Growing up in a household with a mother who is germ conscious (at times to the extreme) has always made me aware of travel health and hygiene. In some ways I feel she was ahead of her time with her ideas, but perhaps the reality is our society has just become slack over time, forgotten the basics and become complacent. That’s until Covid-19 hit our shores and suddenly washing our hands became necessary key messaging. It was a reminder that although our own hygiene may be good, others were not doing the basics.
When I’m faced with a problem, I need to mentally start working on a solution so I don’t feel trapped. Obviously, travel is a big part of our life and while in isolation I’m thinking about future travel and wondering how we’ll have the confidence to do so. Travel opens us up to crowds, confined spaces and areas with high use by others. Watching how quickly Covid-19 is spread has had me researching travel hygiene. And while there are some general pieces written around avoiding food poisoning and how to avoid Bali Belly, I couldn’t see what I was looking for. So, I decided to go to industry insiders and find out what they suggest. I asked an ex flight attendant, a hotel cleaner, two nurses and an ex chef for what they suggest travellers do post Covid-19. I’ll also share my thoughts at the end.
I’m peppering this blog with random travel photos because we’ve always had good hotel and airline experiences and don’t want to associate any specific brands to this blog on travel health and hygiene.
EX FLIGHT ATTENDANT’S ADVICE ON HEALTH & HYGIENE ON A FLIGHT
I remember as a kid thinking a flight attendant’s job looked glamorous. While at school I worked part time as a waitress and it seemed similar, but with travel as an added bonus. As an adult I see it differently. I see grown adult passengers acting worse than most toddlers and I see flight attendants as the parents, working hard for the duration of the flight doing everything from food preparation to cleaning the toilets, usually with a smile on their face. When we’ve travelled with BJ, flight attendants have often made our long-haul flights all the more bearable because of their kindness and thoughtful ways. I thought no-one would be better placed to give advice on good health and hygiene on a plane than someone who used to work as a flight attendant.
Here’s her advice
When booking a seat, consider an aisle seat. I think these are the best as you can turn your head to the aisle and don’t feel you are cooped up in a corner taking in everyone else’s breath.
Wipes are your best friend. Disinfectant wipes rather than baby wipes. Use these to wipe down every surface you’ll have contact with including tray tables, arm rests, head rests (non material ones), entertainment systems, air vents and seat buckles. Take a small pillow or a pillow case to go over the airline pillow. The pillows are cleaned but usually arrive on the aircraft in one large bag and are put in the overhead lockers or on seats. If the airline seats are cloth seats, consider taking paper towel or something to cover the head rest because it’s so close to your face. Before taking your seat, check for spillages or vomit.
Always wear shoes when walking around the aircraft, don’t just wander around in socks.
When you use the aircraft bathroom don’t touch surfaces. Use tissues or wipes when opening the toilet bin, lid and doors.
Although not gluten free I order this meal. I prefer it because it’s mild and usually not spicy plus it’s less likely to cause food poisoning because it’s cooked separately to other food and therefore less likely to have a batch of bad food.
A HOTEL CLEANER SHARES HER HEALTH & HYGIENE TIPS FOR HOTEL STAYS
There’s nothing better than arriving into a lovely clean hotel room and often the daily servicing is a treat. I’ve often wondered how well rooms are cleaned and decided to go to the source, a hotel cleaner. Someone who has worked in three star hotels to five star hotels. Here’s what she had to say about the general cleaning.
Keep in mind hotel cleaners have a set amount of time to clean each room and this can restrict the quality of a clean. If I arrive into a room where there’s a family of four staying and they’ve brought back half the sand from the beach, that takes time to clean up, leaving less time for the other jobs in the room. I’m fussy about cleaning well but not everyone is the same.
Each month each room would have a more thorough clean.
I do a basic tidy up, wipe down light switches, remote controls, wipe over desks, the phone and surfaces. The air conditioner vent is vacuumed every day and cleaned more thoroughly once a week.
Cups, cutlery and glasses in the room do not go through a dishwasher. Staff cleaning the room wash them up and put them back.
There is no restriction on not working if sick. Bed bugs are not as uncommon as you may think – even in five star hotels.
As a result of what I’ve seen working in a hotel I’d choose not to have my room serviced daily. At home I’d wash the sheets weekly and I’d prefer staff not touching my bedding in case they are sick. I wouldn’t use a hotel washer on my face and I’d always sanitise the hand basin in a bathroom (I won’t add why but some guests use it for strange things that make it unhygienic if not cleaned properly by hotel staff). Post Covid-19 I’d always travel with my own pillow.
TWO NURSES SHARE THEIR TRAVEL HEALTH & HYGIENE TIPS
I always travel with hand sanitiser in my pocket and use it constantly throughout the day. Remember soap and water is more effective so if you can wash with soap and water do so. Hand sanitiser is only effective up to 7 to 8 times and then a residue builds up and it’s not as effective, so you need to wash them properly in between.
I always carry a small table salt container with me, that way if I have a sore throat I can boil bottled water and dissolve a teaspoon of salt to gargle. It’s also good to clean and rinse a wound fairly easily with salt and water.
I also usually travel with a mug and antibacterial wipes.
Hand washing is more effective without nail polish or false nails. Keep nails short and natural to make it easier to keep good health and hygiene while travelling.
For plane travel I use antibacterial wipes in a zip lock bag to wipe the tray and seating area. On each trip to the toilet I put on gloves (I travel with multiple pairs of gloves which I throw out once used) and clean the basin, taps, door handles and toilet before using the toilet. After washing my hands I use paper towel to open the door and dispose of it once I have a leg holding the door ajar. I use hand sanitiser once I sit down in my seat. I also try to use the toilet outside of peak times as it’s usually cleaner.
In hotel rooms I wash cutlery, mugs and glasses in hot water from the kettle. If I’m organised I travel with a couple of tea towels and dishwashing liquid. An alternative is using the bath gel and hand towel from the hotel.
CHEF’S TIPS FOR HEALTH & HYGIENE WHEN TRAVELLING
When my kids were younger I wiped down restaurant tables myself. Many restaurant owners water down chemicals to save money and therefore the clean is not thorough.
Don’t go to an all you can eat buffet when it starts. Some restaurants first put out the leftovers from the day before and once that’s gone they put out the fresh food.
Avoid crumbed or battered items if you don’t know the restaurant.
All of the tips provided by the people above are based on their personal experiences in their roles. This doesn’t reflect all airlines, hotels, restaurants and are personal tips.
JONES FAMILY HEALTH & HYGIENE TIPS
As I mentioned at the start, we’ve always been fairly conscious of health and hygiene when travelling but we’ll be keen to see what additional measures put in place by hotels and airlines in the future. We feel this will assist with people’s confidence in travelling. Especially those with a vulnerable family member.
We think roadtripping will be a popular holiday choice because of the control it offers travellers over their environment and the lack of extra contact with others which is required for airline travel. You can stop where and when needed and avoid crowds. With the extra space of your own vehicle you can take your own pillows and linen if preferred.
Holiday parks offer individual accommodation, usually with open space around cabins. There’s no need to get into a crowded hotel lift to get to your room and cabins offer the opportunity to open the windows and get fresh air.
We’ll be ensuring BJ’s wheelchair is kept clean using the tips I wrote about last week in this post Wheelchair Cleaning & Hygiene tips.
I’ve always travelled with my own mug and travel kettle. I take a cheap mug that I usually leave behind at the end of a trip.
Like others above, I travel with hand sanitiser and antibacterial wipes for cleaning the area around me on the plane and for cleaning items like the hotel TV remote control.
I often take a change of clothes and change before landing when I’ve been on a long-haul flight.
We won’t be putting suitcases on beds, either at home for packing, or once at our destination. Luggage is handled by lots of people, not to mention it gets wheeled through airports. There was a case here in Australia of baggage handlers contracting Covid-19 and it was suggested passengers wipe down their luggage. We’ll also be doing this in the future.
Buffet breakfasts are a huge treat when I travel but I’m conscious a lot of people are handling the utensils when serving their breakfast I’ve always served myself breakfast and then used hand sanitiser when I get back to the table and start touching my food ie toast which I use my hands to eat. While I’m sure hotels do everything to standard, if someone using the utensils before you doesn’t have good hygiene, you are open to contamination.
I use my knuckle to press buttons in lifts, ATM machines and at traffic lights.
This blog is aimed at giving you knowledge, because knowledge is power and I think post Covid-19 when we travel we’ll want to feel as in control as possible of our travel health and hygiene.
I welcome any other tips or suggestions and I’ll add under a headline of “Reader travel health & hygiene tips”.