Dirtiest Germ Hotspots Travelers Need To Watch Out For

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Nothing quite ruins a trip like coming down with an illness while away. Knowing that sandy beach is waiting just outside your hotel room while you are stuck in bed is a special kind of torture. If we’ve learned anything over the last two years, it’s the importance of cleanliness, especially while traveling. Lysol Pro Solutions has released the dirtiest germ hotspots travelers need to watch out for after an intensive study. Contaminant levels were tested on surfaces in fifteen hotels throughout the United States, one airport, and ten airplanes.

Woman putting on hand sanitizer on an airplane

The Test

To test each surface, scientists used ATP (adenosine triphosphate) analysis. The test essentially involves rubbing a pre-moistened cotton swab on a surface and then placing it into a reader that measures bacteria levels. One downside of the method is that it cannot detect viruses, as it can only detect living cells. Also, since it can only detect the presence of living cells, the test cannot distinguish between ‘good’ bacteria and ‘bad’ bacteria. The test will instead give a reading of all bacteria detected on the surface. For areas that should be sterile and free of all bacteria, the test is an excellent representation of how clean the area is.

Swab Test for Germs and bacteria

The Results

The study focused on four main areas: hotel rooms, common areas, airport check-in lobbies, and plane seat areas. In other words, everywhere a traveler would have contact while getting from point A to point B. Each area’s top three germ hotspots were found, and the results were as follows:

Hotel Rooms

  1. Toilet Handles
  2. Television Remotes and Doorknobs (a tie)
  3. Desks, Refrigerator Handles, and Nightstands (a tie)
Hand that is sanitizing a door knob

Common Area Hotels

  1. Buttons on Elevators
  2. Handrails on Luggage Carts
  3. Bathroom Doors, Front Desks, and Elevator Handrails (a tie)

Airport Check-In Lobbies

  1. Check-In Kiosk Pin Pads
  2. Countertops at Check-In
  3. Countertops at Baggage Office
Woman using check in kiosk at airport

Plane Seat Areas

  1. Seatbelt Buckles and Window Shade Handles (a tie)
  2. Latches on Tray Table
  3. Dials on Overhead Air Vents

While some of the results are not surprising (like a toilet handle), other surfaces listed are not as obvious. For instance, putting your seatbelt on when getting ready for takeoff is so routine that it may not be immediately obvious how many germs could be lurking on the latch. Similarly, checking in at a check-in kiosk may not register as a serious germ encounter when your mind is thinking about getting through security and on to your final destination.

Hand that is sanitizing an escalator handrail

What Can Travelers Do?

Travelers worried about getting sick on the way to their destination can take precautions, and many of them have been drilled into our heads over the last two years. However, Covid isn’t the only thing that could make a dream trip into a nightmare. The common cold, strep throat, or a simple stomach bug could confine you to your hotel room during your trip, and there are simple measures to take that will help ensure it doesn’t happen.

hand sanitizer on plane
  • Sanitizing wipes. Travelers should focus on high-touch areas like check-in kiosks, tray tables, and bathroom surfaces. A small pack of wipes will fit in a pocket or purse and are easy to grab when you need to wipe down a questionable surface.
  • Hand sanitizer or hand washing. It isn’t always practical to grab a sanitizing wipe before touching every surface. If you have to, it doesn’t mean you are guaranteed to get sick. A good practice after touching a questionable surface is to use hand sanitizer
Wipes on airplane

Putting It All Together

Travelers have been through a lot over the last two years and are used to an era of extra cleanliness. However, as the pandemic slowly fades into history, it is still important to take precautions against falling ill while traveling. Being aware of areas that are particularly bad for germs is one way travelers can make sure they are doing all they can to make sure their dream trip goes according to plan without falling ill.

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Disclaimer: Current travel rules and restrictions can change without notice. The decision to travel is ultimately your responsibility. Contact your consulate and/or local authorities to confirm your nationality’s entry and/or any changes to travel requirements before traveling. Travel Off Path does not endorse traveling against government advisories