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5 tips if you fly with your kids during the pandemic

Sept. 09, 2020
7 min read
kid mask on plane
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Over the Labor Day weekend, there were more than 3 million air travelers in the U.S., which is the highest number of passengers to take to the sky since the pandemic sent travel off a cliff back in mid-March. While we don't have the age breakdown of those passengers, it's safe to say that some were children and families. I know that to be true as we were some of those again flying the friendly skies

While air travel is still well below normal levels, some families are returning to the airports.

Even if you haven't personally flown since this all started, you probably won't be shocked to hear that flying with kids is a bit different than it used to be. Regardless of whether you may need to fly for necessity or pleasure, here are five things to know before flying with your kids during the coronavirus pandemic.

Related: What it's like to fly in the US right now

(Photo by Andrea Bacle Photography)

Yes, your kids need a mask

Unless your children are under 2-years-old, 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. Some of my favorite face masks for little kids are from Joah Love, Alex + Nova and Disney -- though know that all but the very smallest toddlers will be a size medium in Disney face masks as their small is very, very small.

Related: Does my child need to wear a face mask on a plane?

Child mask from Joah Love (Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)
Child mask from Joah Love (Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

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 in conjunction with a face mask but are not permitted by themselves in place of a face mask. Neck gaiters are still permitted as face masks on domestic airlines but know that they are not allowed in some destinations, such as Disney World.

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While it can change at any time, currently, Delta is one of the more flexible airlines in the event your slightly older than 2-year-old traveler has trouble wearing a mask for hours at a time, or for medical reasons can't sustain a mask for the duration of the flight.

Related: TPG compared flying four different airlines in the pandemic

Face shields and kids

If you would like your kid to wear a face shield on the plane (in addition to a face mask), know that those are available in child sizes from retailers on Amazon. 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!)

(Photo by Andrea Bacle Photography)

Eating and drinking 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.

Related: What to carry-on the plane during the pandemic

Middle seats may be blocked -- but you can still sit with your kids

A few airlines are still blocking middle seats but don't worry, 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), Delta (at least until January 2021), 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.

(Photo by Andrea Bacle Photography)
(Photo by Andrea Bacle Photography)

Pack cleaning wipes

Even in a pandemic, kids are still kids and they are still going to touch ... everything.

While all airlines have enhanced cleaning procedures over pre-pandemic times, not all of them are currently cleaning between flights. And even if they do, the odds are low that every square inch of the plane is 100% disinfected before each new passenger boards.

Some airlines pass out a cleaning wipe as you board, but that isn't true across the board. So, pack some cleaning wipes from home and scrub 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. If you haven't found any cleaning wipes for sale in your area, airport gift shops and vending machines have been well stocked with masks and wipes in my recent travel experiences.

Related: Inside look at how Delta is cleaning its planes

(Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)
(Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

Also, know that TSA is permitting travelers to bring through a pack of cleaning wipes and up to a 12-ounce bottle of hand sanitizer.

Related: Why I passed on first-class upgrades due to the pandemic

Bottom line

Flying with little kids can be a challenge even in the best of times. Flying with kids in a pandemic may sound borderline impossible -- or even completely insane. But, having done it now a few times, I can say that while it is different than during "normal times," it isn't impossible if you decide you want or need to return to the sky with your crew.

The priority now is even more on safety over comfort, but pack what you need to be self-sufficient, strap your mask on, charge those tablets, cross your fingers and you'll be back at 36,000 feet before you know it.

Featured image by (Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)