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5 tips if you fly with your kids during the pandemic

Sept. 09, 2020
7 min read
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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)

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  • Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
  • Receive up to $300 back annually as statement credits for bookings through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of options
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Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
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Rewards Rate

10XEarn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel
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  • Intro Offer
    Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel

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    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

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Why We Chose It

The Capital One Venture X card is one of the best all-round travel credit cards ever launched. Not only is it offering a tremendous welcome bonus, but cardholders can earn tons of miles on everyday spending and receive a 10,000-mile anniversary bonus to boot. Its annual fee is $395, but cardholders can count on up to $300 in statement credits toward travel booked through Capital One Travel each year and other valuable benefits like access to Priority Pass lounges and Capital One’s own growing family of airport lounges.

Pros

  • Excellent welcome offer worth 75,000 miles after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months.
  • Up to $300 in annual travel statement credits toward bookings make through Capital One Travel.
  • 10,000 bonus miles (worth $100 toward travel) each account anniversary.

Cons

  • The $395 annual fee might be expensive for some, but this card’s benefits provide much more value than that.
  • If you don’t travel frequently, this might not be the best card for you.
  • Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
  • Receive up to $300 back annually as statement credits for bookings through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of options
  • Get 10,000 bonus miles (equal to $100 towards travel) every year, starting on your first anniversary
  • Earn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel and 5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles on all other purchases
  • Unlimited complimentary access for you and two guests to 1,400+ lounges, including Capital One Lounges and our Partner Lounge Network
  • Receive up to a $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck®
  • Use your Venture X miles to easily cover travel expenses, including flights, hotels, rental cars and more—you can even transfer your miles to your choice of 15+ travel loyalty programs
  • Named editors' choice for "Best New Credit Card of 2021" by The Points Guy
  • Earn 10 miles per dollar when you book on Turo, the world's largest car sharing marketplace, through May 16, 2023