"By wisdom a house is built, and by understanding it is established; and by knowledge its rooms are filled with all precious and pleasant treasures." Proverbs 24:3

The Germaphobe's Guide to Airplane Travel.

Staying clean and healthy on an airplane is as easy as 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6... OK, it's not easy at all.  But if you follow these six guidelines, you're off to a good start.

1.  Bring lots of sanitizing wipes. 
Isn't this disgusting!!  I'm pretty sure this wipe was completely white before I used it to clean the arm rests.  The following is a list of all the items you will want to disinfect as soon as you board:  arm rests, tray tables (the front, back, and latch), the material behind the tray table, the back of your seat where your head rests, the wall and window if you're at a window seat, the seat belt and latch, and the seat pocket in front of you where everyone grabs.  Also, you'll want to clean the headphones if you plan on using them.

If you think all this wiping and disinfecting is overboard you are clearly not a germaphobe, but I would suggest reading this article before boarding your next flight:
Flying Foul: Passengers Behaving Badly

Right:  Some unidentified white goopy stuff smeared onto the mesh pocket in front on me.  Who knows what that could be?  Honestly, I didn't want to know.  I didn't even clean it.  I just avoided it like the plague

Left:  We found more stickers on the tray table along with dots of sticky substances all over the tray and our seats.  Yuck!!

2.  Bring your own blanket and pillow.  
We used mini pillow pets for the boys and designated the "belly" side as clean.  Do not use the airplane blanket or pillow!  Use your own jacket or small travel pillow and blanket that can be easily stuffed into your carry on.  Designate a clean side and a dirty side to your pillow and blanket and be sure to mark it somehow so you don't get confused.  Only the dirty side should touch the seat and only the clean side should touch you.  Never let either of them touch the floor.

How to put your blanket and pillow away:  Fold the dirty side of the blanket onto itself so that only the clean side is facing out.  Then place it in a plastic bag.  Bag the pillow in a separate sack so the dirty side does not contaminate the clean side of the blanket.  When you reach your destination wash both the pillow and blanket immediately before using it again.  If you don't have access to a washer just keep them bagged until you do or until your return flight.

3.  Don't be silly, use hand sanitizer.
 Portable OptionsDon't even try to convince me that it is bad to use hand sanitizer.  That it is better to build up my immune system by catching whatever germs I may come in contact with.  That by using hand sanitizer I am single-handedly creating the next super bug.  That it is better to get up and wash my hands in the germiest place on the airplane with water that has been found to have e-coli in it.  I don't buy that!  But, I do buy these cute mini Purell travel bottles that you can easily hook onto every carry-on, purse, or piece of luggage you own.

Use hand sanitizer often, especially before touching any food or anywhere on your face.  Most importantly, make sure you and your children are using the sanitizer properly.  Please click on the following link to make sure you are using your hand sanitizer effectively:  Proper hand sanitizing procedure 

4.  Beware of the bathroom!  

Think about it...  Hundreds of people doing who knows what, with all sorts of bodily functions, in a dollhouse-sized bathroom, while being jostled around by air turbulence is a microbiology experiment gone way wrong.  Have you noticed that all airplane bathroom floors are a very dark color?  EXACTLY!  That being said... don't ever, ever set anything on the floor.  Don't set anything on the counter either.  If you do you might as well just dip your personal belongings into the toilet while you're at it.

Always use a toilet seat cover if you must sit down.  Close the lid before flushing.  Use a clean paper towel to operate the soap dispenser, sink faucets, and the door.  In other words, don't ever touch anything with your bare hands.

How to "throw in the dirty towels":  You know that cover of the garbage receptacle that has been smeared with excrement from the dirty diaper that has been thrown away by the passenger before you will unexpectedly spring back at you and you'll have to wash your hands all over again.  If you are not skilled at using the garbage trap door without letting it touch you, I suggest pushing the garbage hatch open with a clean towel to throw away all of the other ones you've used.  Then use the same towel to open the door and throw it away in the attendant's garbage can.  Then use hand sanitizer as soon as you return to your seat.

Procedure for pulling down your pants:
a.  Unbutton and unzip your pants.
b.  Grab your pants at shin level and put them up to your knees.
c.  Squeeze your knees together so your pant legs stay up.
d.  Pull down your pants and underwear from the waist with your thumbs and gather up the material at your knees with your other fingers.
e.  Sit down making sure your pants and underwear never touch the front of the toilet or the floor.
f.  Squeeze your knees together while pulling up your pants to make sure the bottoms don't fall to the floor before you get your pants all the way up.
Tip:  It is best to master this procedure at home in a safe environment before attempting this in the dollhouse sized on-board petri dish.

Alternative procedures for those who are uncoordinated:
- Tuck your pants into your shoes.
- Go 80's and pegs those jeans
- Roll up your pants as high as they can go.
- Wear shorts.

4.  Use a washable carry-on.  
You could bring a plastic mat to set on the floor and put your bag on it, but even this germaphobe thinks that's going a little too far.  (You know I've though of it, though.)  You can put your carry-on in the super crowded overhead bins, but then you wouldn't have easy access to all the supplies you need while traveling with kids.  I suggest bringing washable back packs that can be thrown into the washing machine as soon as you get home.  Try to keep your carry-on on the floor rather than bringing it up on your lap.  If you have a back pack, keep the part that you wear on your back facing up and don't let the straps touch the floor or underneath the seat.

5.  Bring home souvenirs, not bugs!  
Bed bugs, fleas, roaches, and other pests are worldwide travelers and love to hitch rides on airplanes.  They have the option of traveling with the luggage or flying with the humans in the cabin for free.  Before you bring any carry-ons or luggage into your home use a flashlight to check all seams and crevices inside and out for bugs.  Empty your suitcase directly into a washing machine and disinfect your luggage.  Before you travel, treat your hair with hairspray, gel, and/or tea tree oil to prevent contracting lice from seat materials.  (More on bedbugs in my post on staying clean in a hotel room.)

6.  Keep your shoes on!  
The child who sat in the flight before us was kind enough to leave a little snack and a sticker for us

Too bad they ate the lollipop!

Look at how dirty the floor in front of me was.  If airlines don't bother to pick up a goldfish cracker, a lollipop stick, and a sticker from the floor you can bet they are not doing a whole lot to get rid of the microscopic germs.  I know people like to get cozy on long flight, but when you take your shoes off all the dirt and germs on the floor are rubbed onto your socks.  This is especially disgusting if you think about what's on the bathroom floor!  If you really need to take your shoes off to get comfortable bring cheap house slippers with non-porous soles to change into on the plane.  When you prepare to exit the plane, change back into your shoes and throw away the slippers.  If you really want to reuse the slippers just put them in a plastic bag and disinfect them thoroughly before using them in your home.  You can also re-use them if you're staying at a hotel because those floors are just as dirty!

If you still think these guidelines are a little overboard, read this article before the next time you get on-board:  http://www.cnn.com/2008/HEALTH/11/27/ep.avoid.germs.traveling/index.html


  1. Wow Tennille! I had just assumed that the flight attendants washed blankets and wiped everything down with sanitizing wipes between flights. This is going to change how I fly for sure.

  2. Laura, thanks for the comment. I'm glad I could inspire some germaphobia in you : )