As the COVID-19 vaccine becomes increasingly available, more families are starting to plan summer vacations. As if traveling by air weren’t already difficult with kids in tow, pandemic restrictions add another layer of complication.
“We are already at a point where fully immunized people may travel, gather, work, and play with no concerns about getting seriously ill or getting someone else seriously ill,” says Pediatrician Dr. Arthur Lavin, who also serves as the chair of the American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Psychosocial Aspects of Child and Family Health. “Still, the virus has not yet been vanquished, so all those unimmunized, including all children ages 11 and under, still can get sick or get others seriously ill from COVID. So, it remains extremely important to check with CDC and AAP guidance on how to travel with our children.”
According to the CDC, AAP and “moms who’ve been there,” here are some tips for flying during the current phase of the pandemic:
- Check the CDC’s Travel Planner for the state and local travel restrictions, including testing requirements, stay-at-home orders, and quarantine requirements upon arrival.
- Select airline seats strategically to minimize contact with others. Avoid aisle seats and rows near the restroom. Many middle seats are still blocked off on various airlines. If you would like to sit next to your child, call the airline to switch seat assignments.
- Check if your airline requires any health information, testing, vaccination cards, or other documents.
- Stock up on the new essentials – masks (N95 suggested by experts), hand sanitizer (TSA currently allows up to a 12-ounce bottle per passenger), disinfecting wipes, tissues, disposable gloves and portable chargers.
At the airport
- Check in for your flight online to reduce contact with ticketing agents and save time at the airport.
- Check bags to reduce the amount of touch-points for your items.
- Have your boarding pass on your phone.
- While an added expense, consider enrolling in TSA PreCheck to skip putting your personal items in screening bins.
- If you don’t opt for TSA PreCheck, use as little TSA bins as possible. Personal items such as keys, wallets and phones should be placed in carry-on bags instead of bins. This reduces the handling of these items during screening.
- Avoid crowds and stay at least 6 feet from anyone who is not traveling with you.
- Masks are required for anyone age 2 or older in the airport and on the plane. Bring extra masks in case your mask gets wet or dirty. Try multiple mask options to see what works best for you or your children for long periods of time (many moms swear by cloth masks for kids who complain of mask discomfort).
- If your child has a medical exemption to wearing a mask, carry proof with you.
- Take advantage of family boarding, which will be less congested than waiting in the standard pre-boarding line.
On the plane
- Wipe everything down with disinfecting wipes. This includes everything from the seats in the airport to the tray table, call button and armrests on the plane.
- Pack snacks that can be eaten quickly! Many airlines have paused snack and beverage service.
- Keep your air vent open to help with air circulation.
- Practice proper cough and sneeze etiquette –cover your mouth and nose with the inside of your arm as opposed to your hand.
- Self-monitor for COVID-19 symptoms.
- Isolate and get tested if you develop symptoms.
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