Only in an absolutely dystopian world, would a trite monochromatic personal protective equipment (PPE) push the cashmeres out of the travel bag and disinfectant wipes/sprays jump to the top of packing checklist; the ignored compression socks find favour and forgotten tiffin boxes pulled of attics to travel along with.
With the virus still raging, packing for travel has changed completely. Mayo Clinic’s suggested packing list includes medicines and essential safe-travel supplies: Cloth face masks, alcohol-based hand sanitiser (at least 60 percent alcohol), disinfectant wipes (at least 70 percent alcohol) for surfaces and thermometer.
Here’s a quick checklist for packing during the pandemic.
Masks/Shields/N95 Respirators: Carry lots of masks made of washable, breathable fabric.
The Centre for Disease Control (CDC) says a big no to masks made of non-breathable fabric, for example, vinyl. Leave behind surgical masks and N95 respirators that are intended for healthcare workers. CDC does not recommend the use of gaiters or face shields adding that “evaluation of these face covers is on-going but effectiveness is unknown at this time”.
Post-travel, remember to throw your masks in the laundry. “Use regular laundry detergent and the warmest appropriate water setting for the cloth used to make the mask. Use the highest heat setting and leave in the dryer until completely dry,” CDC says on its official website.
PPE Kits: PPE kits provide full-body protection and essential for air travel. You can buy PPE kits online (priced at Rs 200 each upwards). However, if you are flying Qatar Airways, do not bother about packing PPE kits. According to Karthik Viswanathan, Senior Manager, Indian sub-continent, Qatar Airways, the airline offers complimentary face shields and protective kits to all passengers. Passengers travelling on Qatar Airways from Hamad International Airport (Doha) will receive their face shields at the check-in counters, whereas at other destinations, the face shields will be distributed at the boarding gates.
On board, all Qatar Airways passengers will be provided with a complimentary protective kit including single-use surgical face mask, large disposable powder-free gloves and an alcohol-based hand sanitiser gel. Business Class customers will also get an additional 75mL sanitiser gel tube.
Sanitiser/Soap: On an ordinary day, 60 percent alcohol content will singe the gullet and churn the gut. Not for sanitisers. CDC recommends packing sanitisers with 60percent alcohol. Thankfully, the 100mL max liquid limit is on hold now. India’s Bureau of Civil Aviation Security has authorised passengers to carry hand sanitisers up to 350 mL in hand baggage as part of COVID-19 safety guidelines. For easy sanitiser access, use a buckle lanyard in your tote/backpack handle. Pack a travel-sized extra sanitiser in the carry-on, just in case you drop the bottle or run out of the liquid. Do not forget to pack a travel-sized hand wash gel in the carry-on.
Disinfectant wipes: Pack a ton of these. You’d need them to clean commonly touched surfaces like doorknobs, handles, chairs and elevator buttons. Even the handle when you are pumping fuel at a petrol station. If you are checking into a hotel/rental, use wet wipes not only to disinfect high-touch surfaces like doorknobs but also light switches, countertops, tables, desks, phones, remote controls and faucets.
Disinfectant spray: Keep a travel-sized disinfectant spray handy to clean public area chairs and tables as well toilet seats. Spray is certainly a better/hygienic tool than wet wipes to clean a toilet seat!
Food: Most airlines are either not serving food or offering fewer options. Pack enough food for your travel. On a short-haul journey, cooked meals/snacks are feasible but for long- hauls, carry dry snacks, energy bars, fruits (avoid the squishy banana). Keep them in transparent bags or wrap them in bees’ wax wraps that are organic, reusable and less burden on the planet (set of 3 bees’ wax wrap is available online at Rs 400 upward).
During a road trip, carry a picnic basket filled with food and plates/tableware. If you have to pick a meal on the road, opt for eateries that offer drive-thru or curb-side service.
Reusable water bottle: Food outlets might be shut at airports, carry a reusable water bottle that you can fill at water fountains. Even if the eateries are open, avoid buying bottled water because it is difficult to vouch for their handling procedures between production and retail.
Zip sliders: Pack a few zip slider bags in your carry-on bag. Not only to keep your snacks and sanitisers but also to stash your wallet, keys, phone during airport screening. Pre-pack your personal items in the backpack/tote to avoid throwing them in trays/bins during security screening.
Foldable Tote: Leave your fancy purse behind. Instead, carry a washable/foldable tote that you can clean in the washing machine after its run at airports and shuttles.
Compression socks: Pre-pandemic, airline travellers could walk up and down the aisle to stretch their legs. Skip that routine now to avoid contact with fellow passengers/surfaces.
Instead, pack a pair of compression socks to promote blood flow, prevent the formation of blood clots and reduce pain especially during long-haul flights.
Med Kit: You might not be the headache-types or ever had a runny nose or upset tummy.
Besides packing regular prescription medicines, you must include few over-the-counter medications: Analgesic (pain relief) medicine/Aspirin, cold/flu tablets, throat lozenges; wound antiseptic; band-aid; motion sickness tablets; Antacid; Antihistamine tablets for bites, stings or allergies; ORS sachets.
(All photographs courtesy of Qatar Airways)
Preeti Verma Lal is a Goa-based freelance writer/photographer.