Summer travel season is heating up, and flying with kids during Covid-19 is a loaded choice. For some mamas, there’s no way they’re stepping on board without vaccines first, for both parent and child. “I’ve never considered myself that OCD with germs, but Covid-19 has thrown us all for a loop and it just doesn’t feel worth it to risk it,” says new mama Janna L. For other parents, the risk of contracting Covid-19 from and among children is so low, that once vaccinated, what’s a little risk when it comes to visiting loved ones or romping around in the sun? “My parents haven’t seen my kids in over a year, so this past spring break, we masked up, and went for it,” says Simone J., mama of two, “and it was fine.”
So what’s a mother to do? While there’s no specific guidance that exists in regards to children traveling, the CDC recommends that anyone who is unvaccinated (ie kids) refrain from doing any nonessential travel until they’re properly vaccinated. But, according to Conde Nast Traveler, much of the answer depends on the destination.
“There’s a huge equity factor when it comes to travel,” Jessica Malaty Rivera, an infectious disease epidemiologist and science communication lead at the Covid Tracking Project told the mag. “What does access to vaccines look like in the destination you want to visit?”
According to Rivera, the good news is that not only are children not considered high-risk for infection from COVID, they are not considered high-risk for transmitting the virus, either. But before traveling this summer, everyone—both families with kids and fully vaccinated individuals—needs to consider how well-vaccinated the public is in the place they want to go.
Whether you choose to fly or not, we at Babe never judge. But whatever you decide, let us help you get prepped, so that the skies are friendly for everyone.
Yes, Your Kids Need a Mask (duh)
Unless your children are under two, they will need to wear a face mask while in the airport and on the plane.
Some face coverings are more comfortable and provide a better fit for kids than others, so we recommend finding the right mask for your kid well before your trip. Masks rules continue to evolve, so double-check with your airline before your flight. Some common types of masks that are not allowed include those with holes in the covering, including those with exhalation valves or those made solely of materials like mesh or lace fabrics and those that cannot be secured under the chin, including bandanas.
Face shields are allowed with a face mask but are not permitted by themselves in place of a mask. Neck gaiters are still permitted as face masks on domestic airlines.
Face Shields Your Kids if you Want to
If you would like your kid to wear a shield (in addition to a face mask), know that those are available in child sizes. If you try to use an adult-sized face shield on a young kid, it may work for a short period but is likely going to fall off more frequently than if you get one that fits. (Also, be sure and peel off the layer of film on the mask before you use it — otherwise, it will be extra foggy to see through!)
You Can Eat and Drink on the Plane
Your child is allowed to take their face mask off for a brief time to have a drink or snack on the flight, so you can pack drinks and snacks as you always would.
However, the idea is that snack time is short. Southwest Airlines website states that, ” … we expect these instances to be very brief, and customers should put their face covering back on as soon as possible.”
Also know that while many airlines have resumed some level of snack and meal service, it is still often reduced from previous levels, so your best bet is to board the plane ready to be self-sufficient in meeting your kids drinking and snacking needs. For example, Southwest Airlines has resumed water service but does not have juice or other drinks on offer at this time.
If Middle Seats Are blocked, You Can Still Sit with your Kids
A few airlines are still blocking middle seats, but you can still sit right next to your kids if you’d like.
Domestic airlines that are still blocking middle seats include Southwest (though you choose your own seat, the airline just isn’t booking to capacity), Alaska (at least until October 31), JetBlue (at least until October 15) and Hawaiian Airlines.
If you can’t select seats together on the seat map on those airlines, don’t worry. Give the airline a call or you can resolve it at the gate by moving one of your kiddos from another row into your empty middle seat if that helps make your flight easier.
Scrub Scrub Scrub
Some airlines pass out a cleaning wipe as you board, but that isn’t true for every carrier. Pack some cleaning wipes and wipe down your child’s seat, tray table, seat belt, etc. as soon as you board if you want to ensure their area is as clean as possible.