1. Make an Airport Plan
Your flight doesn’t start once you are in the air. Parking lot shuttles, airport restrooms, dining areas, and lounges will all be populated with people who might choose not to observe COVID-19 protocols. You can avoid some of this by choosing valet parking, only using family restrooms, and skipping restaurants and bars altogether. Pack snacks and drinks, but make sure they are sealed in containers that will pass through security.
2. Sit Together
The pandemic practice of leaving middle seats empty is over. You will need to make sure you book your seats in advance, which sometimes means paying extra. Flying an airline that doesn’t pre-assign seats? Spring for early boarding.
3. Use Comfortable Masks
Not all face masks are created equally. Have your kids try out a number of different masks before you leave so they can decide which masks they can tolerate for the duration of the flight. Make sure the masks they choose fit well over both the nose and mouth. Likewise, parents need to model good mask-wearing behavior for their children.
4. Clean All Surfaces
Once in your seat, use portable disinfecting wipes to clean all surfaces that children are likely to touch. This includes seat backs, trays, window shades, and armrests. Even if the airline has cleaning protocols in place, a good once over will help you ensure your family stays healthy during your travels.
5. Prepare for Snack Time
Most airlines have resumed snack service. However, their options are limited and may not work for picky eaters. Pack your own snacks in advance, but don’t expect to spend the entire flight eating and drinking. Airlines encourage snack time to be brief, so that time spent without masks is minimized.
6. Build Up Excitement
Flights can be tedious for kids. Use the time to share the fun family activities you will be doing on your vacation. It will make the flight more bearable for them when they know what great times are on the horizon. If you’re going to a specific destination, share with them some fun activities that they can look forward to. For example, if you’re going visiting San Diego, let them read an activity guide so they are more involved with the planning process.
7. Forget Screen Time Limits
An airplane is no place to enforce a limit on screen time. Load up the tablet with their favorite games and movies, and then let them get lost in the colors and lights. Time flies when kids are entertained. Likewise, it is easier to keep them safe when they are happily distracted.
8. Bring Pandemic-Friendly Busy Bags
The youngest children in the family tend to get bored very quickly. Busy bags contain a variety of toys, snacks, books, and even age-appropriate craft activities. To ensure safety, bring a separate bag for any toys that are dropped on the floor or may otherwise become contaminated. You can cleanse those items after you reach your destination.
9. Know Your Nose Swab
Some destinations require negative PCR tests for everyone. This includes the United States. If you are leaving the country, your children will need to be tested before they can return. Be sure that you are aware of these entry requirements and prep your children for the test.
10. Treat Airline Staff with Kindness
Flight attendants have a difficult job. It is even harder during a pandemic when kids and adults alike may refuse to follow safety guidelines. Teach your children to be respectful to airline staff and thank them for the work they do. A lesson in kindness is always valuable.