After spending months planning your well-deserved Maui getaway – from Haleakala sunrise to snorkeling with sea turtles – it’d be a shame to arrive in paradise only to immediately come down with a cold, the flu, or worse. Unfortunately, planes are one of the most opportune locations for illness and germs, and Hawaii just happens to be the most isolated population center in the world, meaning a short flight, and thus less exposure, isn’t really in the cards.
Fortunately, we’ve decided to give you a head start by compiling a list of some of the best tips to avoid getting sick on your flight to Maui – or anywhere – including travel tips that could just mean the difference between two weeks spent blowing your nose on a beach or living your best, sickness-free vacation life in bliss.
Top Travel Tips
Book the Window Seat
According to a paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the aisle seat is the worst in terms of catching possible illnesses and overall germ intake, while the window seat is the best.
Staying seated for as long as you can – which again, poses an issue when flying all the way to Hawaii – is also recommended, as it minimizes your contact with potentially damaging pathogens and other sick passengers.
Wait to Board, Wipe & Sanitize
In addition to covering all your bases by getting an annual flu shot before your big trip, it’s recommended to avoid waiting in the calm human mosh pit otherwise known as pre-boarding. Instead of standing in a crowded huddle of unwanted germs, wait to board until the end.
Once on board, use anti-bacterial wipes to wipe down the most obvious surfaces around you, including your seatbelt, seat-back tray table, seat-back pocket, armrests, TV screen and window (if you were lucky enough to snag it). A 2015 study from TravelMath concluded that seat-back tray tables were covered in more than 8x the amount of bacteria, per square inch, than the flush button on the toilet of the same plane.
Finally, after touching surfaces like self check-in screens, armrests, water fountain buttons, bathroom surfaces, hand rails, security bins, overhead bin handles and whatever else you may have come in contact with on your way to the plane, be sure to use hand sanitizer – not bathroom soap – to disinfect your hands. All of these surfaces have been found to cause sinus infections, food poisoning, pneumonia and other skin-related illnesses.
Even though statistics such as the 2004 study in the Journal of Environmental Health Research that found people are far more likely – 113x more, in one measure – to catch the common cold during a flight than by normal ground transportation, excellent hand hygiene can go a long way in preventing sickness.
Ask to Change Seats if Your Neighbor is Sick
Sick passengers can infect fellow passengers in the row in front of and behind them, as well as the two closest seats located on either side of them.
Even if you’re traveling alongside a sick friend, relative or significant other, it might be wise to book separate seats – or ask to change at check-in – to avoid your chances of getting sick before you even step off the plane. Sorry, sick travel pals. See you at the baggage carousel.
Keep Yourself Hydrated & Ventilated
Bring nasal spray to avoid a dry nose, which increases your chances of catching respiratory illnesses. Also keep hydrated by bringing on your own bottle of water – and your own bottle of water only! – as a 2007 study by the Wall Street Journal found that almost all of the sampled tap water from 14 different international and domestic flights contained bacteria at tens to hundreds of times beyond the U.S. government limits. Similarly, avoid getting ice in your drinks, as well as drinking coffee or tea, as the level of heat is not enough to kill the amount of bacteria present in the water.
While there are conflicting studies on the subject, it is also apparently recommended to turn on your overhead vent, as it helps circulate the germs instead of letting them sit stagnant, as well as turn off the overhead vent because planes are simply recycling the same dirty air and germs over and over again. To sum up, either way appears to be a risk.
Don’t Use the Blankets or Pillows
While it’s tempting to get cozy and curl up in your seat with a pillow and blanket, a Wall Street Journal study found that the sampled airlines washed their blankets and pillows, on average, only every 5 to 30 days. Yikes.
Order a Hot Meal
Unlike cold food, a hot meal has better chances of killing any germs that might be present. Leave the sandwich, eat the cannoli.
Take the First Flight Out
Finally, to increase your chances of general cleanliness, it’s advisable to take the first trip out in the morning, as this is the time of day the plane is likely at its cleanest. Still… you might want to skip putting anything in that seat-back pocket, as E.coli germs can hang around in there for days.
You’re Almost There!
Once you’ve arrived at Kahului Airport, keep with the cleanliness and germ-awareness. When you get into your shuttle or rental car, make sure to wipe down your area. It may look a little anal-retentive, but you’ll thank yourself when you enjoy the rest of your stay healthy and happy.
We’re wishing you a sickness-free Maui vacation, and be sure to share your own tips if you have anything to add! Mahalo for reading, and best of luck out there, flyers.