It’s obvious the pandemic has changed just about every aspect of how we live, including traveling. Flying with children, especially infants and toddlers, has never been easy, but with the restrictions brought on by this virus, it’s near impossible. Don’t lose heart, you can still do it, and here are the things to consider to make sure you get through it like the champion you are!
You’re Going To Need a Well-Fitted Mask
We’ll just get this one out of the way first. Whether you agree with masks or not, everyone in your party has to wear one if you’re going to fly. The key to making this as pleasant as possible it to ensure your kids have properly fitted masks. Check with your individual airline for masking requirements, but there are some general rules most airlines follow. The mask must cover from the nose to under the chin. However, you want to avoid inhibiting their eyesight. Some airlines still allow neck gaiters, which some children may find more comfortable.
However, for real protection, make sure your mask is made of at least two layers of breathable material. Also, make sure your child can breathe properly through it to avoid anxiety brought on by breathing difficulty. Masks with valves or holes are generally not permitted. Further, coverings like a bandana, scarf, ski mask, or balaclava are not permitted. To help keep your child calm and keep their mask on, consider putting a drop of lavender oil on the mask. This makes it a little more pleasant, and helps ease some anxiety that kids experience while flying.
Young Children and Medical Exceptions
Most airlines currently offer two exceptions to the mask rule. The first is children under 2-years old. However, take some time to evaluate whether flying to such a young child is advisable right now. Certainly, there are some circumstances that cannot be avoided, and there are currently no bans on infants and young children. Some airlines also offer a medical exception in some rare cases. However, be sure to check your particular airline for the process. Delta Airlines, for instance, requires anyone claiming a medical exception to complete a “clearance-to-fly” process once you arrive at the airport. They recommend planning for an extra hour to complete the process with their staff and a third-party medical professional.
Plan Ahead for Snacks & Drinks
Most airlines have scaled back on in-flight refreshments, if they serve them at all. For those of us with kids, that means we have to plan ahead. Be sure you have enough drinks and snacks to satisfy everyone during the flight. Try to avoid sugary food and beverages to help keep your child calm. Remember, liquids must be no larger than 3.4 ounces and sealed to get through security, so think small pouches, boxes, or bottles.
Think About Sanitization
One of the things we all know is that kids are prone to touch everything. Plan to bring sanitizing supplies with you, including wipes and hand sanitizer. The TSA currently allows you to bring one container of hand sanitizer up to 12 ounces through security in a carry-on bag. However, anything over the standard 3.4 ounce allowance will have to be screened separately, and will add time to your security process.
Finding Seats Together
With the rapidly changing rules due to virus variants, airlines are flexing some restrictions in near real-time. This includes the capacity of their flights, and leaving some seats empty to provide more physical distancing. Most airlines see this distancing as appropriate for individuals from different households or flight parties. Check with your flight attendant when you board, but there shouldn’t be any problem sitting with your kids. Your best bet is to check in online and pick your seats as soon as it opens before your flight.
Consider Flying During Non-Peak Times
Another opportunity to have a smoother experience while traveling with your kids is flying during off-peak times. Consider flying Tuesday-Thursday in the mid-morning to early afternoon hours if at all possible. This helps you avoid the bulk of leisure travelers and weekly commuters.
Think About Security Screenings
When you’re packing your bags with stuff for your kids on the flight, be sure to consider getting through security. Put everything that’ll need to pulled out separately in baggies at the top of your carry-on. Also, any electronic device larger than a cell phone will have to be put on the screening belt separately with noting under it. Think about your tablets, handheld games, etc. Some backpacks are designed to more easily get through the TSA screening, consider using one if appropriate.
Think About Others Around You
Think about how you’ll interact with others around you, and be sure to show your appreciation for their patience. This is especially true for flight attendants, who are responsible for enforcing airline policies on the flight. Remember, they don’t make the rules, they just have to enforce them. Consider picking up a nice piece of chocolate from the airport gift shop and give it to your flight attendant as you board. This is a simple way of tangibly saying thank you for their help, and can make a huge difference in their patience during the flight.
Keep Kids Out of the Aisle
Lastly, when taking your seats, plan to sit on the aisle, with your kids sitting on the inside seats. This helps keep them safe from refreshment carts and other passengers moving up and down the aisle. If you have small children, consider getting an approved child harness, which easily installs on the seat. This provides more of the experience they are used to in a car, and may help make them feel more secure during the flight. Whatever takes you flying with your kids, you’ve got this handled. Take the time to plan appropriately, and give yourself plenty of time at the airport. You’ll have a great experience, and so will your kids.