Malaysians need to reconsider the way they pack for a post-pandemic holiday

Living out of a suitcase takes on a literal meaning for those who frequently travel for a living. And for some of these folks, their travel bag is more than just a functional companion – it’s also a reflection of their personality and fashion.

Shini Lola, 30, is one such person who believes in having the right travel bag, or bags. The digital marketer has various bags that she would use based on the nature of the trip.

“I have different kinds of bags that go with different occasions. For example, for a one-week overseas trip, I would bring a huge suitcase. A hand-carry travel bag is also a must because you never know how many souvenirs you are going to buy,” she says.

As for shorter getaways, she would opt for either a duffel bag or a smaller suitcase.Shini usually avoids taking bags that are too small as they can’t fit most of her belongings.

“I need a medium-sized bag at least to fit my passport, mobile phone, pocket WiFi and powerbank, among other things,” she says. Shini also carries a bag with several zippers to deter pickpockets.

And since she posts her travel photos on social media, Shini always makes sure that she carries a bag that goes well with her travel outfits.

“In order to be photogenic, of course, the bag needs to be good looking,” she says.

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Shini always makes sure that she carries a bag that goes well with her travel outfits. — SHINI LOLAShini always makes sure that she carries a bag that goes well with her travel outfits. — SHINI LOLABeing an avid traveller, she also has her own “hacks” when it comes to picking the right travel bag.

“It’s better to have different sizes of travel bags at home. Choose a suitable bag size for the occasion.

“In addition, I prefer a plastic suitcase instead of a fabric one (as it is easier to clean). Once, some of my toiletries broke and spilled all over my suitcase,” she says.

Before the Covid-19 pandemic brought travel to a halt, Shini would go on a trip at least once a month. This means that her travel luggage is mostly always packed and ready to go.

“Normally I don’t unpack everything and just leave stuff in the luggage because I’m going to use the bag for the next trip anyway,” she says.

Packing amid pandemic

Shini foresees that packing for travel in the post-pandemic future will be different. It’s a thought that has been echoed by many travel industry experts.

Moving forward, travellers are bound to pack items that they wouldn’t during pre-pandemic holidays. A thermometer and pulse oximeter are two such items that are recommended by tour company Contiki.

“An infrared digital thermometer is a popular choice as it avoids skin contact and offers peace of mind if you’re worried about a fever.

“A pulse oximeter is an increasingly popular device that allows you to measure your oxygen saturation level. Because it can detect even small changes in your oxygen, it’s a handy tool for people who want to take extra precautions in monitoring for Covid-19 symptoms,” the company says on its website.

A pulse oximeter that can measure your oxygen saturation level is a great tool for travelling. — SYED ALI/UnsplashA pulse oximeter that can measure your oxygen saturation level is a great tool for travelling. — SYED ALI/Unsplash

The tour company also recommends packing your own cutlery for future trips.

“Although most food outlets have pretty stringent hygiene measures in place, some use communal cutlery receptacles which you might not be comfortable with. Reusable products are of course always a positive tick when it comes to more sustainable travel choices,” Contiki says.

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Other travel essentials would be your usual pandemic staple such as face masks, hand sanitisers and antibacterial wipes.

It’s worth noting that different countries might have different regulations for face masks. In Austria, for example, the medical-grade FFP2 masks are mandatory.

Contiki says travellers would need to decide for themselves whether or not they are comfortable to head out again.“These suggestions are based on how comfortable you feel to travel, and the additional precautions you might want to take on top of those already in place depending on where you’re travelling,” the company says.

Considering all the additional items that travellers would have to pack, one would need to reconsider their preferred travel bags.

“Travellers who typically travel light might find that they need more items on hand for a post-coronavirus flight than they have in the past,” says Skyscanner on its website.

For those who don’t want to check in their luggage at airports, the global travel marketplace suggests using a bigger carry-on bag.

“Opt for a carry-on that’s large enough to store your essentials, but small enough to easily fit within aircraft overhead bins. You don’t want to risk having your bag checked at the gate for being too large or too heavy,” Skyscanner says.

Keeping it clean

As the coronavirus rages on, there has been heightened awareness towards hygiene. If most people didn’t think twice about bringing their suitcase in to dirty airport toilets before the pandemic, the conversation now has shifted towards keeping your belongings germ-free.

You may need to get a bigger trave bag in post-pandemic times, considering all the extra essential items we have to take with us. — UnsplashYou may need to get a bigger trave bag in post-pandemic times, considering all the extra essential items we have to take with us. — UnsplashWhile your travel bags are not classified as “high-touch surface” by health authorities, experts agree that you should always keep them clean. One simple measure is to wipe your suitcase down with disinfecting wipes.Microbiologist Jason Tetro, in an interview with Condé Nast Traveler, says one should focus on the handle when cleaning their suitcase.

“Handles will be, for the most part, clean, other than the grip at the end, so you want to focus on that the most,” he says.

For those who use hardshell bags, Tetro recommends cleaning it thoroughly.

“You can treat it like a dog by giving it a good spray with a hose or in the tub,” he says. Fabric bags can be washed too, although it’s wise to use less water.

“A disinfectant wipe might be the best option, as you won’t have to worry about suds happening the next time you’re in security,” Tetro says.

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Some health experts, however, have assured that it’s not easy to contract viruses from your travel bags.

Mayo Clinic physician and vaccinologist Dr Greg Poland, in an interview with The Washington Post, says “a very specific series of events” need to occur to contract the virus from your luggage.

“You’d literally have to have someone sneeze all over it, get mucus on it and then, within minutes to a few hours, you would have to touch your bag and then your face,” he says.

For many avid travellers like Shini, the reality is that their travel bag will remain forlorn for now amid a spike in Covid-19 cases.

“Currently, my suitcase just sits in the corner. I finally unpacked everything and cleaned it,” she concludes.

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bags , travel , packing , holiday , post-pandemic


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