A Germaphobe’s Guide to Travel

Consider this your all-in-one guide to staying healthy when traveling during a pandemic.


Photo by Robert Kneschke/Shutterstock

We had a few self-proclaimed germaphobes on staff, and then COVID hit.

Now we’re all more aware of germs than ever before. We look at surfaces differently, people differently. But thanks to reinforced guidelines from public health experts, we know the best ways to protect ourselves: social distancing, hand washing, wearing masks, and frequent disinfecting and cleaning of shared spaces. All must be done in tandem, and done often.

This responsibility to protect against the spread of the coronavirus becomes even more important when we decide to leave our homes and venture farther afield. At AFAR, we have long said that done responsibly, there are ways to travel again. With this guide, we hope you will leave with your questions answered and armed with best practices. —The Editors

Planes, Trains, and Automobiles

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Photo by StudioSmart/Shutterstock

Can Flying Make You Sick?

How safe are airports and airplanes during an outbreak? That question has taken on new urgency since the coronavirus surfaced. After all, fears of crowded and confined spaces like airplanes typically spike during the winter, and this is beyond any normal flu season.

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How to Avoid Pesky Plane Germs

For certifiable germaphobes, the transportation, accommodations, and people-to-people interactions of traveling can present a bit of a challenge (read: a huge, whopping struggle). Luckily, there’s a way to avoid those “plane germs.”

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Can You Properly Socially Distance on an Airplane?

Airlines are blocking out middle seats and planes are often flying nearly empty these days. But on fuller flights, how can passengers practice proper social distancing?

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What Airlines Are Doing to Prove Their Planes Are (Extra) Clean

Because honestly, shouldn’t they have been pretty clean in the first place? Following new guidance from the CDC, carriers are stepping up measures to disinfect their aircraft.

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Should You Think Twice About Washing Your Hands at 30,000 Feet?

A recent study found that the water used on flights—the same water used for hand washing and for coffee and tea—might be unhealthy.

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What to Know About Wearing Goggles and Face Shields During Air Travel

All major U.S. airlines require face masks and have committed to enhanced cleaning measures. But with planes getting more crowded, are there added precautions travelers should take?

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Face Masks Are Now Mandatory for Amtrak Passengers

The new facial covering policy requires all customers to wear a mask that covers their mouth and nose while they are in train stations, on trains, and on Amtrak Thruway buses.

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What to Know About Taking Road Trips During Coronavirus

If you’re thinking about hitting the road during the pandemic, be sure to study the situation in your destination, and read the CDC’s guidelines on how to take precautions.

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How an Infectious Disease Doctor Disinfects Surfaces While Traveling

When travel is a necessity—and we are more exposed to COVID than we would be, say, at home—what precautions we should take? To delve into the details, we called up an expert.

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When Nature Calls: A Ranked List of Your Best (and Worst) Bathroom Options on the Road

From a portable loo to highway rest stops, here are a few tips on how to prepare to go on the go.

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Hotels and Homestays

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Photo by Dean Drobot/Shutterstock

Hotel vs. Vacation Rental During COVID—Which Feels Safer?

Amid the coronavirus pandemic, we all have a very personal approach to the experiences we’re more comfortable with. Two AFAR staffers share their different takes.

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What Hotels Are Doing to Meet Coronavirus Health Standards

Four Seasons partnered with Johns Hopkins. Hilton linked up with the Mayo Clinic. Hotels worldwide are introducing enhanced sanitization and social-distancing measures to reassure travelers that their stay in the age of COVID-19 will be safe.

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How Airbnb Is Ensuring Clean and Healthy Stays

Vacation rentals offer privacy and fewer crowds, something many travelers are looking for in the age of coronavirus.

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7 Things to Look for in a Hotel During COVID-19

Yes, it can be safe to stay in hotels—but it’s all about understanding your tolerance for risk and being prepared for the fact that, well, everything is different.

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A Guide to Booking Safe Vacation Rentals

Vacation rental services have all seen an uptick in domestic bookings amid the coronavirus pandemic. But is it even safe to vacation at these properties—and how many canisters of disinfectant wipes should we bring?

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Packing and Gear


Photo by Maurizio Milanesio/Shutterstock

Please Don’t Put Your Suitcase on the Bed, Ever

The real reason there’s a luggage rack in your hotel room.

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Now Is the Perfect Time to Deep-Clean Your Travel Gear

Experts weigh in on the best ways to clean and maintain your suitcases, backpacks, water bottles, hiking boots, and more.

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Best Travel Hand Sanitizers

Don’t get us wrong: Purell gets the job done. But there are so many other better options.

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Our Picks for Face Masks to Buy

From masks that are great for air travel to masks with SPF protection that are ideal for outdoor adventures.

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Please Stop Putting Your Dirty Shoes Next to Clean Clothes

“Shoes are definitely dirty, 100 percent. They are icky, they are gross.”

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The Best Packing Cubes for Every Budget

Do you fold your clothes, roll them, or just throw everything into your suitcase? Whatever your method, there’s a better way to pack, sort, and keep your travel belongings clean.

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These French Soap Sheets Are An Excellent Travel Hack

No hand soap? Pull out a soap sheet. No hand sanitizer? Hello, soap sheet! Using them also feels a bit more magical than giving the dispenser a pump or two: Just take a sheet, add some water, rub your hands together, and voilà—soapy suds.

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Why We’re Obsessed With These Reusable Travel Bottles

Hotels are finally starting to ban mini shampoo bottles, so a good travel-size option is more important than ever.

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18 Travel-Size Toiletries We Always Pack

To make your next trip a little easier, AFAR staffers share the tried-and-true travel-size toiletries—all 3.4 ounces or less—that they always bring.

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The One Thing You’ve Probably Forgotten to Disinfect While Traveling

Viruses—and not just the coronavirus—can survive longer on nonporous, water-resistant surfaces like plastic passport covers. Here’s how to clean your passport without damaging it.

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The Toiletry Bags and Dopp Kits We Love the Most

Any seasoned traveler knows that a good toiletry bag is essential: Not only does it reduce the chances that your favorite travel-size shampoo bottle will explode all over your shoe bags and packing cubes, but it also keeps you organized.

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