By: Caroline Morse Teel.
Cramped planes, tainted water, jet lag, and general exhaustion: Travel brings plenty of opportunities for you to get sick. You’ve waited all year for your vacation—so why ruin it with something preventable? Up your chances of staying healthy while traveling by packing these tiny travel products designed to help you feel great.
How to Stay Healthy While Traveling
There’s one essential item for healthy travel that you won’t see in this list: medicine. You can find recommended remedies in Must-Pack Medications for Travel and 9 Over-the-Counter Medicines You Should Pack for Every Trip.
Seat Sitters Airplane Seat Cover, Tray Table Cover, and Face Mask Kit
It’s no joke just how dirty and germ-infested planes are. One of the most contaminated areas—and the one most likely to touch your food—is the tray table. Defend yourself with the Seat Sitters Airplane Seat Cover, Tray Table Cover and Face Mask Kit. These machine-washable, super hygienic covers can easily slip on and off your seat in seconds.
You might not always have access to clean running water and soap, so always pack some travel-sized hand sanitizer. Use it before you eat, after using the airplane bathroom, or anywhere else you encounter germs. For the sake of the people around you on the plane, we recommend an unscented hand sanitizer.
Hand sanitizer is great but doesn’t work as well when you need to clean a hard surface, like a tray table or the seatback screen on a plane. In your hotel room, use an antibacterial wipe to clean the TV remote and the door handles. Individually wrapped sanitizing wipes won’t dry out and work on pretty much any surface.
Saline Nasal Spray
Did you know that healthy travel often starts in your nose? An airplane cabin’s desert-like air can dry out the mucous membranes in your nose, which are essential in preventing illness. Keeping these delicate tissues hydrated with a saline nasal spray during long flights could help you fend off germs from the guy coughing behind you. Ayr is one travel-size option worth considering.
As another weapon against dry air, pack this handy portable mini travel bottle-cap air humidifier so you can breathe in clean, moist air no matter where you’re staying. This is one of our favorite tiny travel products because you use your own water bottle with it—so you don’t have to pack a bulky unit when any basic water or (empty) soda bottle will do.
Microfleece Travel Blanket
Airline blankets aren’t always washed in between flights, so who knows what kind of nasty germs you’re snuggling up with? Rest easy under the World’s Best Travel Blanket, a 100 percent polyester fleece-knit, travel-sized blanket that’s soft, cozy, and easy to clean.
Flight Ear Plugs
For flyers who experience ear pain during take-off and landing, earplugs that help regulate pressure can be vital. Many travelers also find them helpful when driving through changing elevations in mountainous regions. EarPlanes and Flents are two popular brands.
A small first-aid kit stocked with bandages, antiseptic wipes, and other medical necessities is always a wise thing to have on hand, particularly if you’ll be spending much of your vacation outdoors without easy access to a doctor. Surviveware offers a well-stocked kit that won’t take up too much space in your suitcase. An even more compact option is this 66-piece kit, which weighs less than half a pound.
If you’re flying with a first-aid kit in your carry-on, remember to double check it for any items that might not make it through airport security. Small tubes of antibiotic cream, for instance, should go into your quart-size plastic bag of liquids and gels, while sharp items such as lancets or large scissors could be confiscated. Small scissors (with blades shorter than four inches) are fine.
Headed to a place where there isn’t potable water? It’s still important to stay hydrated. Bring along the LifeStraw water bottle and you’ll be able to turn any water into something drinkable, thanks to the built-in filter that removes bacteria and parasites (it is not effective against viruses; if those are a concern, upgrade to the the self-cleaning LARQ Bottle). Another good option is the GRAYL, a reusable bottle that works a bit like a French press to remove viruses, bacteria, protozoa, and some chemicals as you force water through it.
Back-country hikers and travelers in developing countries where the water isn’t safe to drink might also like the SteriPEN, a UV light that destroys bacteria, viruses, and protozoa.
It can be tricky enough to keep track of your medication schedule at home; add jet lag, a different daily routine, and a new time zone, and having a pill organizer can literally be a lifesaver. Stuff Seniors Need and Ezy Dose offer travel-friendly pill cases that don’t take up too much space.
Sunburn not only causes pain and unsightly skin but can also contribute to heat exhaustion. (“Sunburn affects your body’s ability to cool itself,” according to the Mayo Clinic.) That’s why it’s important to throw a bottle of sunblock into your bag, especially if you’ll be traveling in warmer climates.
Note: If you’re planning on snorkeling, do the environment a favor and choose a reef-safe sunblock; chemicals found in most sunscreen brands, particularly oxybenzone, contribute to coral damage. Banana Boat offers a set of three travel-size bottles that will keep you, your travel companions, and the reefs protected.
Mosquitoes, ticks, and other creepy-crawlies can transmit nasty diseases ranging from malaria to Zika. Traveling to an affected area? Stock up on insect repellent to use during your trip, and consider treating your shoes and clothing with permethrin before you leave. 3M offers a travel-size insect repellent with DEET in a lotion or spray form.
Portable Toothbrush Sanitizer
Sometimes you have to subject your toothbrush to less-than-ideal conditions on the road—using it in the airplane bathroom, for instance, or storing it in a dubiously clean hotel bathroom cup. Before you put it in your mouth, sanitize your toothbrush with this Rechargeable Toothbrush Case, a portable case that uses UV light to kill the bacteria lurking on your toothbrush.
Got a long flight, drive, or train ride coming up? You could be putting yourself at risk for blood clots, which can occur any time you’re sitting still for long periods of time (not only when you’re at 30,000 feet). If such a clot spreads to the lungs, it could have life-threatening consequences. Compression socks can help stimulate blood flow, reduce swelling, and prevent deep vein thrombosis. (Note: If you have certain medical conditions, your doctor may recommend custom-fitted compression stockings.)
Cell Phone Sanitizer
Do you open the public bathroom door using a tissue to protect yourself from germs? You should actually be using one to save yourself from your dirty cell phone, as studies have found that most phones have more bacteria than a public bathroom door handle (and more than the toilet seat). Think about how many times you’ve snapped a photo of your meal with your phone and then dived in to eat without washing your hands in between. Gross. Keep your phone clean with PhoneSoap Go, which sanitizes and charges your phone at the same time.
Caroline Morse Teel never travels without hand sanitizer, one of her favorite tiny travel products. Follow her adventures around the world on Instagram @TravelWithCaroline and on Twitter @CarolineMorse1.
Editor’s note: This story was originally published in 2016. It has been updated to reflect the most current information. Sarah Schlichter and Margaret Leahy also contributed to this story.