The pandemic may have shed light on how germ-infested air travel can be, but truly, airplanes have always been a great place to catch a cold. In addition to contagious viruses, the high altitude of flying and immobility of sitting for hours on long flights can affect your circulation, making you feel everything from crampy to cold.
Luckily, the pandemic taught us you can stay safe and healthy with just a few precautions. 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. And as the world begins to open back up and airlines stop restricting passenger capacities, it's more important than ever to be prepared before you hop on a plane.
We've rounded up the best gadgets to keep you healthy on a plane, from virus-free to well-hydrated. The following collection of gear is helpful not just for trying to keep healthy during the pandemic, but any time you're crammed into an airplane.
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
Updated on 6/2/2021 by Rachael Schultz: Rewrote intro to be specific to the status of the pandemic in the U.S. in early summer 2021.
Best wand sterilizer
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
Disinfectant wipes are good at sterilizing but bad for the environment. Sterilizing wands, meanwhile, are 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 utilizes UV-C (ultraviolet C) wavelength, the type of UV light that has been proven effective in destroying viruses and bacteria.
We obviously couldn't confirm 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
Adding moisture to your air reduces the risk of catching the flu since many viruses and bacteria thrive in low humidity, and 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 at a hotel room, especially in the winter.
I've tested quite a few portable humidifiers on my many travels and none measure up to the Hey Dewy Humidifier. For starters, it's lightweight, small, and available in three colors (including blush for the fun factor). The spill-proof water compartment is certainly a major plus and truly works (I've even turned it upside down and it won't drip).
The angular nozzle, which directs the mist towards you, is 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, airports, even hotels 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. KeySmart's CleanLight Air is smaller and lighter than most water bottles, which means it'll fit in your carry-on so you can use this in your hotel room once you land or even on the plane, run off a battery pack.
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.
It does require a plug and it is quite loud. Those who like white noise might appreciate it, but you can also run it until you're ready to sleep and then turn it off.
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 folks at G95 have taken the convenience of using a neck gaiter as a mask, but upped the effectiveness. G95s line of Bio gear is a collection of clothing with 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.
In addition to this amazing filtration, I absolutely love G95s scarves and gaiters, christened BioScarf and BioGaiter respectively, which can serve as face protection and keep you toasty on a plane. The microfleece ones in particular have kept me gloriously nice and comfy when it's nippy outside upon landing.
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. Both are easy to pull on and off.
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. Those 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-plus flight.
Someone introduced me to the PowerDot 2.0 Duo, a smart muscle recovery and performance tool actually designed to help your muscles warm up pre-workout, recover faster post-workout, and increase their strength and endurance. But I've also used this kit to improve blood circulation and get 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.
Better circulation also 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
When you're at the airport or on an airplane with 50 other people for several hours, you need the most protective mask. Among all the masks I've tested, silicon ones are the most interesting, as they're designed to have this suction effect to keep them in place on your face.
GIR's Reusable Face Mask 2.0 has this air-tight effect while still being both comfortable and effective. If you have 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, 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.
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
Central heating is less common outside the US, so if you're staying in AirBnbs, older hotels, and hostels when it's cold out, you'll certainly run the risk of being cold in your room. 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.
Portable heating pads like the Mighty Bliss Large Electric Heating Pad will not just keep you warm and toasty, but it'll also soothe your tired muscles after you've been walking around all day.
I use this one myself, and I love that it has three heat levels and a nifty auto-shutoff for when you fall asleep. 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 simple LifeStraw Personal Water Filter. 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.
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.