The 7 Dirtiest Things on an Airplane

Breaking news: airplanes are dirty, but that shouldn’t come as a surprise to many who watch thousands of people load into these metal tubes and fly hours from one destination to another. But just how dirty are these airplanes, and which parts are the grossest? Travelmath website recently sent out a microbiologist to swap the insides of airplanes and discover the dirtiest things are. The results are not pretty and after reading you may just be tempted to step inside a Hazmat suit the next time you board an aircraft (or at the very least, bring some antibacterial wipes).

7. The Floor

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Watch an airline staff’s reaction next time they see someone walking in the aisle of an aircraft in bare feet, we bet they are cringing. That is because the floor of an airplane is absolutely filthy. Stop and think about what touches the floor of an airplane; dirty diapers, luggage that has been rolled through mud, vomit, dirt off people’s shoes, food, and who knows what else. Watch the people come onto the plane wearing flip flops and understand that these shoes are an avenue to dump dead skin cells, or how about the woman cutting her toenails at her seat and letting them fall to the floor? The absolute worst thing you can do though is going barefoot into the washrooms, where who knows what awaits you on those floors. Don’t use the “5-second rule” when you drop food, keep your shoes on and pack some hand sanitizer if you feel the need to touch the floor.

6. Pillows and Blankets

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For any airline that recycles their pillows and blankets, we suggest not using them, for obvious hygiene reasons. Yet despite these reasons passengers from all over the world still continue to take the complimentary blankets and pillows. Unless it is sealed in a wrap, stay away, because once you touch that pillow you are at risk for contracting anything contagious the previous person may have had. Lice, herpes, a cold, the flu, these are just a few things that can live on solid objects. Many airlines re-fold the blankets and stuff them up into the overhead compartments between flights, and skip the washing stage. As well, pillows and blankets often end up on the floor, and as you have already read, the floor is not a clean place to come into contact with.

5. Window Shades

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There are two kinds of passengers on an airplane; aisle people and window people. If you are a window seat person you most likely want to see outside or use the window as a headrest while trying to catch some zzzz’s. The hard truth is though these window shades rarely get cleaned and when your face is pressed up against it, you should remember that someone else’s face was pressed up against it a couple of hours earlier. Like the tray table, the plastic window shades are potential germ farms and bacteria can live up to 120 hours on a single shade. Think about the unwashed hands that push down and pull up that shade, and think about the runny noses and drool from people’s mouths. Unlike the bathrooms which are wiped down multiple times a day, it’s not likely you will see a flight attendant come through the cabin wiping down the window coverings after every flight.

4. Seat Back Pocket

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Have you ever stuck your book into the seat pocket in front of you, or how about the food wrapper? Did you ever stop to wonder how in the world those get cleaned? The most simple answer is they don’t get cleaned very often and therefore become a breeding ground for bacteria. Next time you are flying stick your hand way down into the bottom and feel how much dirt and crumbs are in there (and then wash your hands immediately) and we guarantee you won’t want to store anything in there. From dirty diapers to food to spilled drinks to used Kleenex’s, everything goes in these seat pockets. It should come as no surprise then that when you see the aircraft cleaners they are all using gloves to reach in the pockets to clean them out. Our best recommendation; avoid the seat pockets like the plague.

3. Seat Belts

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This is one thing that you have to touch, for your own safety but may we suggest using some hand sanitizer after you do so. That is because seat belts are one of the dirtiest things on the plane, and not just the buckles which collect food and dirt but the actual fabric seat belts themselves. The fabric creates the perfect setting for bacteria, which is collected from people’s clothing and skin. Seat belts rarely get cleaned, let’s be honest, and don’t get replaced until they need to be. Think about the toddler who is eating crackers and mashing them up in their hands, and then touching the seat belt in numerous spots. Think about the person who has the seat belt against their skin, or the one who blew their nose, didn’t wash their hands, and then buckled up. It is then perhaps the best strategy to buckle up once, sanitize those hands, and refrain from touching them.

2. Bathrooms

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It is a shock to many that bathrooms are not actually the dirtiest thing on the plane, but they do come in at number two with a variety of disgusting discoveries. So what is the dirtiest part of the bathroom? The toilet flush button is actually the dirtiest part, no surprise seeing as how people touch it without first washing their hands. The bathroom’s locks also happen to be pretty disgusting and often get overlooked by cleaning staff. The reason the bathrooms don’t make number one in terms of dirtiness is that they are cleaned multiple times throughout the day. Unlike tray tables or seats; bathrooms are a priority in cleaning. That being said we still recommended washing your hands, a lot, before and after being in an airplane washroom.

1. Tray Tables

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Meet the dirtiest thing on an airplane, and you just happen to eat off it, place your things on it, and not think twice about the bacteria it may hold. Interestingly enough the microbiologists were not surprised by this finding as next to human skin, bacteria loves to attach itself to plastic. Think about the sugary drinks spilled on the tray tables, the dirty diapers that parents place on them, the grubby hands of children who haven’t washed them in hours and it all of a sudden doesn’t seem that shocking how dirty these tables really are. Combine that with the fact that tray tables often get overlooked by airline staff when they are cleaning and you’ve got the number one dirtiest thing on a plane. Next time you think about placing your apple on the tray before biting into it, remember what else may have been on the tray before your apple.

8 Reasons Why Vacations Are Good for Your Health

It shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that vacations are good for us—after all, taking time for ourselves to discover new places, to engage in activities we enjoy and even just to spend quality time with family and friends all seem like great things to do and pleasant ways to spend our time. But vacations have some other surprising health benefits that you may not know about. These 8 benefits show why taking even just a short vacation is good for you and everyone around you (including your co-workers!).

8. Vacations Decrease Stress

We’ll start with the obvious: taking a vacation is a great way to bust stress, a view supported by multiple studies and the American Psychological Association. The day-to-day grind of our hectic lives can leave us feeling overwhelmed, like we have too much to do and too little time. Often, we have competing demands: maybe there’s a big deadline at work that’s fast approaching, but you need to make time to care for a relative or child. Evenings and weekends sometimes aren’t enough time to unwind. Taking a vacation gives us more space and time for ourselves, to do the things we like to do and things we want to do. It allows us to get away from, say, the co-worker we don’t like or to forget about doing the laundry. Even though it’s a temporary escape, taking the time off can have a huge effect on our stress levels.

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7. Your Health Will Improve

Several studies have shown links between vacation time and decreased risk of particular disorders and diseases. In the landmark Framingham Heart Study, taking regular vacation time was linked to a lower risk of heart disease, an outcome that was repeated in other studies, like the National Institutes of Health’s Multiple Risk Factor Intervention Trial for the Prevention of Coronary Heart Disease. While it’s hard to say if the vacation itself lowered the risk (perhaps by lowering stress levels) or if taking vacation time is just a habit of people who live lower-risk lifestyles, regular vacation time was definitely implicated in improved cardiovascular health. People who took at least 1 week of vacation each year were 30% less likely to take a heart attack than their colleagues who skipped vacation time. So book your getaway—it’s good for your heart.

heart health

6. Relationships Grow Stronger

It’s no secret that the key to successful relationships is spending time with other people. Unfortunately, our personal ties often take a backseat to professional pursuits. Working too much can not only put you under stress but also cause your relationships to suffer, especially if you start cutting people off, turning down invites or bringing stress into your interactions with friends and loved ones. A vacation allows us time to reconnect with the people we actually want to have in our lives. Traveling is especially good for deepening bonds between people: vacations are quality time for relationships and shared experiences, good and bad, help bring people together. People with strong bonds tend to feel less stressed, are less susceptible to disease and are less prone to mental health issues such as depression.

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5. You Mental Health Will be Better

Physical health improvement isn’t the only benefit of taking a vacation; mental health is also affected by whether or not people take vacation time. A study by the Marshfield Clinic in Wisconsin reported that women who took vacation time on a regular basis had a lower risk of depression. A study by the University of Pittsburgh’s Mind Body Center had similar findings. Again, multiple factors come into play—such as getting more Vitamin D by visiting a sun destination in the winter or simply allowing the body to recuperate—but there’s no denying vacation can lower the risk of mental disorders like depression and burnout. If your boss puts up a fuss about you taking time off, tell them you’re doing them a favor—depression-related losses in productivity cost employers around $79 billion every year.

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4. It Helps our Brains Recharge

We talked about how vacation time can help your mental and physical health in the short term and how it can be preventative—but it can also help your brain itself. Most of us have routines and rote tasks; we’ll find ourselves essentially on repeat, doing the same thing over and over. That doesn’t allow us much mental flexibility; we’re less likely to be spontaneous or creative, especially in heavily routinized jobs. And when we are asked to be creative, we’re likely to find that we’re tapped out; our brains are tired. Just as vacation gives our bodies a break, it also gives our minds a chance to recharge. This is especially true when we get out and explore. Making our own schedules, being spontaneous and learning new things actually energize our brains, giving us new experiences to analyze.

relaxing on beach

3. Vacation Gives us a New Perspective

Any good traveler knows that the best way to learn about the world around us is to get out and explore it. That can mean jetting off to an exotic locale or simply checking out a new museum on the other side of town. These new experiences can help us learn about the way that other people live. When we learn about different cultures and peoples through first-hand experience, we learn to be more sympathetic and understanding of those peoples, their cultures and their ways of life. This helps us develop an awareness and appreciation of others. These new perspectives can be beneficial in many ways: they can be earth-shattering enough for us to decide to start a movement or to change our habits, or they can subtly shift our mindsets to view problems in new ways—and maybe see solutions we didn’t see before.

museum France Paris
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2. It Boosts Productivity

The effects of vacation last even after we get back to the office. For one thing, rested minds (and bodies) tend to be more creative, which means we see new and inventive ways of solving problems. If you’re trying to get a big promotion, that can be a huge help. Being rested also gives us the mental resilience to keep working, even under stress, which can help us achieve goals or meet deadlines. And being rested has another huge advantage: it simply allows us to be at our best, which means we do more work and good work. When we don’t take vacations, we can feel ground down, bored or tired. A vacation helps us come back to the office ready to tackle all the problems we might have felt were insurmountable before we went away.

happy office workers

1. Vacations are Incentives

Psychologists have long talked about reward/punishment paradigms, wondering what works better to motivate people. In most cases, rewards are better motivators—and a vacation is a huge motivator for most people. Up to 8 weeks before a vacation, people will notice positive effects on their work; they will be more motivated to achieve goals and more productive. The vacation becomes a reward for a job well done. This incentive is so powerful that experts recommend planning your next getaway almost immediately upon your return. Having something to look forward to will help you slog through the tough times at the office or at home—and you’ll feel that you’ve earned the time off when you do finally get to take a couple of days or a couple of weeks for yourself.

vacation calendar

Travel Insurance: The Pros and Cons, and How to Protect Yourself

It is a great debate, whether or not you should purchase travel insurance. With more and more people traveling these days it is a hot topic that can be greatly debated. Travelers must understand that there are many different kinds of travel insurance and finding the right one can often be confusing and long-winded. We have tried to simplify things for you, discussing the pros and cons and giving you some general tips on how to protect yourself. So, if you have ever wondered if you should purchase travel insurance; here‘s our two cents:

Will it Give You Peace of Mind?

Having peace of mind may just be the number one reason people purchase travel insurance. Going on vacation can be stressful enough without worrying about what to do in case of an emergency. When you purchase travel insurance, you are guaranteed to be covered if something happens. Cancellation travel insurance is highly popular and takes the worry about what to do if for some reason you cannot travel. Medical insurance on the other hand will protect you if anything happens, getting you the best care in the quickest way possible. If you are an anxious traveler, it may just be the best money you spend on your whole trip.

peace of mind

Fact: Medical Bills Climb Quickly

Purchasing medical coverage when traveling outside of your own country always seems like a logical idea. When you purchase medical coverage, depending on what type, you may not have to pay anything out of pocket. This comes in quite handy as medical bills can climb quickly when you are in a different country. Medications are often the cheapest part of the bill; it is when surgery or other major complications are involved. It is important to ensure your medical coverage covers all types of medical emergencies, from snake bites to broken bones to mysterious rashes. Also ensure you know what steps to take if you get hurt.

medical benefits

Research Cancellation Coverage

We have all heard the horror stories of trying to cancel flights, hotels, car rentals, etc. You book a trip months in advance and then life throws you a curveball and you have to cancel your plans. Whether you have to cancel because of a death in the family, a new job, financial reasons, a new baby or any other life experience, it shouldn’t be stressful. That’s where cancellation insurance comes in, this peace of mind offering ensures that you don’t have to pay for a vacation that you are not going on, because let’s be honest, who wants to pay for something that they cannot do? If there is one coverage you should plan on splurging on and you are the type to book way ahead of time, this is the one. If you are more of a last minute traveler, this coverage is pretty much useless to you. Remember to double check if you can cancel without penalty on cars, flights and hotels, before purchasing additional insurance.


How Much Does it really Cost?

When it comes to comparing costs of different coverage, it can vary greatly when it comes to travel insurance. As much as insurance companies want you to believe that the cost is low; it often expensive to purchase, especially when you are looking for complete coverage. It is up for debate on when to purchase insurance, it often looks cheaper to purchase at the time of booking but you must book with a specific company. On the other hand, many people have an issue paying for travel insurance and then not needing it. An extra couple hundred dollars is not worth the risk for many travelers who have vacationed without coverage previously. The question really comes down to how comfortable you are paying out of pocket if something happens.

american money

Make Sure Your Coverage is Adequate

Insurance can be a tricky thing to understand, especially when you start to look at the fine print. It is important to research what your plan covers and what it doesn’t. Unfortunately there are a lot of things that insurance will not cover. For example, say you are traveling to a country to do some serious hiking, up mountains or a volcano. You have purchased insurance in case you get hurt while climbing. Most companies won’t in fact tell you that if you fall and hurt yourself from a certain distance or height, they actually will not cover your medical costs. That is because they classify such adventures as extreme sports. Another example of coverage being inadequate is when you need to cancel your trip. Be aware that many insurance companies only allow you to cancel within a specific time frame. It is important to remember that although coverage at first glance may look great, it may be missing a few key items.

Travel Insurance

Think About Evacuation Insurance

You may or may not have heard of Evacuation Insurance, but it is an important term in the travel insurance world. If you have decided that full medical coverage isn’t for you, evacuation insurance might be worth investing in. This coverage is particularly helpful for people traveling to third world countries or countries that do not have the same level of medical care than their home country. Essentially evacuation insurance allows travelers to be sent back to their home country for treatment. Sure it means missing the rest of your vacation but you will have the peace of mind of getting treated at home in the event of a serious injury.

emergency ambulance

Make Sure to Research More Than One Company

There are hundreds of thousands of insurance companies that want your business and it certainly pays to do your research before clicking the “yes box” and agreeing to one. What one company offers for $100, another might offer for $60. Many companies face off against each other in trying to offer the lowest price for the best coverage. Be aware of insurance deals that seem “too good to be true” as they generally are just that. Combing through the fine print of each insurance policy seems like a lot of work and we aren’t going to lie, it is. But it is a small price to pay to ensure you get what you want (and what you need.) Don’t make the mistake of assuming you are already covered by your current insurance provider or credit card either; which brings us to our next point.

Online Research

Check Your Current Coverage

Many credit cards, private insurance providers and even airlines have your back when it comes to travel insurance. It is therefore key to double check what you are covered for before paying anything extra. For example, many airlines offer free cancellation of flights up to a certain number of hours before, especially if you are a frequent flyer. Many hotels and car rentals also offer the same, as long as you haven’t paid the full amount. Credit cards often have some sort of travel insurance clause built into them, the easiest way to find that is to call and find out exactly what they cover. It may be that between the coverage you already have, you just need to purchase the bare minimum. If you have private medical coverage, double check which countries it covers. More often than not, insurance companies will offer a discount for multiple products so if you already pay for home and auto insurance; check that company out for a travel insurance quote.

travel insurance policy

Know and Discuss Your Medical History

If you are planning on any sort of medical travel insurance you best know your medical history, and be truthful about it, as it could come back to nip you in the behind. Most if not all insurance companies will want to know about past medical problems, surgeries, pre-existing conditions, etc. Providing the right information to your insurance company is an absolute must. Horror stories surface all the time of medical travel insurance not covering a very expensive bill because the traveler forgot to mention they had a pre-existing condition, or had surgery 15 years ago. It is a sad fact that travel insurance companies don’t particularly like to pay for large emergency bills and will try to find a loop hole wherever possible. Being upfront and truthful will ensure you aren’t left with a nasty medical bill.

Medical History Form

Ask as Many Questions as Possible.

There is no stupid question when it comes to travel insurance, especially in regards to what it covers. Chances are if you cannot get a question answered than that company isn’t for you. There is a wealth of information out there regarding travel insurance and many people take to the internet for suggestions and advice via messaging boards and reviews. Although this is a great way to gather information, it is not always truthful. We do suggest getting in touch with the company before you sign anything and asking any questions you may have. Whether you want to know how to file a claim in case something happens or whether you want to know exactly what types of medication is covered; they will have the answer for you.

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8 Things You Should Know About Teaching English Abroad

Teaching English abroad entices all sorts of people – the vagabonds, the philanthropists, the folks suffering from a mild case of midlife crisis; those looking for a temporary change or those seeking a lifestyle overhaul.  Some people want to teach abroad for a couple months, and for others it is the last job they will ever take!  Whatever your reason, here are 8 things that you should know before you teach English abroad…

1. Actually know your English and grammar

Do you genuinely know the difference between past perfect and present continuous?  It goes without saying that you should have the proper certifications, but before you head abroad to teach English, make sure that you actually feel capable and confident imparting the acquisition of a new language to students.  Learning English typically represents huge opportunities for your students, so make sure that you take your job seriously and know what you’re teaching – being a native speaker doesn’t qualify you to educate others.  Depending on the company you work for, you could be expected to generate your own lessons, activities, and assessments, so make sure that you know what you are getting into and have the skills to fulfill your students’ expectations.

spell check

2. Appearance is everything

Some institutions that teach English abroad want parents and families to believe that their students are receiving the best possible education, and sometimes that comes across very superficially.  For example, some institutions require a recent picture for their job applications, have rules such as women teachers must wear skirts (no pants), and tend to hire people that look like native English speakers.  Try to keep an open mind and find a company that aligns with your personal beliefs – that behavior wouldn’t be tolerated in many places, but it might be an obstacle that you face when you are trying to pursue a career teaching English abroad.


3. Scope out the job market before you interview, accept a job, or fly

Researching the job market before you head abroad will help you make an informed decision when selecting a company to work for.  Read reviews from other teachers, and compare salaries, visa application process support, holidays, insurance, benefits, and possible perks like provided housing and flights.  Research what each company needs for application, such as transcripts, criminal record searches, or copies of your degree to ensure that you have everything you need.  Make sure that you interview with multiple companies before you accept a job offer.  If you’re already overseas or feeling impulsive, have your documents ready and your background research done before you start the job search.


4. Replacement jobs are easy to come by

If you start working for a company and it seems like a poor fit, chances are there is another job waiting for you right around the corner.  As long as your qualifications are in order, you could easily apply to another company that fits your individual needs.  Make sure you study your contract carefully before you sign or terminate – there may be stipulations that make leaving difficult, such as paying back flight costs and losing the flight home.

job search

5. You probably won’t get rich teaching English abroad

Teaching English abroad doesn’t pay the big bucks.  That’s okay – although you might not be making as much money, typically the cost of living is lower places where English is not the primary language – so you can still save some cash if you live within your means.  But really, most people teaching English abroad aren’t doing it for the money; they are doing it to explore a new country and culture while helping others learn and maintaining a steady income stream to support their adventures.  Soak up the experience and live a minimalist lifestyle – you might like it!


6. Be social and choose your friends wisely

So you don’t know anyone.  You have the power to change that!  Reach out to other teachers, explore your new home, and you’ll have friends before you know it.  Look online for expat communities in your new home, and choose your friends wisely – just because you have the shared experience of living in a new location doesn’t mean you have to be best friends.  Choose to explore your new home with people who have the same level of respect and intrigue for the country in which you live.  Great friends can make exciting weekend adventure partners, they understand what you’re going through, and you can make lifelong friends.

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7. Your time abroad will fly, so plan accordingly

When you live abroad, everything is new – the food, the experiences, the culture, the customs.  With so much to take in, your time will fly, so make sure that you pack your exploration in so that you get as much out of your experience as you can!  Explore on weekends, take advantage of holidays and don’t be afraid to take a day off here and there!  You are living a once in a lifetime opportunity, don’t waste it.


8. You will probably get sick

Whether homesick or illness sick, chances are you’ll succumb to some kind of sickness while overseas.  Get travel insurance, inquire about insurance through your employer, and make sure that you know your closest hospital.  Be mindful that some countries provide antibiotics over the counter, and don’t hesitate to get a second opinion.  For homesickness, make sure that you have the tools to communicate with loved ones back home.  Get Skype, write letters, and remind yourself that you are engaging in a once in a lifetime opportunity that wouldn’t have been possible 100 years ago.

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