We are well into a new era of mid-pandemic life. For months now we have been encouraged to stay home and limit travel. And now as we begin to breach the other side of the tunnel, life as we knew it pre-pandemic looks a lot different now. No industry is feeling that more than travel and tourism.
Parents of babies and young children will inevitably be faced with the dilemma of boarding a flight with their little ones in tow. In the age of social distancing, how can family travel be done safely? How are airlines handling these changes? And, what do you need to know before you head to the airport?
What Airlines are Doing During COVID-19
Encouraging Less Travel
The best advice, by far, is to limit your travel so that you can limit contact with germs and limit the possibility of spreading germs. While it is clearly counter-intuitive to their business needs, major airlines are prioritizing public health over their bottom lines.
This means that they are typically offering greater leniency on cancellations and re-bookings. The details of these offers are outlined in large-font text positioned at the top of their COVID-19 response pages which suggests that their number one objective is to encourage travelers to re-book at a later date.
Amping Up Disinfection Protocols
But what happens when you cannot book at a later date? Sometimes circumstances in life force necessary travel.
Obviously, the risk of infection is lower if your family travels alone in the car. But cross-country trips are not always feasible by car, plus statistically, you are still safer in the air.
When you have to fly, take comfort in knowing that both airlines and the TSA have increased disinfection measures in the airport and on the airplane.
The TSA has also issued a temporary exception for hand sanitizer. Passengers are now allowed to carry one 12 oz bottle of hand sanitizer in a carry-on.
Asking Able Passengers to Wear Face Coverings
Face coverings, as recommended by the CDC, may include anything from an N95 respirator mask to a cloth face mask or even a bandana. While the efficacy rates of cloth face masks tend to be low, it can help shield some of the respiratory droplets from yourself or other passengers.
Check your airline for specific details. Some airlines clearly state that face coverings are required for anyone over two years old. Other airlines simply state that they recommend passengers follow CDC recommendations on face masks.
Taking Measures to Promote Distancing
When possible, passengers will be seated so that open seats maintain distance. While maintaining six feet of distance is not feasible on most commercial flights, any measure that the airline can take to separate passengers will help other efforts like face coverings and increased disinfection.
Great Products for Traveling with Babies During a Pandemic
If you are part of the crowd of parents who will have to board an airplane with your little one during the ongoing pandemic -- and staying home just isn’t an option -- it might feel like you are totally helpless.
The CDC currently recommends face coverings for those aged 2 and older who can medically tolerate them.
But what happens when you are traveling with the under two crowd?
Not only are they way more likely to spread germs, but they also are not old enough to wear a face covering. Rest assured there are some options that will accomplish the same thing.
This cloth infant car seat cover is super soft, stylish, and versatile. If you own one of these, don’t forget to bring it along. If you don’t have one and will be traveling with a baby in an infant car seat, it is a must-buy.
What I love about this product:
- Multi-use cover can be used over an infant car seat or as a nursing/carrying cover over mom and baby.
- Lightweight, stretchy, and comfortable. Fabric is super smooth.
What is not-so-great about it:
- The very stretchy fabric has a tendency to overstretch. It seems to go back once it is washed through.
- Like most cloth masks, it offers only minimal protection from virus particles which are very small.
These super adorable, kid-friendly keychain holders will hold a travel-sized bottle of hand sanitizer. Clip them to your handbag or diaper bag for easy access to the airport and on the airplane.
What I love about this product:
- Makes cleaning up a little more fun which is necessary for how many times you will have to beg them to do it.
- Stretchy silicone is a little more durable than hard plastics.
- Comes with an empty bottle that holds 1 oz of sanitizer - perfect for on the go!
What is not-so-great about it:
- Bottles are a little hard for little hands to squeeze. That’s okay - mom or dad will have to help!
In the midst of all of the disinfection and germ-protecting products, it is easy to overlook the essentials. One of the biggest hurdles of traveling with babies is hauling around all of their stuff. Luckily airlines understand the plight of parents and do what they can to accommodate.
You can still gate check your stroller and car seat as needed. This makes your stroller available to you all throughout the airport. You will have to give it up once you get to the gate, but since it is one of the last things loaded onto the plane and one of the first off - you won’t miss it for long.
Nevertheless, the cargo hold in an airplane is dirty. It is reasonable to assume that there are plenty of germs from everyone else's luggage and that airline employees might not be that gentle with your stroller or car seat.
These specialty-sized luggage bags are great for strollers and car seats. They are made from an extra-durable nylon-blend fabric and water-resistant liner. Padded handles make it easy to carry once your stroller is packed away in the protective bag. And, it is designed to be a universal fit for any model of stroller.
It should also go without saying that whether Gate Checking or Standard Checking your Car Seat, you absolutely need a Car Seat Bag to protect it as well.
The CDC currently recommends the use of cloth face coverings whenever six feet of social distance cannot be maintained. We think this applies to most airport and airplane situations -- and many major airlines agree. Children under two years old or those who are unable to remove a mask without assistance or who have medical issues that affect breathing should not wear a face covering.
But for small children who are able - a cloth face mask can add one more layer of protection. However, getting them to keep a mask on is another battle. Try making it a little fun to wear the mask by purchasing masks in fun prints. Also, look for appropriately sized masks that do not cover their entire face -- just the nose and mouth.
A saline rinse before and after the flight can provide an additional cleanse and hydration to wash away any viral or bacterial germs that may have settled in their nose. Pack a travel bottle of saline in your carry-on diaper bag.
Travel with your own disinfectant wipes and breathable, lightweight blankets. Even though airlines are ramping up disinfection efforts, give yourself a little peace of mind. Carrying your own disinfection wipes allows you to wipe down your own seats just so you know nothing was missed. Once you have wiped everything down, cover your seats with your blankets for an extra layer of protection.
Good hygiene is the single most important factor in limiting the spread of illness. While there are a few handy gadgets on the market that can boost the hygiene factor -- studies have shown that there are a few more tricks you can use to your advantage.
Another thing that airlines are doing to help limit the spread of illness is limiting food and beverage services on flights. But, as a compromise passengers are allowed to bring their own food and drink. Grab some kid-friendly snack containers with multiple compartments to make traveling with your own snacks easier.
Another component of staying healthy is staying well-hydrated. Bring your own refillable water bottles for everyone in the family.
Our lives are filled with electronic devices. Keep them available on the go with a portable charging bank that is able to charge up to two devices at one time. Bring this along with a portable UV disinfection wand.
Many airlines are restricting some seat assignments in order to limit the spread of contagions on an airplane. But it comes with the disclaimer that distanced seats may not be available on all flights. If you are able to choose your seat, opt for a window seat. A 2018 study found that window seats were the least likely to be exposed to germs on an airplane. And, when you can’t, bring your own stash of disinfectant wipes along.
Getting your toddler to cooperate with repetitive hand washing and extra sanitation protocol is half the bottle. With all of your good intentions, small children are not known for being the most cooperative beings. Traveling will already throw their routine out of whack -- increasing the chance of having a meltdown. Spend some time talking to your little one about the germs on the airplane and what types of things you will be doing to make sure you don’t get sick.
This children's book about germs and safe distancing can be a fun way to introduce this topic to your young children.