Best Travel Masks: How To Look Chic and Feel safe In Europe This Summer

Now that the EU is set to open for international travel this summer we need to make plans for how we will both stay safe and not become super spreaders of the coronavirus while traveling.

Summer on Mykonos

On April 25th 2021 the EU announced their recommendation for member states to open for international travel this summer. The plan is still being worked on and fine tuned but some countries including Greece are opening as early as mid May.

What You Need To Know About Travel To Europe

The headlines on the EU announcement said that fully vaccinated travelers from approved countries would be allowed entry, however, there are a few items buried in the fine print that you need to know about.

  1. Each member state (country) will reserve the right to close its borders to anyone coming from a country where the virus rate is considered too high, and each country gets to decide for themselves what constitutes too high. This is worth paying attention to, especially if you are planning a multi country European trip. For example you may be planning to go to Paris then head to Barcelona, but if France’s covid infection rate goes higher than Spain’s threshold you could find yourself stuck at the border or the airport.
  2. Each member state will have its own rules for entry. Some may be fine with you just waltzing on in, some will require a rapid test, others will require a 72 hour PCR test prior to entry. It will be your responsibility to find out the requirements for each country on your list, and to source where you can get the required testing. This is unlikely to be free, so you should budget for each test. I read today that in Italy you can expect to pay $25 for a rapid and $75 for a PCR test.
  3. You may be wise to just stick to one country.
  4. If you are traveling from the U.S. at this time (May 2021) you will be refused boarding on your return flight unless you have proof of a negative test in the 72 hours prior to flying home. You will need to source out where you can get an approved test, make an appointment if required, and find out which forms of payment will be accepted, prior to travel.
  5. Each country may have dofferent rules regarding masks and social distancing, and it may change from on day to the next as case numbers rise and fall.

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Read The Fine Print

One alarming feature of the EU travel plan is that it allows travelers who can prove recent recovery from covid and travelers who just have a negative covid test in the 72 hours prior to travel. To my way of thinking, this is a giant problem just waiting to happen.

It means you can be amongst travelers from places with excessively contagious variants, who have left home unvaccinated, and who can expose you to variants and mutations not swirling around your country/state/city yet. “Negative test travel” is what moved the U.K variant, The Brazilian, South African and now Indian variants around the world. In all likelihood travelers being allowed entry to any country based only on a negative test is only going to spread new and yet unknown variants around the world. I think it is madness. But of course, I’m not an epidemiologist or an infectious disease specialist, so hopefully I am wildly wrong.

The Best Masks For International Travel

It looks as though masks will be a requirement both throughout your flight and in many indoor and outdoor settings while you are traveling.

image via NBC.com

Some airlines are not accepting non-medical masks. This means you cannot wear a cloth mask, a facial shield, masks with valves, or handkerchief/scarf masks. Your only options are medical grade / surgical, disposable masks.

If you have worn the typical 3 fold paper masks you probably already know they aren’t always that comfortable when they’re on for multiple hours. The best medical grade masks in terms of comfort are the N95 and KN95 masks. What makes these so good is they seal nicely around the face without having gaping pockets at the sides, so are safer when dealing with an airbourne virus. Personally I like that they have a nose seal,so they don’t fog up your glasses, and most importantly (to me) is they have a large pouch in front of your mouth and nose, so you don’t feel like you’re suffocating. There’s no fabric or paper sucking up against your mouth or nose while you’re seaking or just trying to breathe.

KN95 masks.

I use KN95 masks when I’m on shoots. (I’m a makeup artist). I can have them on for 10 hours in the Phoenix heat and not feel like I’m about to get smothered. Plus, being a natural chatterbox I can talk to the talent and crew all day long and not be hampered by fabric or papersticking against my mouth and nose.

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When Germany announced only people wearing surgical, N95 and KN95 masks would be allowed on any Lufthansa flight, other airlines followed it immediately and the masks all sold out overnight. I figured it could become a thing with international flights so I ordered a package of white KN95 masks and a pack of black KN95s. I’ve been saving them for travel when the world finally reopens. (They took about a month to arrive because everything was on back order.) They are readily available now, but as international travel picks back up this summer you can expect them to get back ordered again. I recommend getting a couple of packs now, while they are in stock.

I recently ordered a box of colored KN95 masks from Amazon to use on an upcoming trip to Italy. I have to be there for work (I’m soooo excited!) and wanted to have disposable masks with me, but didn’t want to be relegated to black and white masks. I got a box of 36 KN95s.

Each mask is individually plastic wrapped, keeping them hygenic and making them easy to pack, and to throw spares in my handbag and carryon bag. If travel does in fact open as it is supposed to, and if this work trip can happen, I will be in Italy for 14 days. The packaging on these masks makes them easy for me to plan out 14 days worth and not take up a ton of space in my suitcase. They come in a variety of color combos – I got particularly girlie colors, but they have plenty of guy options too.

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Mask Etiquette

When traveling internationally, both during you flight and while you are at your destination, you need to follow some mask etiquette.

  1. The first thing to know is no one is having fun wearing a mask. Whether you believe in covid or not, whether you like wearing a mask or not, we all are stuck having to wear one. It is what it is. If the rules say you have to wear a mask, don’t complain, just do it. Don’t be a Facebook Karen, don’t squawk about how you can’t breathe or some nonsense about breathing in CO2. If you seriously feel you cannot wear one, stay home.
  2. Change out your mask during the flight, but don’t drop your used mask on the floor. The cleaning crew shouldn’t have to handle your germy, used mask. You probably won’t feel overly comfortable if the stranger sitting next to you is dropping dirty masks on the floor and leaving them there.
  3. Pack a large ziplock bag into your hand luggage, mark it dirty masks with sharpie, and put your used masks inside, zipping it closed. When you arrive to your destination, drop the sealed ziplock bag with used masks into the trash.
  4. While at your destination only ever dispose of used masks in a trash can. If you think you will be changing your mask during the day pack a sandwich sized ziplock bag into your handbag/backpack/whatever you’re carrying, and eal your used mask inside. Even if you are convinced you don’t have the virus, always dispose of used masks respectfully. You wouldn’t like a bunch of foreigners dropping dirty masks in your front yard or in front of your place of work, so don’t do it to theirs.
  5. After changing your mask use hand sanitizer. Even if you don’t think you need it. Anyone watching you will feel more comfortable seeing you being hygenic. It’s a small thing to do, but the small things in life are the big things.

If you want more information about international travel during covid, mask rules while flying internationally, and updated details on travel in Europe this summer, join my newsletter. The Glam Italia newsletter only comes out twice each moth but is full of information for travelers and armchair travelers! You can get the scoop here

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