The Germaphobe’s Guide to Travel

image: Getty

image: Getty

It’s a dirty world out there, but that doesn’t mean germaphobes can’t travel in peace (and maybe even enjoy themselves!) on vacation. Here’s what to watch out for, what to pack and how to feel more comfortable on public transportation and in hotel rooms.

In the Hotel

You’ve pored over the reviews, inspected photographs with a magnifying glass and armed yourself with enough knowledge to feel comfortable about booking a room. But choosing a hotel with stellar reviews is only half the battle.

The germaphobe will tell you that the real work begins after checking in. There are endless nightmarish possibilities to ruminate over; bedbugs, unclean drinking glasses, dirty surfaces. It’s not exactly a huge surprise that common areas like these are often the greatest offenders.

“Remote controls are seldom cleaned,” says Kimberly Ramsawak, founder of Tourism Exposed, “and are one of the top things in hotel rooms that have the most germs, along with light switches and doorknobs.”

Naturally, the almighty disinfectant wipe is your best friend. Wipe down spots that are especially prone to collecting germs and debris, or go over them with a battery-powered, chemical-free tool, like the Verilux CleanWave portable sanitizing wand. Any surface you may touch is fair game, but areas often overlooked, like drawer handles and the flush lever, are especially important. Ramsawak also suggests bringing a plastic bag with you. “You can put the TV remote control in it before you use it,” she says.

Another major concern is a bedbug infestation. The mattress, bed frame and even the floor around the bed should be properly examined for signs of life. Though bedbugs are not easily visible to the naked eye, they may be easier to spot with a magnifying glass. Keep an eye out for rust-colored stains that result from excrement or blood spots, and immediately contact management if you discover anything untoward.

Even if the bed is free of critters, though, it may be teeming with the previous guest’s germs. That’s because the bedspread may not be washed very often, although certain properties use duvets with removable duvet covers that are regularly washed before each new arrival. Err on the side of caution and remove the bedspread entirely. You may even elect to bring a travel blanket to use in its place.

To the average germaphobe, housekeeping is a hit-or-miss proposition that is likely never quite up to par with expected standards. The job itself is physically taxing, and because housekeepers are typically allotted only a certain amount of time to clean, some parts of the room may simply go unnoticed. So, keep an eye out for those little details that may be problematic and you’ll probably enjoy a more relaxed, decidedly less germ-ridden stay.

On Public Transportation

Any form of public transportation is a veritable breeding ground for germs. Millions of passengers use airplanes, buses and trains daily, and chances are most of them are not particularly conscious of germs. It falls to the germaphobe to take responsibility for his or her surroundings. That includes the obvious spots, like armrests, tray tables and windows. Just as you would in a hotel, give your personal space a good disinfection with a portable disinfecting wipe.

Long flights can take their toll in other ways, too. The dry air in the cabin can wreak havoc on both your skin and your physical health. Sharing this air with your fellow passengers is a recipe for potential illness, so it may be helpful to use a decongestant and drink plenty of water throughout the flight. “Travelers should apply saline gel to the inside of their nostrils,” says travel journalist David Yeskel of From Sin City to Floating City. “The lubrication provides a defense against drying and cracking membranes that are a host for airborne viruses and bacteria.”

Beauty mavens who want to touch up before touching down should always wash their hands for at least 20 seconds prior to making contact with their own skin. Ramsawak also suggests using cotton swabs instead. “This makes it easier to apply cosmetics, lotions or lip balms to your face without…re-washing your hands.”

At the bare minimum, a good germaphobe will always have a disinfecting product and hand sanitizer when traveling. With these tips in your travel arsenal, life on the road may finally start to look a lot less grimy.