With travel restrictions finally beginning to ease across the world, trips abroad are back on the horizon! However, for many of us, travelling during a pandemic can still be a thing of anxiety.
Despite progress within the travel industry, local restrictions are still causing uncertainty and the idea of spending two weeks in a mandatory quarantine is enough to make you go stir crazy!
Written with the help of our adventurous Facebook community, we bring you the best pandemic travel essentials, all designed to make you feel safer and happier when you’re ready to jump on that plane.
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Safety Essentials for Travelling in a Pandemic
We here at South East Asia Backpacker recognise that your health extends beyond your physical wellbeing. With this in mind, we’ve broken this post about pandemic travel essentials into two lists.
- Transit Essentials: This will document the items you need to have while travelling during a pandemic.
- Quarantine Essentials: This is dedicated to keeping your mind healthy in circumstances where you are required to quarantine abroad.
The links to online stores (like Amazon) on this page are affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate South East Asia Backpacker earns from qualifying purchases. We always write our reviews before checking whether affiliate links are available.
1. Protective Reusable Face Mask
First things first, you’re unlikely to be flying anywhere without an adequate face covering. The conversation of what mask is best for travel is a long one, we’ve already dived deep into this topic so will keep it simple here.
Our favourite all-rounder is the HaloLife Face Mask. It has nano filter technology and claims to filter out 97.9% of airborne particles. While we’re not qualified to test those scientific specs, we can confirm that it’s by far the most comfortable mask we’ve ever worn! It is made from polyester and lycra mix, meaning it is breathable and comfortable to wear for long periods.
It is also a much better alternative to single-use masks. Simply wash the mask in hot water with detergent and replace the filter either every week or two, depending on the frequency of use.
2. Hand Sanitiser
It is something that many of us probably used once in a blue moon before 2020. However, carrying hand sanitiser on a trip has become as essential as packing clean underwear!
When it comes to buying sanitiser, many of us are tempted to buy the biggest bottle we can find to last the duration of our trip. While this is certainly the most cost-effective and environmentally friendly way, you’ll need to bear in mind that you won’t be able to fly with a massive bottle of liquid in your hand luggage.
Instead, grab a large bottle of hand sanitiser for your hold luggage and invest in one of the travel-sized clip-on bottles for your hand luggage. This way you will be able to take it on the plane and use it throughout your journey whenever you feel like it is needed.
A travel-sized hand sanitiser is much better for day to day outings and when it runs low, you can easily top it up using a larger bottle. The clip-on bottles are great as they allow the sanitiser to be easily accessible at all times, saving you from transferring germs to your belongings as you rummage through your bag.
3. Disinfectant Wipes
When it comes to staying safe when travelling during a pandemic, disinfectant wipes are your new best friend. They are a cheap piece of gear to include in your travel armoury, meaning there is no reason not to invest in a few packs.
Whether you want to have a wipe over your armrest on the plane or give your hotel room a quick once over, disinfectant wipes will do the job. Make sure you look for wipes that will kill viruses specifically but remember not to use these on your hands – the chemicals could cause you to have a reaction. Instead, stick to hand sanitiser for the skin.
4. Compression Socks
Since the pandemic began, flying has fundamentally changed. To keep passengers as safe as possible, travellers have been largely encouraged to stay in their seats throughout their flight. While this might be a good way to protect you from the germs of the guy three seats over, it isn’t great if you want to keep your blood flowing.
The above exercises are a good starting point for travellers who usually like to move around on flights but they won’t solve all of your problems. To boost your circulation when you’re stuck in your seat, invest in some compression socks before you fly.
These will help to support your veins, keep your blood flowing and help to prevent nasty conditions such as Deep Vein Thrombosis. Thanks to the growing popularity of compression socks, they don’t need to look like your grandad’s old knee-highs either! Check out Comrad for some fresh and funky designs.
5. Face Wash
Research has suggested that wearing a mask reduces the spread of airborne viruses so it is worth investing in one. However, all this mask-wearing has produced a rather unfortunate side effect. Nope, it is not the loss of your civil liberties, it is the dreaded ‘maskne’.
Maskne, an abbreviation for mask acne, is a condition that increases oil build-up and causes spot outbreaks. Drink lots of water to keep your skin hydrated and use a cleanser to keep your skin clean. Neutrogena’s Pink Grapefruit range is budget-friendly and only uses sustainably sourced palm oil.
6. Smartphone Steriliser
According to Time, your mobile is 10 times dirtier than the average toilet seat. Ew. To keep any nasty bacteria or viruses off your tech, consider investing in a smartphone sterilizer. Although these can be pricey, when you consider just how easy it is to catch something nasty from your phone, it is well worth the investment.
Phonesoap produces a range of mobile sterilisers which claim to kill 99.99% of household germs (including coronavirus and other types of viruses) during a 10-minute cycle. Although primarily used for phones, many of these sterilisers will also clean keys, smartwatches, earbuds and wallets.
If you don’t want to splash out on a phone steriliser, be sure that you at least buy a pack of isopropyl alcohol wipes to gently wipe the exterior of your phone free of germs.
7. Face Shield
Although masks will be most travellers first choice when it comes to face coverings, these don’t suit everybody. If for any reason you can’t wear a mask or simply want to double up on protection, a face shield can be a good shout.
Face shields are ideal for crowded areas such as in supermarkets and on public transport. When choosing a face visor, look for something which has an anti-fog coating. Many of these can be worn with glasses so make sure you check the features and specs before buying.
8. Seat Covers
Let’s be honest, this won’t be a transit essential that everyone will deem necessary. However, for those of you being extra cautious when it comes to staying safe while travelling, you may want to invest in seat covers.
These Medd Max seat covers can be used on a variety of public transport including buses, planes and trains. Unlike many of the face masks on the market, they can also be washed and reused, meaning they have a less detrimental impact on the environment. They also have an elasticated back so they can be made to fit most sized seats.
9. Travel Insurance
It is the number one most important item on every traveller’s packing list, or at least it should be! Travel insurance has never been more important and quite frankly, you would be a fool to travel anywhere right now without it.
When it comes to making sure that you’re covered for your trip, we recommend SafetyWing’s Nomad Insurance. It operates on a rolling monthly subscription and even covers COVID-19, as long as it wasn’t contracted prior to your coverage start date. As of April 2021, it also covers any necessary quarantine abroad*, perfect for quickly changing travel restrictions.
*$50USD per day up to 10 days
1. Streaming Subscription
Did somebody say Netflix and chill? Might as well if you’re going to be stuck in a quarantine hotel for two weeks! No matter what your genre of choice is, there is bound to be a streaming service to suit you.
Disney+, Netflix, Amazon Prime, NOW TV, BritBox… the list is endless. After all, how many other opportunities will you have to binge your favourite show guilt-free? And if you’re looking for some travel inspiration upon your release from quarantine, make sure to check out these great travel movies!
Note: It probably goes without saying that you will want to bring a computer or tablet with you for your hotel quarantine. While your smartphone will be suitable for most things on this list, a laptop or tablet often offers a much more comfortable viewing experience.
2. Mindfulness App
Quarantine can be rough, especially if you are doing it on your own. To keep your mind happy and healthy, consider downloading a mindfulness app. These usually offer guided meditations as well as sleep stories to help you unwind before bed.
Sam Harris’s Waking Up app is a solid favourite with our team. It aims to show the user more about their mind than most meditation apps would attempt. The app offers endless hours of fascinating material which we can’t recommend highly enough.
Industry leaders Headspace offer some great tips for those with an anxious mind and make meditation very accessible, especially recommended for first-timers and speakers of other languages. Headspace offers a 14-day free trial, just long enough to help you stay calm during quarantine!
3. Card Games
Not all card games are like the ones you used to play with your Granny! These days there are literally thousands of cool games on the market, as clean or as not-safe-for-work as you like! If you are quarantining as part of a couple, something risqué like Cards Against Humanity or Exploding Kittens will ensure you get your daily dose of laughter.
For families quarantining together, card games are a great way to keep the kids entertained while still providing some bonding time with Mum and Dad too. Uno and Monopoly Deal are two great options that are fun for all ages and take up next to no room in your backpack or suitcase.
4. Travel Yoga Mat
Keeping fit is one of the most important parts of maintaining good mental health and if you’re a yogi, you’ll already know all about the benefits of breathwork, mindfulness and asana. To help you keep up your yoga practice in quarantine, you’ll need a yoga mat.
When it comes to travelling with a yoga mat, something lightweight is usually the best call. Foldable yoga mats are easier to transport and will usually fit in your luggage, meaning you won’t need to pay to take it on a plane as extra baggage.
The Jade Voyager Yoga Mat is a great choice for those looking for a durable, lightweight mat. It’s grippy while at the same time folding down to around the size of a yoga block. I personally use this mat and can’t rate it highly enough for life on the road!
5. Fitness App
If you’re into keeping fit but your first port of call would usually be the gym, consider taking out a subscription to a fitness app. Our favourite is Fiit which gives you access to over 700 classes and 20+ training plans.
No matter if you want to keep up with your general fitness, lose weight or build strength, there is an app for you. Many of these now sync up with your smartwatch or fitness tracker so you can follow your progress and start seeing real results. A happy body equals a happy mind!
If you are a bookworm, then chances are you won’t possibly have enough room in your luggage to pack all of the books you’d like to read during your hotel quarantine. Luckily, thanks to E-Readers, you no longer need to worry about this.
Kindle is probably the most notable name in the E-Book market and has gadgets to suit all budgets. Look out on Amazon’s daily deals for the opportunity to grab new titles for a steal of a price. And, if you’re looking for some literary inspiration, check out these books about Southeast Asia!
7. Language Learning Aid
Many of us find language learning daunting, however, that shouldn’t be an excuse for ignorance! Taking the time to learn the basics of any language is likely to be one of the best things you ever do and quarantine presents the perfect opportunity to get started.
There are plenty of language learning aids online, from free options like Duolingo to more advanced paid platforms like Pimsleur and Babbel. One thing is for certain, nobody has ever regretted learning a language! Sign up for a free 7-day Pimsleur trial here.
8. Hand Weights
If you don’t want to lose your gains in quarantine, some hand weights are a great option. “But these will be so heavy in my suitcase”, I hear you cry! Not necessarily. AquaBells have figured out an ingenious way to create the perfect weights for travel.
These weights are portable, essentially allowing you to carry your own mini gym on your travels. Simply fill them with water when you’re ready to work out and voila! You now have a set of weights to train with. Dumbbells can be filled with up to 16 pounds of liquid, meaning that you can adjust the weight depending on your strength.
Good to know: Many quarantine hotels are allowing guests to rent gym and exercise equipment for an additional fee. Make sure to check with your hotel in advance to see whether this option is available to you.
9. Mobile Hotspot Device
In an ideal world, the place that you are quarantining will have high-speed internet access. However, at some of the cheaper quarantine hotels, the internet can be a bit spotty. This is no good if you have work commitments or plan to binge-watch the Gilmore Girls.
To ensure that you stay connected, consider purchasing a data hotspot device. Simo Solis WiFi Hotspots are great for those travelling internationally as they work in over 135 countries and you can connect up to 10 devices to one hotspot. They offer flexible plans without sticky long-term contracts. Use the coupon code BACKPACKER for a 15% discount.
10. Takeaway Apps
Many of the quarantine hotel packages will include set meals. However, these can sometimes be… lacking. Reviews of repetitive, bland and boring dishes are common and let’s face it, nobody has time for that in quarantine!
Many of the hotels will allow you to order in food so to keep your palate alive, consider downloading some of the takeaway apps that operate where you are. UberEats, Deliveroo and FoodPanda are popular options that all promise to fulfil your cravings!
Have you been travelling during the pandemic? Do you have anything you’d add to our list of essentials? Let us know in the comments!
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