Air Travel with Kids during a Pandemic: What to expect plus tips to limit exposure.
I just had to move beyond my fear. Was I nervous about flying with my 2 young kids in the middle of a corona-virus pandemic? You bet. Not to mention the weight of my husband’s anxiety coming at me as well. But just like any and every trip we have been on, we simply had to sideline our fears of the unknown. And now that our first flight experience during a pandemic is behind us, I’m relieved and ready to go again. Let me tell you about the new norm for Air Travel with kids during a pandemic.
The four of us were visiting some family in Phoenix, Arizona. We flew Southwest Airlines round-trip from Little Rock, Arkansas to Phoenix with a connection in Dallas.
Transportation and Check-In
My home town airport is quite small, so this description will definitely vary from airport to airport. We arrived an hour early for our 4:45 pm departure on a Thursday. This was more than enough time. In order to reduce exposure, we had Will’s mom drop us off at the airport, rather than take an Uber or Taxi.
We did have to check one suitcase along with the kid’s car seats. Kid’s come with so much crap. Fortunately there was no line at the Southwest check-in counter. In fact, every airline’s check-in counter was practically empty. It could have been the time of day, but most of the airport felt like a ghost town. PHX and DAL definitely had more people, but it was still substantially less than the typical crowds I saw pre-pandemic.
Security in the Little Rock airport took all of 3 minutes. We have TSA pre-check, and while we didn’t need it in Little Rock since we were the only people in line, it definitely came in handy in the Phoenix Airport. The ziplock bag and 3 oz rule still applies, but, now you are allowed to bring a bottle of hand sanitizer that is OVER 3 oz through security. Just know, that they will pull it aside for testing which takes an extra couple of minutes.
Connections & Cleaning between Flights
On the way to Phoenix, we stopped in Dallas, but we did not have to change planes. Since we were staying on the plane, I got a good look at what all goes into a “pandemic cleaning between flights.” Two men dressed in orange gear, wearing masks and gloves, came onto the plane and went down each row with a spray bottle of bleach and a rag. They wiped down the seats & seat belts, the windows, the arm rests, the light and air knobs, and tray tables. It took them about 25 minutes. It was reassuring to visibly watch this take place.
There were signs throughout each airport telling you to wear a mask and practice social distancing. They also announce these recommendations over the intercom regularly. I’m not saying that it definitely is, but, to me, the airports felt safer than going to my local grocery store during this Covid-19 era. The crowds were minimal. I’m sure over time, this will change.
Each flight was about 60% full. Right now, Southwest does NOT allow anyone to sit in middle seats and everyone is required to wear a mask at all times. And, like many other airlines, they use HEPA filters, which trap 99.97% of particles. They no longer offer drink and food service. But they will offer water and pretzels, only if the flight is longer than 1 hour. And, no forming a line near the bathroom.
Upon arrival to the Phoenix airport, Will’s brother, picked us up and we went straight to his house. Because of the rising amount of Covid-19 cases in Arizona, we spent the majority of our time at his brother’s house. There were two days where we went to Lake Saguaro which is about 40 minutes from Phoenix. We rented a boat and social-distanced on the water.
Other than that, we made home cooked meals, grilled out and swam in their pool. I may have had a glass of wine or two. It was so refreshing to catch up with family while taking in a welcomed change of scenery after weeks of quarantine. The Arizona desert is quite different than Arkansas’ lush green landscape.
Top Tips to reduce exposure for Air Travel with kids during a pandemic.
- Have a friend or family member pick you up and drop you off at the airport. To avoid exposure, limit your use of taxis and Ubers if possible.
- Use strollers for young children. Strapping them into a stroller will reduce the amount of things they touch throughout the airport. We use the GB Pockit. It folds up so small, you can fit it into the overhead bin, rather than having to check it at the gate. It is the best travel stroller by far!
- Get TSA Pre-check. The less time you have to stand in a security line with other travelers, the safer you are.
- Wear masks (and, yes, the kids need to wear them too).
- Bring lots of hand sanitizer. Use it often.
- Place the blowing vents facing downward and on full blast. This creates an invisible air barrier that blocks particles. Ventilation is your main means of control on the plane.
- Fly direct, if you can. Connections increase the risk of exposure to corona-virus.
- Before allowing the kids to sit down on the plane, wipe down the seats, windows, arm rests, tray table, and seat belts with sanitizing wipes (just to be EXTRA safe). At young ages, they tend to touch everything right away. As mentioned, Southwest cleans between each flight. But, you know, just in case they missed a spot 🙂
- Fly on an airline that blocks middle seats. Southwest, Delta, and Jet Blue all currently block the middle seats. American Airlines and Allegiant does not.
- Spread out. We were traveling as a family of 4. Southwest will allow you to use a middle seat ONLY if you are in the same family. But why scrunch in? When flying with kids, space to spread out is HUGE! It was awesome to have Will and Emily (age 2) in one row and Jimmie and I had our own row right behind them. Honestly, if and when they do start filling middle seats, I’m really gonna miss this.
All in All,
It felt so good to get back on a plane in the friendly skies. I kid you not, my 3 year-old son Jimmie had been counting down the days until “we go on an airplane” for 5 weeks prior to this trip. And, honestly, air travel with kids during a pandemic was actually easier than before this covid-era. The flights were a breeze with all the space we had. I loved not having long lines in the airports. And with all the precautions that the airlines and airports are taking right now, I definitely felt safer from contracting any illness than I did before. I understand
After our return trip home, I got a covid-19 test at a drive through testing center here in Little Rock. Not just for peace of mind for the folks that I work with, but for myself and my family as well. It was a nose swab and the test came back negative. I’m not sure if I will get tested after every trip we take in the future. But it certainly was reassuring. And there is no doubt, this new air travel NORM will take some time to get used to.
Feel free to leave any questions or comments below!
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