When I first published this post in July 2020, little did I know I would still be updating it in January 2022. But COVID-19 is unfortunately still with us at the moment. Thanks, omicron. And that means COVID-19 needs to be on every traveler’s mind while planning and packing for any upcoming trips.
The good news? Many Americans have traveled during this pandemic rollercoaster we’ve all been riding for two years. While traveling at all was a controversial choice during the early months of the pandemic (and we focused on traveling responsibly here at Trips With Tykes at that time), the landscape has changed in major ways with vaccines now available to all Americans ages 5+.
Many more folks – my family included – have traveled extensively. We’ve learned a lot more about where and when to take precautions when we do venture out in the world. We may not be wiping down our mail anymore, but many of us have found it wise to keep wiping down the airplane tray table.
Whether you are flying, road tripping, or just leaving the house for a short staycation outing like a local hike or time on the beach during this current surge, there are ways you can prepare to improve your chances of staying healthy. A huge part of how you can do that is by taking the proper steps to plan for your trip, including packing and bringing a few essential things with you.
My family just finished up some cross-country air travel during the Christmas holidays during the peak of the omicron surge (very unlucky timing). And if you follow me on Twitter, you’ll know that on one of our flights we had a woman sitting in the row directly behind us who was very loudly ill with a respiratory virus. Scary. Certain types of travel are probably not for everyone at the moment.
We certainly learned a lot from that trip, as well as from the many others we’ve taken during lulls in this pandemic. And with all that experience in mind, here’s what COVID-19 extras I’d recommend adding to any packing list at the moment.
(Trips With Tykes uses affiliate links which means I may earn a small commission if you purchase through links in this post. See our full disclosure policy linked in the menu at the bottom of this site.)
Things to Add to Your COVID-19 Packing List: Essentials for All Travelers
1. Hand sanitizer
The CDC recommends hand sanitizers with greater than 60% ethanol or 70% isopropanol to kill coronavirus. I recommend taking a few different size bottles in your travels for different situations – you’ll want a travel size one for a day pack at your destination but perhaps a bigger bottle for your car, hotel room, or vacation rental. These Purel travel size bottles come with a wrap and connector that easily allow you to attach one to a purse or backpack for easy access.
2. Alcohol/ Disinfecting Wipes
We are all a lot less concerned with surfaces in the transmission of COVID-19, but there are a whole lot of other bugs most travelers don’t want to catch from shared surfaces. To quickly and easily disinfect surfaces like questionable airplane tray tables, you’ll also want to pack disinfecting wipes like Clorox or Lysol brand to take with you. Thankfully, these wipes are rarely in short supply anymore, and travel size-options are widely available now too (my favorite are these Clorox Disinfecting Wipes To Go packs).
I learned that my pre-pandemic go-to, antibacterial Wet Ones, haven’t been proven to kill viruses like SARS-CoV-2. So make sure you get wipes that are effective against whatever pathogens you are concerned with combatting!
3. Masks/Face coverings
Masks have been a part of our daily life for 2 years now. But even as their use becomes less common in some situations, they remain quite important and indeed often required for travelers.
If you are in close quarters like airports and planes where you may be pinned in near someone sick, quality masks like KN95s or KF94s are all the more essential. The masks that protected us on our close encounter with a sick airplane seatmate last month are KF94s from a verified supplier from South Korea, Be Healthy. My 8 year old son found the Blue 2D small kids size comfortable and my 12 year daughter and I both can fit into and recommend this Blue 2D KF94 large mask.
Regardless of the type of masks you pack, pack plenty of them. You might find one works better for different activities, humidity levels, or temperatures. If you have cloth masks, laundry options may not be available so plan accordingly!
4. Rapid Antigen Tests
Rapid antigen tests are truly the hottest commodity in America at the moment. If you have been able to snag a couple at-home COVID-19 tests, these are a must-pack on any trip in 2022. You never know when someone in your traveling party will come down with a sniffle or cough and you need to know your status to make alternate plans. Finding a testing site when you are far from home and perhaps without private transportation options can be intimidating (or perhaps entirely impossible at the moment with many of them booked solid).
If you are still on the hunt for rapid antigen tests, a few places I’ve had success in buying them online in early 2022 include:
- Walmart: site refreshes stock of Abbott BinaxNow multiple times a day, refresh/check often
- CVS: FlowFlex brand seem to be in stock online somewhat regularly, BinaxNow on occasion as well
- iHealth Labs: Order direct from this rapid test manufacturer but there may be 10 day delays with current demands (FWIW, I got mine more quickly than that)
- Resellers on Amazon: you’ll often pay a markup, but On/Go and iHealth can sometimes be found here
If you are traveling from an international destination to the United States, you’ll need a negative test to be able to even board your plane. While some destinations make this easy for travelers with testing available at a resort, many travelers are choosing to take a video monitored rapid antigen test which may be more convenient. The company eMed sells a six pack of BinaxNow tests that come with video monitoring specifically for travel purposes (the regular ones you purchase on your own cannot be used).
5. Basic OTC Medicines
Hopefully no one in your family gets sick in your travels, but if anyone does, you want to be prepared with necessary medications. Over-the-counter fever reducing medicines like Tylenol/acetaminophen especially are smart to have with COVID-19 circulating. Be sure to bring the infant, toddler, or children’s versions if you have younger kids! Remedies for coughs and cold are important to have too.
Most places have abandoned temperature checks at this point in the pandemic. So there’s no need to pack a thermometer with those in mind. But having your own thermometer to check temperatures in your traveling party might be helpful if someone suddenly falls ill so you can treat appropriately.
7. Health insurance cards
Hopefully you won’t get sick on vacation, but having your health paperwork on hand is more important now than ever. Make sure to have your card in your wallet and consider taking a photo of the card to keep on your phone as a backup.
8. Vaccine Cards and/or Proof of Negative Covid-19 Test (Where Required)
An increasing number of destinations are requiring that travelers prove they are either fully vaccinated or COVID-19 negative before visiting – and sometimes both! Whether you are taking a cruise or traveling to Hawaii or another country, the requirements are changing constantly. Be sure to check them early and often to be sure you can comply.
Even if you are traveling within the lower 48 states where vaccines aren’t required to fly, you may still well need vaccination records to do anything of note at your destination. Restaurants and bars in many bigger cities like San Francisco or New York City require proof of vaccination to dine indoors. A number of larger sporting events, museums, conventions, and theme parks in some destinations will require proof as well.
If you are concerned with losing or damaging your original vaccine card when traveling, digital proof is almost always sufficient. I have a scanned copy of vaccine cards for everyone in my family in my Photos on my iPhone. Several states and healthcare companies also offer their own QR code proof and if those apply to you, set them up before you travel. Finally, you can also use the Clear app for free (the same company that has the paid skip-the-TSA-line offerings) for secure digital proof of vaccination through its new Health Pass feature.
9. Water bottles
There was a period during the pandemic where water fountains in many destinations were turned off for safety reasons. That’s not so common anymore, but it’s still probably a good idea to pack your own water bottles for everyone in the family for a less contact drinking option. Don’t forget dish soap if you are going to wash them out to reuse them, if not available at your destination! For our kids, our tried and true favorites (that do not leak!) are the Contigo Autoseal Trekker water bottles.
10. Ziploc Bags
I use Ziploc bags for a million and one different purpose on our family’s travels from trash bags to makeshift compression packing cubes, but they are especially helpful right now. For example, you can put clean masks in one labeled bag and dirty ones in another so you don’t cross-contaminate your mask supply.
11. Credit Cards or Touchless Pay Methods
Cash may not always be king anymore! A number of destinations and attractions have turned to credit cards or touchless pay methods like Apple or Google Pay or mobile ordering during the pandemic, never to switch back. Be sure you have a variety of payment methods to keep your options open. (If you read this blog often, you probably already know my feelings about the importance of the right credit cards for travelers!)
Additional COVID-19 Items to Pack for Road Trips or Vacation Rentals
The above list will probably suffice for air travelers and anyone traveling light. If you are taking a longer road trip (particularly if you are staying in a vacation rental), however, the following items may help as well.
Be sure to check out my grocery shopping list for vacation rentals that includes some of these household must-haves.
If you are headed to a hotel in your travels, soap will surely be provided. But if you are doing something like camping or staying in a condo or rental home, regular soap – bar or pump – is a must have.
2. Lysol/Multipurpose Cleaner
Spray cleaners like Lysol disinfecting spray or many all purpose cleaners work for cleaning up surfaces. We always pack a spray bottle of Lysol all purpose cleaner for cleaning kitchen surfaces in vacation rentals when not provided with the unit, since it cleans up grease and works against common food-borne pathogens like salmonella too.
3. Paper Towels
With all these things to spray and wipe and clean up, you are going to need paper towels! Paper products can still in short supply in a lot of places, so this is an important item to bring from home.
The experts agreed awhile ago against using gloves for any COVID-19 purposes. But if you plan to have to do some heavy duty cleaning like in a vacation rental though, having gloves to protect your hands from harsh chemicals isn’t a bad call.
If you wear cloth masks, you’ll need something to clean them. If you are headed to a destination where you’ll have access to a washing machine, pack regular detergent. If you plan to wash masks in a hotel sink, a more portable detergent like Woolite or Tide Sink Packets work well.
6. Snacks & Food
Avoid roadside convenience stores or fast food stops by bringing your own snacks from home. If you are headed to a condo or vacation rental, you may want to pack groceries sufficient for the entire trip as well – supply chain issues remain a major concern and many destinations may not have what you need at local stores.
If you are road tripping, a cooler is a must-have for bringing a wider variety of food and drinks along for the trip. This softsided Coleman cooler is compact enough to keep in the back seat for easy access to snacks and drinks you might consume during the journey. Or pack a big grocery haul in the trunk in a larger hardside cooler.
Need other packing lists? Check out these related posts: