel room and find out that those are put on the floor when the room is being cleaned. Not only is the carpet likely gross, but these pillows are usually not washable. Germ factory!
the room
  • Wipe down the phone, remote control, thermostat, any other things we need to touch.
  • Wipe down the desk/table where we might want to put our (cleaned) laptop/phone or food on.
  • Wipe down the counter where you’re going to put your toiletry bag.
  • Wipe down the drawers if you’re going to use them.
  • If it’s a clean hotel, take off your shoes and use your slippers/flip-flops. No need to spread those airport floor/bathroom germs.
  • Wash the cups/glasses before using them.

Once you’re home

Hurray, you finally made it back. Now don’t you spread those travel germs all around.

  • Take your shoes off before getting into your house. Bonus points for sanitizing your shoes.
  • Sanitize the outside of your luggage thoroughly, including scrubbing the wheels, handles, zippers, etc.
  • Once the luggage sanitized you can bring it in and sanitize the floor where that dirty luggage was.
  • Strip of all airport clothes and immediately take a deep shower, making sure to wash your hair thoroughly.
  • Unpack and get the laundry going.
  • Clean the inside of the luggage, and once again the outside, before storing in your closet.
If you found this helpful, please share with a friend who might be traveling right now. And subscribe!

Further Reading

For more information about why canceling events, flights and other social gatherings is not an overreaction, but a pre-emptive measure to avoid overwhelming the healthcare system, read: Flattening the Curve – Why staying home now can save lives

For more general information about COVID-19, its virulence, and current stats, see this Reddit thread: PSA about COVID-19, panic vs risk mitigation, infection rates, hospitalization rates & more

If you found this helpful, please share with a friend who might be traveling right now. Subscribing would also be a great, free way for you to support our content, and we would really, really appreciate it. Thank you for reading!

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