Since COVID began, our family hasn’t been able to travel as much as we would have liked, but that’s okay, because #SafetyFirst. Fortunately, in the last few months we were able to travel from London to Italy for two weeks, followed by a trip from London to the US for three weeks. I’ve received a few questions on our experience traveling internationally with our 18-month-old during times of COVID (and I’m pregnant, ah) – so I wanted to consolidate our key take-aways. Disclaimer: the following information is not medical expertise, simply a moms advice on how to fly with an active toddler during COVID, based on my own experiences.
Booking the Airline Ticket: Generally, most airlines allow children under the age of 2-years-old to sit in the parents lap on the airline. Make sure that when you purchase your tickets, you select ‘infant on lap’ so that it adds in the mandatory taxes/fees. If you forget to do this, it’s an extra nuance to deal with at the airport (we experienced this lesson, firsthand). After booking the ticket, it won’t hurt to call the airline and let them know you are traveling with a baby. They might assign you to your own row! That being said, I never called, and still managed to get our own row for the family – which made things much better.
Preparation with Packing: The more that you prepare and strategize your carry-on luggage/diaper bag, the easier the airport/airplane security check process will be. It helps to sort out the items into categories:
- Diapers: Diaper changing pad, extra diapers, and a whole pack of wipes
- Milk: Bottle, Formula or Infant Milk (ready made), Formula Water (or a nursing cover if breastfeeding)
- Snacks: Any solid snack that you baby likes to each
- Entertainment: Fully charged iPad or favorite toys
- First Aid Supplies: Allergy medicine, band-aids
- Hygiene Supplies: Hand sanitizer, surface cleaning wipes, extra masks, hand sanitizing wipes
Arriving at Airport: Before you walk in, make sure to keep you mask on (double mask if it helps, psychologically, to make you feel better like it did with me), and use a Face Shield if it helps as well. I did for a few minutes, before my son continuously snatched it off my face. Keep wipes and hand sanitizer with you in case you need to touch any thing.As for carrying your baby, I prefer wearing my son in the baby carrier to minimize supplies. My favorite baby carrier is the Ergonomic carrier, as it can hold a child up to 45 lbs. Link to the product is: https://amzn.to/34SoN0u. When you check-in luggage, you can go ahead and check in the stroller during gate-check. You can keep the baby in the carrier, and keep your hands free as you walk through the airport, and avoid extra surfaces getting contaminated.
Getting through Security: Having all your items prepared in separate pouches will make security process go faster. Take out each pouch (and electronics) and put in the container for efficiency. Ask the security if you can keep the baby carrier on as you walk through the scanner. Regardless of the prep, be prepared the security will check any liquids you bring in. Overall, keeping your items as organized as possible, will keep things efficient and minimize challenges.
Waiting to Board: After making it through security, you will likely have some time until your flight takes off. If your baby eats solids, this is a great time to feed them and get their little tummies full. If you baby is mobile, let them run around a bit to exert some energy. It’s a little controversial, but I love a body leash for instances like this. A product similar to the one I have for Faiz is: https://amzn.to/3nyLBtT. If you keep your kid on a body leash, he or she can run around, let out energy, and if they get to close to other people or touch surfaces, you can gently yank the leash to pull the child back to yourself. This way, by the time you board, they might have let out some energy; and you have some control over them getting to close to others.
Boarding Flight: There is a good chance, your flight attendants will hand you a sanitation kit as soon as you board. In case they do not, keep your surface wipes handy to immediately wipe down your seat, the open seats around you, the surfaces in front of the seat, seatbelts, etc.
During Flight: You can keep your baby in the baby carrier as you sit. As you take off and land, make sure you have something for your baby to suck on, whether you nurse him/her or provide a pacifier or bottle. This will help with the ears popping. And then pretty much on the flight, be prepared to let go of all your rules of screen time and snacks. Whether it is an educational show on your iPad that you pre-downloaded OR healthy chips OR extra milk, keep the kid happy, and your flight will be happier. If they are mobile, you might need to do a few laps with them; of course, try to reduce is as much as possible, but it happens and just be safe as you walk around.
Post flight: When you land and get your luggage, keep wipes available to clean off suitcases and any transportation after. If you are able to, either go quarantine with your travel partners or arrange for a test before seeing anyone. This will help provide a sense of reassurance that you are not COVID Positive before seeing anyone. Many places have rapid tests, which provide results within an hour. They are not 100% accurate, but it is a decent option. For peace of mind, you could arrange for a more thorough test a few days after the flight lands.
The Whole Process: Keep you masks on from the minute you enter the departure airport to until after you leave your destination airport/get tested (unless when quickly eating). Keep hand sanitizer to regularly clean hands; however, when available, wash hands with soap. Do the same for your baby!
Overall, traveling during COVID with a baby is no easy feat. However, all in all, I believe the anxiety is worse than the actual task. If you go in prepared and have a plan and “rules” for yourself to follow that you stick to, it is absolutely doable! Any other recommendations? Provide below!!