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As more Americans become fully vaccinated against COVID-19, many eagerly wait for semblances of normalcy to return. In light of the United States’ vaccination progress, the hopes for more travel beyond the U.S. border may become a reality this summer.
President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, told The New York Times that fully vaccinated Americans may be able to travel throughout the European Union, depending on the evolving “epidemiological situation” in both the U.S. and the EU.
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Of course, there will be plenty of new guidelines and protocols for traveling to Europe and other continents: Proof of a negative coronavirus test, a proposed “Digital Green Certificate”—a record proving full vaccination against COVID-19 or recent recovery from the disease—and other requirements may become part of travel’s new normal.
If you’re planning on vacationing internationally for the first time since the pandemic began, here’s what we recommend packing for a safer, more enjoyable journey.
1. A carry-on travel backpack you can explore with
Whether your international flight is an 8-hour or 18-hour journey, it’s great to have a travel backpack or similar carry-on bag that can fit all your necessary belongings.
There are plenty of stellar options for backpacks depending on your needs. The large Osprey Ozone Duplex 65 backpack— our best overall choice for a travel backpack—is perfect for the flight cabin, but it also doubles as a carry-all when you’re exploring your destination. It’s durable yet comfortable and can accommodate a solid amount of personal items, such as a few changes of clothing and room for toiletry bags.
If you’re looking for something a little less rugged, Melissa Cooper, Reviewed’s senior director of marketing, recommends this stylish and professional Kenneth Cole backpack. It has plenty of room for your travel necessities, including a padded laptop pocket and a front organizer that holds chargers, tablets and notebooks in place. It even has an extra strap on the back to conveniently attach it to a rolling suitcase.
2. A travel pillow to snooze on the plane or train
Don’t let your neck suffer from sleeping without the necessary support. To make resting on a long flight or international train ride more comfortable, a solid neck pillow is nonnegotiable.
After testing several types, we recommend the Cabeau Evolution Classic Travel Pillow—which is incredibly supportive, durable, and even has an adjustable clasp for a personalized fit.
If you’re generally a side sleeper, the J-Pillow Travel Pillow might be a better choice. As its name suggests, this pillow is shaped like the letter “J,” and is extremely comfortable for those who prefer to rest their heads to the side. Bonus: it’s easier to carry around than a typical neck pillow.
3. A passport cover to protect your personal info
While a passport cover may not feel essential, we’d argue that it’s a crucial travel accessory to have, especially if you’re frequently going abroad. A good passport cover can keep your passport looking good as new and protect your personal information if it has RFID-blocking technology.
This top-rated RFID-blocking passport holder comes in several colors of synthetic leather and features extra storage for money and credit cards.
4. Protective yet comfortable face masks for the plane and beyond
The US Transportation Security Administration (TSA) requires travelers to wear a face mask throughout their journey, and we don’t see that changing any time soon.
For a long-haul flight, you’ll want to bring a few pairs of masks that you can comfortably wear for consecutive hours—this may include some medical-grade masks like surgical masks or N95 masks, along with fabric masks that can be washed after the flight.
When choosing a fabric mask, we recommend one with adjustable ear loops or one that ties around your head for maximum comfort. Our favorite face masks, the Athleta Non-Medical Face Masks, have adjustable ear loops to help avoid discomfort when wearing them for a while.
For extra protection during your travels, especially in situations where you may not be able to social distance, you may also want to double-mask. The practice can help reduce transmission of the coronavirus, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
5. Disinfecting wipes to clean your seat on the plane
We now know that COVID-19 doesn’t predominantly spread through contact with surfaces, though it’s not impossible. That being said, it doesn’t hurt to give the space you’ll be spending a few hours in a good wipe down with disinfectant wipes.
These wipes are much more readily available than they were at the beginning of the pandemic—you can purchase Clorox Disinfecting Wipes on Amazon. Be sure you’re using them correctly by following the instructions on the label—you may need to ensure a surface stays wet for a certain amount of time to properly disinfect.
6. A large (or travel) size of hand sanitizer
TSA is currently allowing one liquid hand sanitizer container—up to 12 ounces per passenger—in carry-on bags. The agency does warn that this may slow down your checkpoint screening process.
If you want to ensure you never run out of sanitizer on your trip, we recommend bringing that 12-ounce hand sanitizer. If you want to cut down on space and prefer to purchase more abroad, stick with a travel-size sanitizer.
7. A face shield for extra protection and peace of mind
Shira Doron, a hospital epidemiologist at Tufts Medical Center in Boston, tells Reviewed that “many viruses infect by entering mucus membranes,” which include the eyes. “Therefore, the combination of a mask and eye protection are best to avoid getting the virus.”
For extra protection in the terminals or on the flight, you can wear a face shield along with your mask. This shield with built-in glasses may be a more comfortable option than the typical face shield with an elastic headband. You may also want to apply an anti-fog spray on your shield to avoid any steam from accumulating on the inside of the shield.
8. A power converter for foreign electrical outlets
Depending on where you’re going, the wall sockets may be different than what we’re familiar with in the U.S. To charge your phone, laptop, and other devices, you’ll most likely need a power converter for your electronics’ chargers.
This helpful guide gives you an idea of the different types of plugs used in each country—see which ones are common where you’re headed and be sure to buy the proper adapter in advance. You can also purchase an all-in-one adapter, which takes out the guessing while shopping.
9. A power bank for charging your electronics on-the-go
Don’t take a chance in letting your phone die while you’re out and about. Always keep a portable power bank on you—and remember to charge it up before leaving the hotel or for the airport.
We recommend the ZMI USB PD Backup Battery, as it includes two USB-A ports and holds enough power to charge a Chromebook three times and then some.
10. Compression socks for the long flight
If you’re susceptible to swelling legs on long-haul flights, don’t forget to pack a pair of compression socks. Even if your legs don’t swell during flights, you may find comfort in the stretchy, snug material regardless.
Reviewed’s kitchen and cooking writer Valerie Li Stack always packs a pair of compression socks in her carry-on to increase circulation on flights. Out of all the compression socks Reviewed has tested, we recommend a pair from the brand Figs, a direct-to-consumer brand targeted at medical professionals. Their socks are ultra-comfortable and easy to pull on.
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