COVID Items to Pack in your Carry On Bag
Many things have changed in the travel world as a result of the pandemic. I had a feeling that our carry on packing style could be at risk trying to figure out how to bring all the “extra COVID gear” that was needed to fly safely. But after a bit of testing out items on road trips, it became clear which items were “must haves” and others that became “nice to have”.
Since you are permitted a carry on item and a personal item on most airlines, I took full advantage of the personal item. I normally do not have a personal item beyond my purse so I upgraded to a simple canvas bag (and thus became my COVID canvas bag) that would hold all my new items that would be used during airport and plane travel. Most of these items are obvious items to pack but I found the specifics to be helpful – How much hand sanitizer is allowed? Will a container of disinfecting wipes make it through security? Which masks or protective gear should I wear? Some answers are more straightforward than others!
- TSA currently allows for up to 12 oz of hand sanitizer in a carry on item. All other liquid items still have the 3 oz restriction. And everything gets wrapped up in one clear quart plastic container. For the hand sanitizer, Kevin and I each brought a travel sized 2 oz bottle and an 8 oz bottle for a total of 10 oz so between the two of us we had 20 oz of hand sanitizer. And I will say for a nine day trip we barely made a dent in the 10 oz total so this was more than plenty. It is hard to estimate how much you really need so always better to pack more. TSA seems to screen most large containers of hand sanitizer as it was flagged and inspected on both security check points.
- Another obvious item, you are going to want to disinfect surfaces at some point in your trip. I packed a full 75 wipe count Clorox (could not believe I found name brand!) container. I was the most worried that this would be confiscated at security – I know it is not a liquid item but there is liquid in it so I wasn’t sure. My COVID canvas bag went through the scanner and was taken out for inspection. I held my breath hoping my brand name disinfecting wipes would not see the garbage can.. but they were simply inspected and we moved on.
- I think I went through half the wipes throughout the nine days. I wiped down virtually everything in the row on the plane that was wipeable (which is everything). For more on everything we cleaned on the plane, read this post – COVID Practices for Plane Travel! I also wiped down the entire rental car – your fingers touch way more in a car than you think! And do not forget the underneath part of buttons. Pretty much just clean the entire car. And finally, I cleaned all the surfaces in the three Airbnbs we stayed in with focus on the high touch surfaces.
- It is important to read the labeling of the disinfecting wipes you had. The cleaner must remain on a surface wet for a certain amount of time for the full effects of the disinfection to occur (known as contact time). On the Clorox container that I had, it states “Wipe surface, Use enough wipes for treated surface to remain visibly wet for 4 minutes”. The contact time of these infecting wipes was 4 minutes. It is so important to know this because simply wiping once and being done may not kill all the germs that the product is capable of – know your wet time / contact time.
- Hand sanitizer is great in a pinch but remember hand washing is still supreme when it comes to hand hygiene. Having hand wipes with germicidal activity is another great back up because it is the mechanical action of wiping that is so important. So these came in handy, especially after hiking when our hands were dirty and there was not an option of hand washing available. These were also great in combination with the hand sanitizer when we were on our excursions so we could have clean hands before we ate lunch.
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) – I think with PPE it is a bit “do what makes you comfortable” mixed with “follow the rules”.
- Masks are a requirement on almost every major airline for the entire duration of the flight. There is no “right answer” but there were things that 1) have been proven to be worse (neck gaiters, buffs, valve masks) and 2) things that made us feel more comfortable.
- More layers seem to be a good thing so while I brought plenty of cotton masks for our every day use on the trip. For airport and plane travel, we wore KN95 masks and a surgical mask on top. Ear savers were the one thing I wish we had because our total travel time from airport to rental car was over 10 hours and our ears hurt by the end. We felt secure with the double mask approach.
- From observation, many people simply wore a cotton mask, we saw a handful wearing N95, KN95 or similar some with a surgical mask on top, some without, and then another handful that wore neck gaiters, bandannas, etc (which were supposed to be banned on Alaska Airlines but they did not enforce this).
- DO NOT TOUCH THE OUTSIDE OF THE MASK. That is were all the germs are. If you need to adjust your mask, do so along the edges only but once it is on, you should not be touching the mask. When you take it off, place either immediately into the trash if disposable or if reusable, place into a plastic bag to keep the germs contained until you can wash it.
- Here are the masks I purchased:
- KN95 masks
- Surgical masks
- Cloth masks
- Ear saver – these take the pressure of the mask off your ears and are priceless when wearing masks for a long period of time
- I contemplated this one a bit but ultimately decided against it. We saw a fair number of people with the face shield so I think it is definitely a reasonable item to pack for the flight. If anything, it is helpful to stop you from touching your face, eyes, mask, etc which is one of the ways germs enter our bodies.
- The logic behind goggles to avoid any aerosolized COVID particles from entering into the body – in this case, the eyes. You have no idea how many times you touch your face and your eyes so if anything, wearing goggles can help stop you from doing those actions. Glasses are great but do not provide full eye protection. We saw less people with goggles than face shields on during our journey.
- We did not wear goggles but I think I would be more likely to wear goggles next time than the face shield. One reason I chose not to go with goggles for this particular trip was both our flights were red eye times so I had an eye mask on to sleep almost the entire plane ride so technically my eyes were covered.
- If you know how to use them (ie preventing cross contamination), gloves can be helpful particularly for airport security when you may be forced to touch things you do not know are clean or that other people touched. We did not use gloves on this trip but there are certainly points in the travel journey where they are valuable. Another point gloves are useful is when you are cleaning to protect your hands from dirty surfaces and from the cleaning chemical.
We put all this stuff into a canvas bag so it was easily accessible during the flight without fumbling through bags.
I think we did pretty good packing our COVID gear for our first flight and long distance travel. It ended up not adding the amount of items I thought it would to force us to check items and were still able to maintain our carry on packing. Honestly, I may maintain some of these precautions even once the pandemic calms down as there are some great practices in cleanliness that can carry over into every day travel to keep us safe and healthy!
How did our plane ride go? Read about it here – Our Experience Flying with Alaska Airlines in August 2020
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