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Flying as we know it has changed and it looks like many of the 2020 measures put in place are here to stay until the virus get’s under control. Earlier in the year people were only flying for essential travel and mainly to get home but now holiday and vacation travel is slowly starting and it’s important to be prepared for your flight!
Based on my journey flying across the world from Indonesia to the UK in July taking 3 flights with 2 different airlines, one of which being Qatar Airways, I wanted to share with you a checklist of what to pack for flying during the pandemic, and some reminders of things you need to do and check before travelling that I observed and picked up on.
Now that travel is increasing, many of us may not think we are in a ‘pandemic’ but we really are, and even as it eases I think we’ll still want to, and need to, travel in this different, new normal way. So this is a travel packing list for what to pack when travelling during the pandemic that we’ll probably have to get used to.
Luckily, I don’t think the changes are that bad and they are definitely worth it!
What To Pack When Flying During Pandemic
Disclaimer – I am not a travel health professional, these are purely my own views based on my own experience.
Things To Pack When Flying During the Pandemic!
1. Face Mask
Without a doubt, the one thing you need to pack and take with you when flying during pandemic times is a face mask and you won’t be allowed on the flight, and probably not in the airport, without one.
What is the best face mask for travel?
I have been thinking about the best face mask to travel in for awhile. So many people are wearing the medical masks which offer appropriate protection however they are one-use and with the whole world wearing them, it feels like all of our efforts to remove one-use items have gone out of the window!
However, I do feel that there is a place for them because they are designed for the purpose of protection and they are cheap to buy and therefore accessible to more people.
If you decide to travel in a medical mask, be sure to pack a few because you are only meant to wear them for a few hours and dispose of them after that.
The alternative, and an eco-friendly option is getting a fabric mask which is reusable. These masks cost a bit more money but you can use them over and over again. The only thing you need to make sure you do is to wash them after every use and wearing the same one should not extend more than a few hours, just like medical masks.
There are downsides to fabric mask though. The main one being that they may not be to the standard of medical masks in terms of protection and if you are on a long journey you will still need more than 1 mask because after a few hours you will need to take the mask off and wash it so it’s ready for another use which can’t be done mid-journey!
I was recently gifted some fabric masks by Armor London, I really like their masks, not only because they are made from sustainably sourced material like hemp and their packaging is made from 100% recycled material and is fully biodegradable, but because Armor London offer filters that go inside of their face covers which give the material face mask more protection than those without.
Note that these filters need to be replaced after 8 hours of use and the masks need to be washed regularly, but at least on a long journey you can replace the filter after 8 hours with another one.
You can shop these sustainable face covers from Armor London here and when you do, for every mask they sell, they donate 1 mask to frontline key workers in the UK!
For more information on the Do’s and Don’t of Medical Masks and Fabric Masks read this article on when and how to use masks by WHO, because I am not a professional.
2. Hand Sanitiser
Another must pack item when travelling during a pandemic is hand sanitiser. Although most airports now have hand sanitiser stations and airlines may provide you with it onboard, you’ll still want to take a bottle or two with you.
I know a lot of people always fly with wipes to wipe down the plane seat and although I always thought that was a bit OCD before, I’m here for it now. A small pack of wipes is great to add to your packing list for travelling during covid-19 so as soon as you sit down in your plane seat, or even on your train or bus seat when going to the airport, you can clean the arm rests, tray table, tv, remote and window area that people often touch if you are next to a window.
You can wipe down the handle of your baggage trolley when you collect it and I’m sure your phone could do with a wipe throughout the journey too!
From a sustainable point of view, I stopped using wipes a few years ago because they take soo long to break down and last forever, but in this instance, I don’t know what else to use to wipe surfaces when travelling to get this type of cleanliness.
4. Face Shield
As I boarded my first long-haul flight with Qatar Airways in Indonesia I was presented with a face shield and told that I had to wear it during the whole flight apart from when I was drinking or eating, and I had to wear it along with the face mask that I already had on which I didn’t expect.
It seems short-haul flights are not making this mandatory and many other long-haul airlines are not either, but honestly, once I got used to wearing this face shield I really didn’t mind it.
Yes, they look silly, and yes, they may look over the top, but the more people wear them, and I think they will, the more ‘normal’ it will get. This is new normal travel after all! I actually felt very protected with a double layer of protection and sleeping with it on was quite cosy!
If you are really concerned about travelling, I would honestly recommend getting a face shield for your flight if you know your airline will not provide you with one, and best of all they are reusable!
I personally didn’t fly with gloves or use the gloves I was given by Qatar Airways in their safety kit (more info on airline safety kits below). This is because unless you use them correctly, they don’t really help.
E.g if you use them to open doors and then touch your phone, take them off and touch your phone without cleaning your phone, it defeats the object. But for the idea of feeling safer and making you feel more cautious you could pack these.
Perhaps my biggest tip of what to pack when flying during cover-19 is food because from my experience, many shops were shut in the airports and therefore food was limited!
Some short-haul airlines have stopped selling food and drink and offering an onboard service which means you’ll need to pack those snacks and I wouldn’t rely on getting them in the airport before flying just in case.
In my experience, Qatar Airways did provide us with meals as normal on both flights but I was hungry on my layovers!
In terms of drink, of course you can’t take drinks through security. I always have a refillable bottle and go to the water stations. I did notice that one of the airports I was in had closed all of the water stations and therefore I had to buy a bottle of water, but the others had the water refill stations in operation.
7. Pillow and Blanket
Although usually covered in plastic for protection anyway, these are 2 items you are usually given on long-haul flights but might not see onboard in the future.
This might not be the case and in my experience, I was given a pillow and blanket on one Qatar flight which was overnight but not on a daytime flight where they are usually provided.
It would be pretty horrible to get on board a long flight to realise you have no pillow or blanket, and we know flights can get cold, so I would really recommend packing your own just incase!
I love my blow up inflatable travel pillow because it doesn’t take up much space in my bag before and after the flight.
What Hand Luggage Bag to Fly With?
In terms of hand luggage bags, my flights were no different to normal, you could take all the usual types of cabin luggage on and use the overhead compartments.
However, some airlines seem to be stopping the use of the overhead compartments because so many people touch these areas and this means any bags you bring onboard will need to be able to fit under your seat and any cabin suitcases will go under the plane.
Cabin approved backpacks which provide plenty of room but will fit under your seat are the answer to this and will ensure you can keep a lot of luggage on you rather than under the plane, and will save you fees for checking in luggage.
My friend Monica from the Travel Hack has made this super stylish 20L cabin backpack that also fits under the seat and is really spacious inside, perfect when travelling with a lot of hand luggage that you want to keep with you!
I also love this spacious cabin backpack that fits under the seat and therefore perfect if overhead cabins are closed.
In addition to this, I heard of hand luggage being given a much lighter maximum limit so check this with your airline before flying so you can pack correctly!
What Do The Airlines Give You?
From my experience, and from what I have heard from others, when you catch a short-haul flight which is just a few hours like with Ryanair in Europe, you are not given anything by the airlines.
It seems, the longer the flight is, the more you are given.
If it’s longer than a couple of hours but not a long-haul flight you may be given a face mask which will be good to use when you get off the flight as you would have had yours on for a good few hours.
On actual long-haul flights like my flight with Qatar, they are giving out safety packs and the one I was given by Qatar Airways provided a face mask, gloves and hand sanitiser. I saw that Emirates have been giving out wipes in their safety packs.
In addition to this Qatar Airways gives out face shields before boarding and it may be that more long haul airlines do this too for extra protection.
Unless you 100% know the airline is going to give you things like a mask or sanitiser, I really think you should take everything I have mentioned above yourself just in case they don’t.
One airline may give you an extra mask, one may not and it’s better to assume not and be prepared. Plus, anything they give you that you already have is not really a waste as the way things are going you will need to use that face mask, those gloves and the hand sanitiser very soon!
Things To Note Before You Fly.
Before you get ready to go to the airport and get on the plane there are a few extra things you need to think about.
For example, the UK requires you to fill in a form which needs to be done before your journey. Check the regulations of the country you are flying into to check if any extra paperwork like this is needed.
You need to have travel insurance before going on your trip and it’s important to check if your travel insurance covers you for the destination you are going to. Generally, if your government recommends you do not travel there, your insurance will not be valid.
It looks like travel insurance covering coronavirus won’t be coming but Safety Wing insurance company have got close by providing Remote Health, an International Comprehensive Health Insurance instead.
Due to social distancing and extra checks, even with less people, things may take longer than they once did so be sure to get to the airport early so you’re not rushing, and you’re not sweating from running when they take your temperature as you board!
And lastly, check the status of your flight before leaving for the airport as cancellations are common in some areas of the world and with some airlines!
Thank you for reading and I hope this gave you some ideas of what to pack when flying in the new normal world which will help you stay protected and safe and keep others around you safe too!
If you want to SEE my flight from Indonesia to the UK, have a watch of my Youtube video here!
- For more of my must-read travel tip posts to help you pack and fly see:
- Backpacking Checklist To Prepare for a Gap Year or Backpacking Trip!
- 18 Travel Essentials To Pack That Will Save You Space, Time & Money!
- How to Show Proof of Onward Travel WITHOUT Paying for a Flight!