- Taking proper precautions while traveling is vital in helping prevent contracting a virus like COVID-19.
- Innovative tech like portable water filters or wand sterilizers can help make any trip a much safe experience.
- Below, we’ve rounded up 9 essentials everyone should pack in their suitcase or carry-on for healthy travel.
Travel isn’t what it used to be. Not only has the pandemic severely restricted what has become the world’s favorite pastime, but it’s also changed the way we do it.
How fast COVID-19 spread across the world has completely opened our eyes to how easily we can catch deadly viruses. Now, the mere thought of sitting on an airplane, rubbing elbows with 50 other people in a small space, or talking to a maskless stranger up close is the surest way to experience some heavy travel anxiety.
Luckily for jet setters like you and I, we have this wonderful, ever-evolving thing called technology – and there are some brilliant innovations designed to allow us to adapt to this new normal. Thanks to new gadgets that are just as portable as they are effective, there are more ways than ever to protect ourselves and stay healthy while traveling.
With the world partly opening back up and people starting to travel again, even though COVID-19 is still very much alive and kicking, these gadgets are more important than ever. Whether you need to hop on a plane for work, go home for the holidays, or take a quick yet much-needed vacation in one of the very few countries that welcome Americans at the moment, they are now essential additions to your packing list.
And although the following collection of gear works well for trying to keep healthy during the pandemic, they’re not only intended for that purpose. Gadgets like LifeStraw’s water filter, the PowerDot Duo 2.0, or even portable humidifiers are essential items that any traveler can benefit from packing along, whether COVID-19 still poses a risk or not.
Here are our picks best healthy travel essentials:
- Best wand sterilizer: Monos CleanPod UVC Wand Sterilizer
- Best portable humidifier: Hey Dewy Humidifier
- Best travel air purifier: CleanLight Air
- Best purifying water bottle: LARQ Bottle Self-Cleaning Water Bottle
- Best apparel with filtration protection: G95 Bio gear
- Best stimulator to improve circulation: PowerDot 2.0 Duo
- Best filtered mask you can sterilize: GIR Reusable Face Mask 2.0
- Best heating alternative for staying warm and toasty: Mighty Bliss Large Electric Heating Pad
- Best water filter for getting clean water in areas where there’s none: LifeStraw Personal Water Filter
The Monos CleanPod UVC Wand Sterilizer allows you to effectively disinfect public spaces so you can stop using wipes that are bad for the environment.
Pros: Uses UV-C light, very lightweight, very portable, no warming up time, USB to USB-C charging, sleek design
Cons: More expensive than other wands, it takes time (at least 30 seconds) to sanitize
These days, sterilizing your airline seat area or table at a restaurant yourself feels like a necessity, and many have resorted to packing disinfectant wipes. The problem is, they’re not exactly good for the environment. Most wipes block our sewage systems and pollute our oceans, and those eco-friendly alternatives could still increase your carbon footprint.
That’s why sterilizing wands have become so popular as they’re intended to be a more sustainable alternative to disinfecting. The problem is, many UV wands are either fake or ineffective because they don’t produce the right type of UV light.
The Monos CleanPod UVC Wand Sterilizer, on the other hand, utilizes UV-C (ultraviolet C) wavelength, the type of UV light that has been proven effective in destroying viruses and bacteria.
Obviously, I don’t have the resources nor the experience to test just how effective it is. But, Monos released its own lab test result showing it kills 99% of Salmonella Typhimurium in just one minute. This wand is also very portable and lightweight – it almost feels like a toy when I hold it – as well as elegant-looking with a clean white chassis and gold-colored power switch.
I found it a no-brainer to use as well. You only need to charge it, which takes about 2.5 hours, switch it on, then press the button to light up the LEDs and start sweeping. Best of all, there’s no warm-up time, which means no waiting time.
Best portable humidifier
With a spill-proof water compartment, an angular spout, and quiet operation, the Hey Dewy Humidifier is the best portable humidifier out there.
Pros: Portable, container is spill-proof, angular nozzle, up to 10 hours of water capacity, has a night light, two spray modes, comes in three different colors
Cons: No battery, no hot steamer mode that would have been nice in cold weather situations
Humidifiers help reduce the risk of catching the flu – not only do many viruses and bacteria thrive in low humidity, but the cilia that help rid our sinuses of harmful pathogens aren’t as efficient when they dry out. A humidifier solves both of these problems, keeping the air around you and your nasal passages moist. Plus, they’re a godsend on long-haul flights and during winter when humidity drops to bothersome levels.
Unfortunately, most offerings aren’t exactly suitcase-ready. Fortunately, more portable humidifiers are starting to become available, giving travelers more on-the-go options.
I’ve tested quite a few of these, being a regular globetrotter myself. None of them, however, measure up to the Hey Dewy Humidifier. Light, portable, and available in three colors (including blush for the fun factor), there are a few things I love about it.
The spill-proof water compartment is certainly a major plus. I’ve used this slouched on the sofa or lying in bed. I even turned it upside down to see if the nozzle would drip, and I haven’t experienced it spilling once. It’s probably not completely spill-free, but the fact that I have yet to get wet while using it is a great sign.
The angular nozzle, which directs the mist towards you, is also a terrific detail, as is the up to 10 continuous hours of water capacity. The night light and two spray modes are nifty little extras next to those.
It isn’t battery-powered so you have to plug it in via USB, which is kind of inconvenient. However, with so many people owning power banks these days, and most planes, trains, and airports with easy access to power outlets, this isn’t such a deal-breaker.
Best travel air purifier
CleanLight Air keeps your air purified by using UV-C rays and a medical grade filter to kill 99.99% of germs and bacteria.
Pros: Uses medical grade H13 HEPA filter, uses UV-C light, covers 161 square feet, light and thin, portable enough to fit in a purse, has a USB charger for your phone
Cons: More than $100, can be loud even at low setting, not battery-powered
Air purifiers help minimize pollutants by removing harmful particles in the air like fungal spores, mold, bacteria, and viruses. Unfortunately, most air purifiers out there are too big to fit inside a suitcase.
Luckily, there’s KeySmart’s CleanLight Air, which takes up a tiny space in your suitcase. It’s smaller and lighter than most water bottles out there. In fact, it’s smaller than the Hey Dewy Humidifier in diameter, and only about half an inch taller.
CleanLight Air uses a 360-degree H13 HEPA filter, which is considered medical grade, to trap 99.95% of particles that are 0.1 microns or bigger in diameter. It then sanitizes that filtered air with UV-C rays before it expels it back out into your space, eliminating any remaining pathogens. For something this light and small, that’s impressive.
This FCC-certified air purifier is supposed to be powerful enough to purify up to 161 square feet of space. To put that into perspective, the average US hotel room today is still 330 square feet, which means it can certainly purify a sizable amount of immediate space you’re occupying.
Unfortunately, itI isn’t battery-powered, but I just plug it into my smartphone power bank and it works every time. There’s also the added perk that I can easily carry it around, whether I’m at the airport or, more likely these days, at the grocery store.
Just be forewarned, it’s loud enough that I keep thinking it’s my laptop that’s making the sound, even at the low setting. Those who like white noise might appreciate it, but it’s certainly bothered me enough to turn the device off when I know I’m about to fall asleep.
Best water-purifying bottle
The world’s first water purification system in a bottle, the LARQ Bottle Self-Cleaning Water Bottle reduces your use of single-use plastics while ensuring that the water you’re drinking is free of harmful contaminants.
Pros: Uses UV-C light, two purifying modes, up to 1 month of battery life, smart auto-purification, waterproof USB port, comes in five colors and two sizes, gorgeous design
Cons: Not going to be cheap, insulation could be better, not the lightest water bottle out there
People use a lot of single-use plastics when traveling. Unfortunately, not only are these disposable plastic containers one of the biggest enemies of marine animals and the environment, but a lot of bottled water sold in stores aren’t purified. This means you could be drinking contaminated water, anyway. And, that’s without mentioning the plastic particles you’ll find in a lot of them.
The easy solution is reusable water bottles, but you can’t always find clean water for consumption, especially when you’re traveling around other countries. And, these water bottles themselves can be a breeding ground for bacteria if not properly washed.
That’s why the LARQ Bottle Self-Cleaning Water Bottle is such an ingenious idea, and I cannot recommend it enough to fellow long-term travelers. Sleek and gorgeous-looking, they come in an attractive package. They even come in five different colors and two sizes. And, like most insulated water bottles out there, it can keep your water’s temperature – for up to 24 hours when chilled, up to 12 hours when hot.
The best part about them is that they purify your water at a press of a button and every 2 hours. It uses UV-C LED technology, the same type of UV wavelength that the CleanLight Air and CleanPod UVC Wand Sterilizer use, to purify the water inside, ensuring that you have clean drinking water anytime you need a swig.
It also has an Adventure Mode with extra purification power (killing up to 99.9999% of bacteria and 99.99% of viruses). So, when you run out of clean water while hiking, you can fill it up with water from a stream or a river, and it’ll be safe to drink within minutes – more specifically, three minutes on Adventure Mode and only one on Normal.
Another nice feature here is its battery life, which lasts up to a month so you don’t have to keep charging. I was worried at first about its micro USB port on the bottle cap where the UV-C LED and battery are, but as it turns out, it’s thoughtfully waterproof so you can wash the outside without worrying about damaging it.
Best apparel with built-in filtration
The innovative G95 Bio gear keeps you warm while warding off pollution, allergens, and bacteria at the same time.
Pros: Have filtration protection built-in, surprisingly affordable for their multi-functionality, minimalist and stylish, cold weather options are comfy and warm
Cons: Neutral shades might disappoint color lovers, BioScarf might take a bit of wrangling to put on right the first few times
The best apparel these days are the ones that clothe you, protect you, and make you look good at the same time. Masks, for example, have gone from being those blue and white disposable options to something reusable that comes in a variety of different colors and patterns.
Meanwhile, the folks at G95 have taken this idea to an entirely new level. What’s better than warm winter gear that protects you from the elements? G95’s line of Bio gear, that’s what. Each piece of clothing from this line has the company’s proprietary particulate filtration protection — essentially, three layers of filtration material that work together to keep out 99% of all airborne contaminants 0.1 microns and larger — built-in.
That makes them much more effective than most masks other clothing companies are selling right now. Incidentally, it does have masks, aptly called BioShield, which I really like because they’re light and spacious enough to let you breathe easier while still keeping you protected. They’re also made with a nice weaved top layer that looks premium and classy.
However, for staying toasty in cold weather situations, I absolutely love its scarves and gaiters, christened BioScarf and BioGaiter respectively. Both have the particulate filtration protection built-in so they already serve as your face protection when you’re in public places like airports and tourist areas, but the microfleece ones have kept me gloriously nice and comfy when it’s nippy outside.
The scarves are excellent if you want to be able to take them off easily at a moment’s notice, while the gaiters are a bit trickier to take off, especially if you want to keep your hair and make-up pristine. However, I do love how I can just put a BioGaiter on and not have to worry about adjusting it. And, it’s super easy to pull it off your face when face protection isn’t necessary and put it back on when it is.
Best yet, every single item in the G95 Bio line will look good on you. It even has a hoodie and a pullover with built-in face protections that minimalists will adore.
Best muscle stimulator for improved blood flow
Whether it’s to speed up muscle recovery or get you through long-haul flights, the PowerDot 2.0 Duo is the perfect companion for helping your body feel its best.
Pros: Extremely portable, app is super easy to use, they really work, comes with a host of applications, fast and easy to set up, replacement pads are cheap
Cons: not cheap, you might need a mirror to set some programs up, pads need to be replaced after 25 uses
Deep vein thrombosis is real, and it can occur especially during long-haul flights when people are immobile for hours on end. People like me with a family history of blood clots are even more susceptible, which is why I always make it a point to stretch my legs every couple of hours when I’m on an 8-hour or more flight. And, that’s on top of the fact that I also have poor circulation, and not ambulating makes my legs feel tingly and extremely uncomfortable.
This is why when someone introduced the PowerDot 2.0 Duo to me, I immediately jumped at the chance to see what it can do. This smart muscle recovery and performance tool is actually designed to help your muscles warm up pre-workout, recover faster post-workout, and increase their strength and endurance. However, it also comes with a host of other benefits.
I’ve used this awesome little kit not only when I’m sore from a particularly tough workout session, but also to get rid of shoulder knots after a long day of hunching over my laptop. More importantly for frequent flyers out there, it can be used to improve blood circulation and get you through long-haul flights. In fact, it even has a “Long Haul Flight” option in the app, which you use to guide you through and control its electric muscle stimulation programs.
If you don’t know it already, better circulation leads to a healthier body and a more robust immune system, which in turn helps you fight off viruses and avoid potential diseases. Not to say, of course, that you shouldn’t ambulate, work out, and eat healthy, but this muscle stimulator takes over when you can’t – like when you’re stuck in an uncomfortable seat on an airplane for a 12-hour flight, for example.
Plus, it’ll get you ready for another exciting day of traveling. Put these on after a long day of exploring a city, and your legs, feet, and lower back will be back in tip-top shape the next day.
Best filtered mask you can sterilize
Silicone kitchen tools master GIR is making masks, and their Reusable Face Mask 2.0 is tested to 99.7% BFE and 95% PFE, keeping most pathogens out better than most cloth masks.
Pros: Dishwasher, oven and microwave safe, filters are 99.7% BFE and 95% PFE, comes in different colors, comes in three sizes, adjustable with included clip, comfortable and breathable, cheaper than other stylish cloth masks
Cons: Silicon on your face might cause you to breakout if you’re super sensitive
During a pandemic, cloth masks are fine when you’re not in close proximity with other people. However, when you’re at the airport or worse, on an airplane with 50 other people for several hours, they’re not enough to keep the more harmful pathogens away. This is why so many people have upgraded their cloth masks to more robust, filtered ones.
I’ve tested quite a few masks in the recent months, from cloth ones and cloth masks with filters to silicon masks. I even have a couple of silicon maks that are designed in a way where they have this suction effect to keep them in place on your face.
However, it’s GIR’s Reusable Face Mask 2.0 that’s proven to be both comfortable and effective. If you’re like me who has a bit of a harder time breathing under face protection, you’ll appreciate the space this mask affords your nose and mouth. And, it comes in several different colors so you can buy a few, and mix and match with your wardrobe.
More importantly, however, this breathable mask is made of medical-grade, FDA- and LFGB-approved silicone that comes with a replaceable filter, which in turn is tested to be 99.7% and 95% effective in filtering out bacteria and particles respectively. That’s certainly much more effective than any leopard mask you’ve purchased at Anthropologie.
This mask can be sterilized in a dishwasher, oven, or microwave for convenience. And, since it’s made by GIR, you can count on these masks to not only last you a lifetime, but also be hypoallergenic as well as BPA and BPS free.
Best heating alternative
The Mighty Bliss Large Electric Heating Pad offers a quick heating solution in places where heating isn’t as effective.
Pros: auto shutoff, large size, cheap, made of plush material, has several heat settings, rollable for packing
Cons: required a power outlet, not battery operated
Although we’re used to central heating here in the US, space heaters are still the norm in other countries. I found this to be the case in places like New Zealand, as well as some areas in Europe.
When staying in modern hotels, heating is certainly not going to be a problem. However, if you’re staying in AirBnbs, older hotels, and hostels, you’ll certainly run into a few that won’t heat up the rooms enough to be comfortable. You’re just expected to bundle up and hunker down, especially at night.
This type of situation might make you more susceptible to illnesses. Not only are some viruses more likely to spread during cold weather, but your immune system might not be as robust when your body temperature is lowered.
Be ready with a portable heating pad if you’re traipsing around colder places in the winter months. Something like the Mighty Bliss Large Electric Heating Pad will not just keep you warm and toasty when you’re staying at a place where heating isn’t on hand. It’ll also soothe your tired muscles after you’ve been walking around all day.
I use this particular one myself, and there are a few things I love about it. It’s got three heat levels to choose from, and a nifty auto shutoff that comes in handy when you’ve fallen asleep before turning it off. It’s also bigger than other regular heating pads, so it can cover more of your body. And, it has a soft, plush covering that’s nice to touch.
Sadly, this isn’t dual voltage, so you can’t use it in Europe, but something like the MaxKare Heat Pad is a terrific 220V option.
Best water filter
Simply put, the LifeStraw Personal Water Filter is a life-saving measure, and travelers shouldn’t go without one.
Pros: Cheap, lasts a few years, no moving parts, no batteries required, extremely portable, super long shelf life when stored properly
Cons: It’s a straw, not a water container, shorter shelf life in super warm regions
Backpackers and long-distance hikers swear by the LifeStraw Personal Water Filter, so while it may not come with “smart” features and a fun little app, it deserves a place on this list just for being a life-saver. Indeed, this is your lifeline when there’s no clean drinking water anywhere, and your only option is to lap up that murky water from a nearby pond.
This nifty tool is said to remove 99.9999% of waterborne bacteria and 99.9% of waterborne protozoan parasites – not to mention, it filters particles 0.2 microns and larger. I’ve watched testers on YouTube fill it up with muddy water, and show how it delivers beautifully clear water on the other end, filtering out all the gunk and particles. That’s without using any type of electric-powered technology – just a simple microfiltration membrane.
You won’t even need to be out in the wilderness to use it. Even when you’re traveling in many parts of South America and Africa where clean drinking water is harder to come by, this is one emergency tool you shouldn’t go without. And, it’s extremely portable – several times thinner and lighter than most water bottles out there with a filtration system – so you can just quickly slide it in your backpack pocket or wear it around your neck.
What’s more, it won’t cost you more than $20 and filters up to 1,000 gallons (4,000 liters), which is much, MUCH more than what an average person drinks in a year, so you’re getting a whole lot of bang for your money.