The world is full of fascinating new places to explore and delicious new foods to sample, but for the traveling germaphobe, it’s also blanketed in scary new germs to avoid. Unfortunately, becoming ill while traveling isn’t an unreasonable fear; studies have shown that you’re more than 100 times more likely to get sick on a plane than you are during your everyday life, and that your hotel room is covered in fecal bacteria. It’s enough to make anyone reach for the hand sanitizer.
To help you sterilize your space and ward off bacteria on the road, throw a few of the following products for germaphobes into your suitcase.
Antibacterial Hand Gel
This old standby should be the first item in any germaphobe survival kit. When you can’t wash your hands—or if you’re in a place with non-potable water, such as an airplane or a developing country—it’s always a good idea to use a dab of hand sanitizer before eating.
Purell is one reliable brand that comes in handy travel-size containers. If you’re looking for an all-natural option, try Elyptol, which is made with eucalyptus oil to make it less drying to your skin.
Many travelers use a cover to protect their toothbrush between uses, but it turns out that enclosing moist bristles can create an environment that encourages even more bacteria growth. However, if you leave your toothbrush out in the open air of a bathroom, it can end up accumulating fecal bacteria from the flushing of the toilet. (Side note: You should be putting the lid down before you flush.)
That’s why you might want to use a toothbrush sanitizer like this one from MAXOAK, which uses ultraviolet light to kill up to 99.99 percent of germs. It weighs less than two ounces and fits most toothbrush heads.
Even more versatile than hand sanitizing gel, antibacterial wipes can be used not only to clean your hands but also to sterilize items where germs frequently gather—like your smartphone, your airplane tray table, and the TV remote at your hotel. Wet Ones are some of the handiest products for germaphobes to carry; they come in small individual packets that you can easily transport in your purse, backpack, or pocket.
If a quick wipe-down of your phone doesn’t feel like enough, invest in a device specifically designed to sanitize smartphones. The battery-powered PhoneSoap Go sanitizes and charges your phone at the same time, using ultraviolet light to kill nearly 100 percent of germs in about 10 minutes.
A less expensive option is the HANS Dual-Sided Screen Cleaner, which cleans laptop or phone screens with a sponge on one side of the device, then dries them with a microfiber cloth on the other side. This removes not only bacteria but also oil and other grime that may have built up on your device.
You might not think twice about strolling around your hotel room in bare feet, but keep in mind that carpets can be a breeding ground for bacteria. In a story on how to avoid contracting athlete’s foot, ScienceDaily included hotel rooms in a list of places where you shouldn’t walk barefoot, along with pools, gyms, locker rooms, and showers.
Wearing shoes and/or socks at all times will do the trick to protect your feet from hotel carpet nasties, but it’s never a bad idea to have a pair of lightweight flip-flops or shower shoes that you can wear when walking around the hotel pool or in the bathroom. Zappos offers a wide selection.
Ever wish you had a magic wand that would clean your hotel room with only a wave or two? The Travel UV Sanitizing Wand from Sharper Image is about as close as you can get. About 10 inches long and weighing five ounces, it’s conveniently sized for travel, and it uses ultraviolet light to kill germs.
As soon as you check into your hotel room, you can wave the wand over the light switches, the doorknobs, and that iffy-looking duvet cover—and then relax, knowing you’re in a clean, sanitized environment.
Portable Air Purifier
You’ve waved and wiped and taken care of all those surface germs—but what about the ones in the air? The Pure Company’s Portable Air Purifier uses ionization technology to remove spores and bacteria that can trigger allergies or illness. It also eliminates odors, which makes it handy for musty-smelling hotel rooms. It measures five inches across and weighs 0.65 pounds.
Before you snuggle up with that airplane blanket, consider that it might not have been washed before you used it, according to Travel + Leisure. You might want to bring your own instead. The Cocoon CoolMax Blanket is one good option; lightweight and soft, it expands to 70 by 56 inches but folds up into a pouch for easy packing and storage.
Airplane Seat Cover
If airplane seats gross you out (and they should), you might want to snag some Seat Sitters: reusable covers for the seat and the tray table that can be wiped down or washed between trips. Each cover comes in a kit with a face mask, sanitary wipes, and a nut-free sticker for travelers with allergies. Buy the kids’ edition and you’ll get Crayons, as well.
More from SmarterTravel:
- 7 Unintentionally Gross Things You Do While Traveling
- The 10 Germiest Places You Encounter While Traveling
- 18 Surefire Ways to Get Sick While Traveling
Follow Sarah Schlichter on Twitter @TravelEditor for more travel tips and inspiration.