How to Travel Germ Free – 20 Expert Tips

When travelling you are leaving the safe, clean comfort of your home and are exposing yourself to facilities well used by thousands of other people.  However, don’t let this deter you from living your best life and exploring the world…you just have to be prepared!

Recent times have seen an increased need for travellers to stay hygienic and healthy while travelling. With the onset of Coronavirus, attitudes towards travelling have shifted indefinitely and travellers around the world are seeking to be more conscious of health and hygiene when they travel.  

Although non-essential travel isn’t recommended for many countries at the time of writing this article, we know at some stage, keen travellers will want to start exploring again and when they do, they will want to stay safe! 

We are avid travellers and even before this pandemic swept the globe we had learnt a few things about keeping safe and clean while on the road. Spending a year travelling through some of the most crowded and polluted places in the world gave us a crash course on how to travel germ free. 

We have pulled on all our travel experiences and expert advice to craft this comprehensive list of tips, which will help you stay safe and travel germ free on your next trip! These tips will cover all aspects of travel including transport, hotel room stays, eating out and sightseeing. 

So let’s begin!

1. Avoid The Seat-back Pocket

Did you know the seat-back pocket is one of the dirtiest places on a passenger plane. This is also true for trains, buses and taxis. The inside of the seat-back cleared of rubbish, but is never cleaned and it’s the first place people will shove a used tissue, gum, sick bags and who knows what else! 

If you think about it, the seat-back pocket is a perfectly dark, cosy space for germs to cultivate and grow!  So if you want to stay germ free and healthy while travelling, refrain from touching the seat-back pocket and definitely don’t use it to store your water bottle or cell phone!

2. Use The Air Vents

Ok we mean the aeroplane vents, not the fans on Indian trains, but all the air vent pictures were a bit boring!

Stagnant air is your enemy when it comes to catching germs.  People assume they should turn their air vents off while flying to stop the spread of germs. However, aeroplane vents are pumping out clean filtered air, so you’re much better turning them on! The air filtration systems on planes were originally designed to filter out smoke when smoking was permitted during flight. 

The technology worked so well that modern planes use the same systems to create clean air for the cabin. So turn on your air vent to gain access to clean filtered air and help protect yourself from catching any viruses or bugs that might be floating around the cabin air!

3. Clean Surfaces

It’s been proven that people are 113% more likely to catch a cold or virus on a plane compared with everyday living. It’s also proven that bacteria and viruses can live on surfaces for anywhere between 3hours and 3days! So, to help avoid the spread of germs, all travellers should not venture out without antibacterial wipes. 

It’s recommended to clean the surfaces of any vehicle you are travelling in or hotel room you are staying in. Some common surfaces harbouring germs are the seatbelt buckle, the headrest, armrest, touchscreens and remote controls. A quick wipe down of these surfaces will help prevent the spread of germs and ensure you have happy, healthy travels. These PURE Wipes are a convenient, portable hand and surface cleaning option which come with 80% alcohol content for effective sanitising. They are also individually wrap[ed which helps keep them dry and sterile. You can see more information on these wipes here on the Amazon listing >>

4. Avoid The Aisle Seat

Although it’s convenient for toilet access, the aisle seat is the worst place to sit on the plane when it comes to germs. Being seated close to the aisle brings you into closer contact with passengers walking by making you more susceptible to coming into contact with germs and viruses.

A study by Emory University found that if a passenger chooses to sit on the window seat they are far less likely to leave their seat and in-turn are less likely to come into contact with germs and other sick passengers. So fellow travellers, if you can, choose the window seat!

5. Avoid Long Journeys

Travellers are most likely to catch germs, viruses and bacteria while on the journey to reach their destination. Being confined to small spaces such as an aeroplane cabin, bus or train reduces your ability to practice physical distancing. Therefore, the longer your are confined to these small spaces, the more likely you are to catch germs. This is why we recommend to choose shorter trips if you can.

6. Use a Travel Sanitising Kit

Make fighting germs easy on your next trip and pick up a travel sanitising kit. A travel sanitising kit is a compact collection of essentials to help you keep safe and germ free while on the road.  A great kit is the SterilStay Travel Kit which covers all your bases and includes Antibacterial Wipes, Seat Pocket and Tray Table Protection Bag and even a headrest cover to keep you germ free in flight!There is also the iFLYsmart travel kit which comes with a headrest cover.

7. Avoid Touching Your Face

The easiest way you contract a contagious illness is by spreading it from your hands to your eyes, nose or mouth. This is why the experts tell us to stop touching our faces. This can be easier said than done, as most people touch their face at least 2000 times per day! 

However it’s a great way to protect yourself, so we had to include this tip on the list. Some people say that having a fidget spinner or stress ball can help keep your hands busy and stop you from touching your face so much….worth a try!

8. Wear a Face Mask

In this picture I’m wearing a mask to protect myself from dust and pollution, however since the onset of Covid19 more and more people are wearing masks to protect from germs and viruses.

Many governments are encouraging the use of masks on public transport and while venturing to places where social distancing may not be possible. However, it’s not only viruses that face masks can protect you from. During our travels we have found carrying face masks extremely useful for protecting against dust and pollution while travelling. We found wearing masks particularly useful when travelling to bustling cities or dusty off the beaten path roads.

It makes so much sense in terms of cost, environmental impact and even fashion to invest in a few washable face masks. There are so many great options available to choose from. Medi+Sons has some great patterns and has lots of great reviews on Elastomeric Respirator Mask which has inbuilt filtration to prevent you from inhaling germs and viruses. It does look a bit sci-fi which is cool, you can check out the pictures and reviews here >>

9. Wear Eye Shields

Dirt, dust, germs and viruses can enter your body through your eyes, so we recommended to travel with a good pair of sunglasses to help shield the eyes when needed.

For extra protection you can opt for motorcycle goggles. These look similar to regular glasses, but they provide a padded frame lens block, providing full protection from germs.

While we are on the subject of eye protection, it’s also important to take extra care when dealing with contact lenses. Make sure to wash your hands thoroughly beforehand you put in or remove you contacts.

10. Keep Up Your Vitamin Intake

It’s important to strengthen your immune system before and while travelling. A great way to arm your body with a strong immune system is to begin taking regular Vitamin C.

One of the best Vitamin C products on the market are the Lypo–Spheric Vitamin C. These vitamin sachets not only contain a high dose of Vitamin C, they also deliver the vitamin with nano-spheres allowing for faster and more effective absorption.

11. Keep Your Water Source Clean

One of the most common causes of traveller illness is contaminated water. Bad water can carry all sorts of harmful germs including but not limited too,  E. coli, cholera, salmonella, parasites, viruses and chemical pollutants.

This is why it’s important to be aware of the water quality of the places you are visiting. If the water is unsafe for consumption, it’s important to either drink bottled water or find a way to purify your water source.

You don’t need to drink contaminated water to be exposed. So be sure to use purified water when brushing your teeth, consuming untreated ice and even when cleaning your contact lenses.

We travelled through Asia for a year and cleaned our water with the Grayl filtration water bottle. This bottle was especially useful while hiking as we could clean our water on the go..You can read our full review of the Grayl filtration system > (opens in a new tab)”>here >>

12. Wash Your Hands

It seems simple and we are not in daycare anymore, but the concept of proper hand washing has been catapulted into the spotlight since the onset of Covid19. Regular hand washing is said to be one of the best ways you can protect yourself from germs while travelling.

The experts say you can wash your hands with water of any temperature. As long as soap is used, germs and viruses will be killed. It’s important to wash your hands thoroughly for at least 20seconds with soap and water, paying special attention to finger tips, which are often missed.  

Make sure to wash your hands frequently, especially before eating or after touching surfaces that could be contaminated such as in-flight entertainment equipment and elevator buttons. Not all public places will have soap available, so travelling with a small bottle of liquid soap is a good idea!

13. Paper Towels Are King

Did you know that drying your hands with a clean paper towel actually removes more germs than the washing process itself? Germs spread more easily from wet skin than from dry skin. This is why it’s so important to not miss the hand drying step!

Paper towels have some other great uses too! So…. you’ve washed and dried your hands, but now you need to exit the bathroom and touch that dirty door handle! Quick tip is to use a clean paper towel to turn off the tap and open the bathroom door, this way you are not contaminating your squeaky clean hands!

14. Carry Spare Socks

When sightseeing, we always carry a clean pair of socks in our day bag in case we need to remove our shoes for any reason. Many temples for example will require visitors to remove their shoes, so carrying a pair of socks will mean you can explore the temple without getting dirty feet. This came in real handy when we visited the rat temple in Rajasthan India, you can checkout that travel video above!

15. Pack a Sheet and Pillowcase

We travelled for a year with one medium sized backpack each, so we really took the time choose what we packed carefully. Despite having limited space for our gear, we packed a full set of sheets with pillow cases.

As budget travellers having the sheets came in handy when we stayed in places that were not particularly clean.  Having our sheets on hand meant we could have a comfortable and hygienic sleep, no matter what bedding situation we were faced with.

Even if you don’t want to bring along a full set of sheets you can bring a lightweight sleeping bag or sleeping bag liner that can achieve the same comfort for you.

16. Travel With a Scarf or Sarong

We always travel with a scarf or sarong, they are a must have travel items as they have more than one use! Not only are they a great fashion accessory they can also be used as a makeshift pillow case so that you can have a clean place to lay our head while on overnight trains or bus rides. You can also use a scarf to cover your face as a makeshift mask if needed to protect from germs, dust and pollution.

17. Stay Up to Date With Immunisations

We recommend you visit a travel Dr. before you head off overseas. Travel Drs. have all the most up to date information about the places you are visiting and can advise you on what medicines and vaccinations you will need for a healthy trip.

They can also give you useful travel safety advice such as whether or not you need to protect from mosquitoes or be wary of street food depending on the places you visit. 

18. Carry Medicine

You might be surprised how handy it is to have a few medical essentials on you while travelling, so we recommend travelling with a small first aid kit and a few medical supplies.

We used our travel first aid kit surprisingly often while travelling, especially if we were visiting a place with limited supplies or when we got into outdoor activities such as hiking.

Make sure to include antiseptic cream and painkillers to your kit.  It’s also a good idea to ask your travel Dr. to prescribe you a general antibiotic incase you get a bad case of food poisoning. We were glad to have our antibiotics when Reti fell scarily ill during our time in Nepal.  Here is a good sized kit for travel which includes all the essentials, link to first aid kit on Amazon >>

19. Wear Flip Flops in the Shower

Hotel shower floors are moist environments that can harbour nasty fungus and bacteria. The constant use from hundreds of guests and general lack of thorough cleaning makes hotel shower floors a perfect breeding ground for germs and a place to easily transmit infections.

That’s why we never enter a hotel shower without wearing flip flops. Wearing flip flops in the shower protects your feet from fungus and other germs, so you can shower worry free in even the dirtiest showers!

20. Physical Distancing

If you are concerned about catching germs from others it’s important to practice physical distancing while out in public. In short, physical distancing is keeping a safe distance between yourself and others while outside of your home.

Many countries will have their own rules and regulations, but a standard safe distance is about two metres or two arms lengths. It’s also best to avoid large crowds where physical distancing might be difficult.

We hope this list has inspired travel and have a safe, germ free trip! If you have any other questions related to germ free travel, leave us a comment below and we will d our best to answer your question.

Cheers, Native Travellers

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