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Travel Hygiene Tips: Staying Fresh on the Road

Clothes
tide to goIf the cliche rings true -- "look good, feel good" -- then choosing the right clothes for the trip is a keystone of successful travel ... as is keeping them clean and wrinkle-free.

In-transit, try a polyester "dry-fit" T-shirt -- which is light-weight, wrinkle-free and extremely quick to dry -- as your first layer. I like to pack a few, as they take up almost no room in my luggage. You can find them in athletic stores like Foot Locker and adventure travel outfits like REI. Other wrinkle-free clothing, from button-downs to women's pants, is readily available from travel goods retailers like Orvis.com and TravelSmith.com. And if you stain your wrinkle-free duds, try Tide to Go, which looks a bit like a magic marker but does a pretty decent job of eliminating stains.

Don't like the feel (or potential extra cost) of wrinkle-free garb? If you don't have access to an iron, you might try Downy Wrinkle Releaser. The liquid product works by relaxing fabric fibers so that wrinkles can be smoothed out with your hand. Just spray on your crumpled top, stretch and smooth it out, and you're done.

Along the same lines, one of the greatest fears for hikers and trekkers is getting wet, then getting cold, then getting sick. But even the casual traveler can benefit from a packable waterproof jacket. Mine's from Eastern Mountain Sports and it fits into its own pocket, making it easy to include in your carry-on.

What Not to Pack

Body
For the body, clothing can go a long way in at least giving the impression that you're cool and dry. But when you're in a water-free environment and desperate for a shower, there are a number of "soap" products that can be used without water. The aptly named No Rinse Body Wash is a popular option for adventure travelers. Well-known in the health care field (for its use with bedridden patients) and by campers/trekkers who don't have the luxury of a shower, No Rinse products utilize a water-based odor neutralizer to provide a quick wash. Of course, the benefit here is that you don't have to rinse.

I've also heard of some travelers using a little of Dr. Bronner's castile liquid soap, another favorite of backpackers, without water. It's pretty exhilarating stuff, tingly all over. Don't use too much though, as a little -- around the neck, under the armpits -- goes a long way.

Mind
Beyond bad breath and body odor, "freshness" is also a state of mind. Part of it is matching your expectations ("I want to stay clean, dry and awake") with reality ("I'm on a three-day hike through the Rockies with no access to soap"). But staying fresh and alert is about rest and relaxation, and one of the most admirable travel talents is the ability to fall asleep at will.

On the plane? Get a window seat so you have somewhere to lean, and try a neck pillow. While they don't work for everyone, the Inflatable Komfort Kollar comes recommended by a number of travel writers and frequent fliers, including Wendy Perrin of Conde Nast Traveler. The key here is that the Komfort Kollar wraps around the entire neck, preventing the ever-embarrassing forward nod and drool.

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Besides medicinal products (see our Medications for Travel or talk to your doctor), I find drowning out the surrounding noise to be the most effect sleep aid. Noise-canceling headphones can replace the irritating low-level plane buzz with something more conducive to sleeping. But do your research on these before purchasing. If you're going to invest the money -- the popular Bose headphones will set you back 300 clams -- make sure you get a fitting. The purpose is defeated if the phones start pinching your ears or leave indentations in your temples after 20 minutes of wear.

sleeping on plane airplane headphonesAs an alternative option, About.com's Air Travel page publisher (and certified massage therapist) Arlene Fleming details a very involved self-massaging routine based on facial pressure points. While I wouldn't be up to doing this in public, it might be an option for someone looking for a relaxation technique (or conversation starter).

A final method that's often mentioned anecdotally (but probably isn't doctor-recommended) is depriving yourself of sleep the night before your flight. The idea is that you'll be so exhausted, it won't matter if you're wrapped in a carpet and hung upside down -- you'll still be able to fall asleep.

For more ideas and tips, see Sleeping on Planes.

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    --written by Dan Askin

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