Dr. Steve Silvestro, pediatrician and host of The Child Repair Guide shares his thoughts on preparing to fly with kids during COVID-19:
Scientists now recognize that aerosols in the air are a major source of COVID transmission. With that in mind, you would think that a cramped airplane cabin full of people would be a huge risk.
But it turns out that airplanes just may have cleaner air than restaurants, offices, or even your home. Airplanes use high-quality HEPA filters to catch about 99.7% of small particles—including viruses—before recirculating air into the cabin. About half of the air in the cabin is that cleaned, recirculated air, and about half is freshly filtered in from outside the airplane. The result is that all of the air in the plane is fully turned over every three minutes.
You’ll of course want to pack the basics that you would have packed even pre-COVID. Things your child can suck on or chew—a pacifier for a baby, lollipop for toddler, or gum for an older child—can help equalize ear pressure and prevent pain.
If your child is 3 years old or older, you’ll want to pack a mask for her. Even though the plane’s air is turned over every three minutes, that doesn’t help so much if your family continually breathes in aerosols that haven’t made it to the filter yet—say, those from the person right behind you. Wearing a mask will offer some protection to you and your kids. Even a simple cotton mask is better than nothing at all.
(*Editor’s note: it is important to check the minimum age requirement for wearing masks with your airline. Some airlines require children from 2 years of age to wear a mask).
If your child hasn’t worn a mask much before, you’ll want to practice mask-wearing before you leave. And, if your flight is long, have your child wear a mask around the house for longer and longer periods of time to increase the odds of the mask comfortably staying on for the whole flight.
If you find your child touches his mask too often, use this simple method to encourage him to stop.
I usually suggest packing duplicates of favorite blankets, stuffed animals, toys, and pacifiers any time you travel—you’d hate to lose your child’s beloved sleep buddy the day you leave! In COVID times, however, this is even more important. In reality, the odds of catching COVID or any other infection from a pacifier or toy that’s been dropped on the floor are really quite low. Still, it’ll give most parents peace of mind to be able to offer a clean duplicate instead of the one that just fell on the floor.
And, of course, you’ll want to pack plenty of hand sanitizer!
On the off chance that you or someone in your family begins to feel sick once you’ve arrived, you’ll want to know ahead of time how and where to get medical help. Many pediatricians are offering telemedicine, but due to licensing rules, not all of them are able to offer it once you’ve crossed state lines. Check with your pediatrician to see whether this applies to her practice. It’s also worthwhile to have the info for a doctor’s office, urgent care, or hospital local to where you’re traveling. It’s unlikely you’ll need it, but wise to be prepared just in case.
We asked Jonathan, a pilot from an international airline, for insider information on how to stay safe during your flight.
You’ve already decided to book your ticket and get traveling again. So now we have to figure out how to fly as safely as possible. Good news is your aviation professionals,the pilots and cabin crew, mechanics and ground staff, will take care of all the aviation related safety items. But how can you help your party be as safe as possible from a COVID standpoint? It’s actually pretty simple.
Months into the reopening of the economy we’ve all become social distance professionals, we just have to continue that onboard a confined aircraft – but it does take a little planning.
If you’re traveling on an airline that allows you to pick your own seats when you check in online, be sure to select seats at the back of the plane. If your flying on an airline that has “free seating” like Southwest, check in early and use that early boarding to get to the rear seats ASAP.
The advantages of snagging seats at the back of the plane are that you won’t have any passengers walking past you, and you can depart the plane at your leisure avoiding the “crunch” of passengers hurrying to get off as quickly as possible.
Don’t go too far back though, the last two rows could get congested with people hoping to use the lavatories. For extra distancing, grab a window seat. The window seat will offer nearly the recommended six feet of distance from people walking through the aisle.
If you end up on a lightly loaded aircraft, and get a row to yourself think about grabbing the middle seat. It might have been weeks since anyone sat in that seat and used that tray table. If you are traveling with your kids and spouse use social distancing to your advantage and grab two rows one in front of the other if available.
In your seat, you can use your preferred sanitizing wipe to clean the area. While airplanes have never been cleaner than they are now, you never know who was sitting in that seat just 20 mins prior.
Masks will be required to be worn by everyone throughout the flight, and it seems as though everyone following this new rule without any issues.
Additionally, the air is circulated every couple minutes into HEPA filters and combined with fresh air from the outside. So rest assured you are breathing in clean air! Watch how this works on a Boeing aircraft here.
Nowadays you’ll only be offered a snack and a light beverage, usually only water, but to stay totally isolated you can being your own food onboard. Personal beverages can be purchased behind security and wiped prior to consumption at your leisure.
Also, while I’m usually a big proponent of reusable items, disposable makes it easier to just throw things away if they are dirty or contaminated. This will eliminate you needing to head to the bathroom to wash it as well as carrying something around that may have been exposed.
As always common sense and consideration should be the order of the day and guide any decisions you’ll need to make throughout the flight. Follow the guidelines of your airline and respect your fellow travelers and they’ll likely do the same.
Lauren Strittmatter, recently relocated from London to Philadelphia with her husband and 2 children. She shares her tips on what to keep in mind when you land during the COVID pandemic.
Look for a bathroom in a less travelled area, away from the gate and baggage terminal which most travellers flock to. We then washed hands very well and changed masks.
Ask for help locating the family lanes during customs. Even if they don’t have one, they often will lead you aside and right to the front. It doesn’t work 100% of the time but it doesn’t hurt to ask. There are few things worse than a long customs line after a long flight with tired children.
Consider hiring a large van instead of Uber or renting a vehicle. We had a several hour journey home from the airport and it was just a little more to have a vehicle with a fully enclosed back portion to fit our family and bags. This allowed a much-needed mask break after 10+ hrs of continual use.
Bring a stroller that fits onboard, a travel scooter or ride-on suitcase. This helps avoid major meltdowns in the airport after a long travel day.
Needless to say, flying with kids just became a whole lot more complicated! But we do hope that armed with this information, you can look forward to your next trip and enjoy a safe and relaxing flight.
Author: Debra Pally is the Swiss/Australian CEO of Flyaway Designs and inventor of Flyaway Kids Bed – an award-winning travel bed that helps children sleep and play on planes. She has 2 young boys and lives in Zurich, Switzerland.
Just like Flyaway Designs, international travel community @Bébé Voyage helps make every moment with your children special. We hope you’ll join us in celebrating (and signing up for!) Bébé Voyage’s new membership program! Join now for exclusive discounts from great family travel brands (including us!) and awesome advice on how to travel with kids via https://www.bebevoyage.com/join.