As travel restrictions lift and the ache to see loved ones nears unbearable, more travelers are cautiously booking trips. However, the coronavirus pandemic is still in full swing, meaning it’s more important than ever to protect yourself and others while traveling. One way to minimize your risk of exposure is to wear a mask, but there’s a lot to consider when picking the right covering. Read on for tips about what to look for in a face covering, as well as mask recommendations for travel.
The 15 Best Masks for Travel are:
— Vistaprint RFS Reusable Mask. Buy here.
— Athleta Made to Move Mask. Buy here.
— NxTSTOP Bamboo Face Mask. Buy here.
— Hedley & Bennett Wake Up & Fight Mask. Buy here.
— Old Navy Face Mask for Kids. Buy here.
— Marine Layer Signature Tie Mask. Buy here.
— OMK Reusable Face Shield. Buy here.
— Everlane 100% Human Face Mask. Buy here.
— Zubrex Disposable Face Mask. Buy here.
— CONICOMasks Face Mask for Glasses Wearers. Buy here.
— Proted Kids Face Shield. Buy here.
— Kenny Flowers Non-Medical Lifestyle Mask. Buy here.
— Dr. Talbot’s Disposable Kid’s Face Mask. Buy here.
— VIDA Protective Mask. Buy here.
— CASETiFY Reusable Cloth Mask. Buy here.
What to Look For in a Mask
Masks should fit snugly around the nose, mouth, sides of the face and under the chin, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“The best performing masks will have two or more layers of heavyweight fabric like cotton or quilting material,” says Dr. Juanita Mora, a Chicago-based allergist and national volunteer spokesperson for the American Lung Association. She estimates that these types of masks will provide 70% to 79% of filtration of particles. Masks with four or more layers could provide 80% to 90% filtration. This means that single-layer masks, such as neck gaiters and bandanas, will likely provide the least protection.
In terms of material, one kind of fabric isn’t better than another as long as the fabric is washable and breathable. Mora recommends flannel as a good option in addition to cotton and quilting materials. The World Health Organization recommends looking for masks that have a white or light colored interior, which can help you see when the mask is dirty or wet. The WHO also recommends finding a mask in which the outermost layer is made from a hydrophobic material, such as polyester or a cotton and polyester blend, that will help repel droplets and moisture.
As you shop around, you may see some masks that have space for a filter. Should you want to add your own filter in these masks for extra protection, Mora suggests using HEPA furnace filters or HEPA vacuum cleaner bags because the HEPA filters are already designed to filter microscopic particles. You can purchase these from retailers online, such as Amazon and Home Depot.
There are a few things to avoid in a mask, according to both Mora and the CDC: First, don’t use an N95 mask. (These should be reserved for healthcare workers.) Second, don’t select a mask with a valve. Those kinds of masks protect you but not those around you since your exhalations (and their particles) escape from the valve. Additionally, masks with valves are prohibited on some airlines. Third, avoid masks made from a fabric that can shed (like the fabric used to create scarves), Mora says, as wearing one could cause you to breathe in those fibers and irritate your lungs.
The WHO also says to avoid wearing a damaged face mask (one with rips or holes) and to forgo masks that fit too loosely. Masks that are dirty, wet or have been worn by another person are not recommended either.
In terms of face shields, Mora doesn’t believe they’re absolutely necessary for travel. However, if you or your family wishes to be extra cautious, it cannot hurt to wear them as an added layer of protection.
[Read: How to Pack a Suitcase: 16 Tips and Expert Tricks for Perfectly Packed Luggage.]
Know Before You Go
Mask rules and regulations will vary depending on your destination, airport and the individual airline. It’s important to check the specifics of each of your providers before you leave. Nevertheless, here are some things to keep in mind:
— You’ll need more than one mask for your trip Masks should be changed daily and washed after they’re worn, Mora says. You’ll want to have at least two per traveler so you can wash one and wear one.
— Order masks at least one month before your departure date Due to high demand because of the coronavirus pandemic, many commercially made masks are on backorder. As a result, companies are experiencing shipping delays, so plan accordingly.
— Wear your mask at all times except when eating or drinking A recent study on mask efficacy found that droplets are expelled even when speaking, so it’s important to keep your mask on to protect yourself and others.
— Most people should wear a mask Masks should be worn by all travelers except for those younger than 2, people who cannot remove the mask without assistance or those who cannot wear one for medical reasons.
— Some masks are prohibited Masks with valves or vents, those made with mesh or lacey fabric and masks that cannot be secured under the chin (like bandanas) are not permitted on some airlines.
— Face shields are usually okay Several airlines allow passengers to wear a face shield as long as those passengers also wear an appropriate mask.
— Plan to wear your mask for your entire journey Masks may not be required in an airport, but some individual airlines require passengers to wear them from check-in to baggage claim.
— Change your mask when you get off the plane As you travel, your mask is soaking up your sweat, makeup and other particles, so you’ll want to swap it for a clean mask once you disembark, Mora says. She adds that there’s no need to swap masks mid-flight as long as your mask “has a good seal.”
— Use extra caution on public transportation Buses and trains have more people traffic, so you’ll encounter more bacteria and viruses in that environment, Mora says. A mask with at least three layers will help decrease transmission. And if the bus or train car is full, she suggests grabbing the next one.
[Read: 14 Things to Do When Your Flight is Canceled or Delayed.]
Best Masks for Travel
Vistaprint RFS Reusable Mask
Vistaprint creates colorful masks for both children and adults. Masks are made from polyester and are machine-washable. They also come with a pocket for a filter, and Vistaprint sells its own filters specifically designed to work with their masks. You can choose from a variety of colors and patterns, from solids to flowers to camouflage. Reviewers say the masks fit well and seem to be durable. Masks come in three sizes: kids, adult small and adult large. Kid-sized masks start at $13 each, while adult masks start at $18 apiece.
[Buy adult masks here or kid masks here.]
Athleta Made to Move Mask
Travelers hoping to spend their next vacation in the great outdoors should consider this option from Athleta. The adult and kid masks are designed for workouts and activity, and made with a spandex-polyester blend. They have a special construction to keep the mask away from the mouth. Each covering has a hidden pocket to add your own filter and comes with a head strap for fit customization. Reviewers say the masks fit well but wish the nose piece was more moldable to provide a tighter seal. Athleta also sells pleated masks for adults and children. Made to Move masks are hand-wash only. They’re sold in packs of three for $25 per pack and come in multiple colors, including oceanic teal, agate purple and canyon red.
[Buy adult masks here or kid masks here.]
NxTSTOP Bamboo Face Mask
NxTSTOP manufactures eco-friendly attire specifically designed for globetrotters, so it only makes sense that the company decided to make masks. Its standard face mask is made from bamboo fabric, which NxTSTOP says is both one of the most breathable fabrics available and a material that combats odors better than cotton. The mask has adjustable ear loops and wire around the nose for a customizable fit. It has two layers but does not have a pocket to add your own filter. As an added bonus, you can throw this mask in the washing machine, but you’ll have to lay it flat to dry. Reviewers say the masks are comfortable and find them easy to speak in. Two sizes are available: one for children 8 and younger and a second for teens and adults. Masks start at $14 apiece, regardless of size, and come in black, navy, heather gray and pink. NxTSTOP also makes cotton masks that have a pocket for a filter.
Hedley & Bennett Wake Up & Fight Mask
Woman-founded Hedley & Bennett operates in the realm of professional cooks and is best known for its colorful aprons, chef coats and work shirts. Now, the company also makes its own masks designed with insight from a pediatric orthopedic surgeon. The company just released its third-generation masks that are made from a cotton blend. Masks are fully adjustable and feature wire along the nosepiece for a more secure fit. For now, the company only offers adult sizes, but Hedley & Bennett’s website notes it has plans to release kid sizes in the future. Reviews of the masks are mixed, with some praising the mask’s breathability and others questioning the construction. However, it’s important to note that few reviews are available for the third-generation design. Keep in mind, the third-generation masks are hand-wash only. Masks come in a variety of colors, including light green, beige and red. A single mask costs $22, and the company will donate a mask to an essential worker with each purchase.
Old Navy Face Mask for Kids
Children will need masks when they travel, too. Few retailers have more diverse options for kids than Old Navy. The company offers two different styles. One is a pleated mask that comes in fun patterns and themes, including hearts, dinosaurs and dogs. The other is a more contoured design that features faces of critters like sharks, raccoons and bears. Both styles are constructed with three layers of cotton poplin fabric. Additionally, parents will appreciate that both styles are machine-washable and can go in the dryer. Overall, reviewers say these are good options for children but note that the pleated masks run small and some say the contoured masks don’t seem to be three layers. Pleated masks come in packs of five and can be purchased for $12.50. Contoured masks are sold in sets of three for $9.50.
[Buy a pack of three contoured masks here or a pack of five pleated masks here.]
Marine Layer Signature Tie Mask
Marine Layer’s mask uses tie fasteners so wearers can easily adjust the mask’s fit. Each mask features a double layer of fabric made from a cotton and modal blend and includes a pocket for a removable filter. Additionally, Marine Layer is making masks to send to essential workers, and you can opt to add a donation when you purchase your mask. Marine Layer currently only makes adult masks, which come in one color: navy. Masks with adjustable ear loops are also available. The Signature Tie Mask is sold in packs of five for $25.
OMK Reusable Face Shield
While face shields are not required while traveling, they may offer cautious travelers extra peace of mind. A fan favorite is the OMK Reusable Face Shield. The shield wraps around the side of the face toward the ears, which helps to provide extra protection. Additionally, the shield is equipped with an elastic headband and foam around the forehead for added comfort. As its name suggests, this shield is also reusable, though the company advises properly disinfecting it between uses. Buyers say the shield is good quality and comfortable to wear. But remember, this is not a substitute for a face mask. Pricing starts at $13.99 for a pack of two shields.
Everlane 100% Human Face Mask
Everlane’s one-size adult masks are made from either cotton or a fabric blend (linen, cotton and rayon). They have two-layer construction and slightly stretchy ear loops to accommodate most face sizes. Style-conscious travelers will appreciate that in addition to solid black and gray masks, Everlane offers patterns like tie-dye and stripes. Reviewers are complimentary of the masks, saying they are soft, comfortable and great for all-day wear. However, others note that the masks can take a long time to ship. Still on the fence? The masks are machine-washable, and the company donates 10% of mask sales to the American Civil Liberties Union. A set of three costs $18 and a set of five costs $25.
[Buy a pack of three here or a pack of five here.]
Zubrex Disposable Face Mask
To avoid the hassle of washing masks while on vacation, consider purchasing disposable masks. Zubrex’s lightweight, blue masks are made with three layers of a nonwoven fabric that the company says will make breathing easier. These masks also feature a metal piece around the nose so the wearer can adjust the mask to better fit their face. An added bonus? They’re sold in packs of 50. Reviewers say the masks are comfortable and fit well. Packs start at $16.98.
CONICOMasks Face Mask for Glasses Wearers
Reviewers who wear glasses praise CONICOMasks’ covering because it doesn’t fog their glasses. The mask features a special construction that allows the top part to sit high on the nose bridge, beneath the frames and relatively flat against the skin. Plus, there is no metal nosepiece, which can sometimes make it difficult to securely use a mask while wearing glasses. While purchasers love the fact that this mask delivers on its promise to not fog their glasses, many are also wowed by the mask’s dual-layer construction and its soft fabric. Keep in mind, masks are made from linen or a cotton-polyester blend, so they are machine-washable but cannot be put in the dryer. Masks start at $11.99 each and come in a variety of colors.
Proted Kids Face Shield
Everyone loves a good sticker, which is one of several reasons why this kid-sized face shield is a favorite among buyers. Each of Proted’s shields comes with a set of decals so kids can decorate the perimeter; stickers include dinosaurs, soccer players, ice cream cones and rainbows. The shield is made from a thick polycarbonate, while the colorful head strap is made from adjustable Velcro. When your child is ready for a snack or needs a drink, they won’t need to remove the mask. Instead, they can flip it up to the top of their head. Parents say their children love the face shields and praise Proted for sending their orders quickly. Shields start at $16.95 each.
[Read: 30 Travel Accessories That Make Vacationing Easier.]
Kenny Flowers Non-Medical Lifestyle Mask
Kenny Flowers, which was founded in 2015, makes tropical-themed apparel for the beach-loving traveler. The company’s face masks are no different. The coverings come in fun patterns like tie-dye, tropical leaves and parrots. Masks are a single size and have ties to customize fit. Materials vary, but most are made from cotton or rayon. They’re also machine-washable. Additionally, for every mask purchased, Kenny Flowers will donate a mask to a person in need in Bali (where the masks are made). Individual masks cost $10 each, though the company also sells bundles of shirts and masks in matching fabrics.
Dr. Talbot’s Disposable Kid’s Face Mask
Parents say these fun face masks are a good disposable option for kids. Dr. Talbot’s masks are made with three layers but are still breathable. Though the ear loops aren’t adjustable, they are made from a soft elastic. Each mask also features an adjustable nosepiece. Each pack comes with a mix of designs that could include rainbows and hearts or camouflage and castles. Though parents are complimentary of the designs, several caution that the ear loops can easily rip off. The masks are sold in packs of 10 and start at $9.99 per pack.
[Buy a girl’s pack here or a boy’s pack here.]
VIDA Protective Mask
VIDA’s 100% cotton masks are made with two layers. They have adjustable straps to help wearers as young as 5 get a snug fit. For additional comfort, masks come equipped with a metal nosepiece. Each mask also has a filter pocket and ships with one disposable PM2.5 carbon filter. Additional filters are sold separately. Reviewers say these masks work well for themselves and their children. They also say the masks are comfortable. VIDA’s masks are available in three sizes: kids, regular and extra large. However, not all colors are available in all sizes. Masks start at $10 each, are hand-wash only and come in a variety of colors; mask packs are also available.
CASETiFY Reusable Cloth Mask
For each mask it sells, CASETiFY will donate a mask to an essential worker, which is only an additional bonus to reviewers. Buyers favor this mask because it is comfortable and easy to breathe in, but adults lament the fact that masks don’t come in a kids size for their children. Each mask is made from cotton and has elastic ear straps. It also comes with two PM2.5 carbon filters. CASETiFY recommends replacing the filter after a week of use and sells additional filters separately. Masks come in four colors and cost $15 each.