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Tips if you want your child to wear a mask on their next flight

April 21, 2022
6 min read
teenager boy is wearing his FFP3 protective mask while he is playing with his mobile phone in airplane
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Editor’s note: This post has been updated with new information.

I’ve traveled with my now-16-year-old kid since they were 10 days old. Throughout the years, as parents, we felt the best way to prepare our child for travel was to practice and model behavior so there were no surprises once we were on board.

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As you likely know, a federal judge struck down the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s travel mask mandate on April 18. So what does that mean for concerned families traveling with young children who are not yet old enough to receive a COVID-19 vaccine?

Before the mandate was struck down, it was clear all passengers had to comply with mask requirements on board flights. Now, passengers have the choice. If you're a parent who still wants their child to wear a mask during a flight, here are TPG's tips for making things go as smoothly (and safely) as possible.

Related: Justice Department will appeal mask mandate ruling only if CDC wants mandate extended

Child KN95 masks are available

At the beginning of the pandemic, it was next to impossible to secure adult N95 or KN95 masks, and you could forget about locating a child-sized version. But things have changed a lot since then. If you want your child to wear a mask that offers a higher level of protection than a cloth mask, there are options.

One option used by TPG's Summer Hull is a child-sized KN95 available from VIDA in a variety of bright colors. They are listed as having 95-99% efficiency and are comprised of a five-layer filtration system.

(Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

Available in colors ranging from black to tangerine, these made in the U.S.A. masks will cost you $35 for a pack of 10.

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You can head to CNET (owned by TPG's parent company, Red Ventures) for a breakdown of more child-sized mask options.

Try a 2-in-1 mask

(Photo courtesy of PaciMask)

My kid was obsessed with their pacifier up until the age of three. The world was great as long as they had their pacifier — but things got really ugly without it.

This is why the PaciMask is pure genius. It allows you to attach your child’s pacifier inside the mask, making them much more willing to wear it. Plus, it comes in cute styles including superhero, shark, unicorns and daisies, at $22.99 each. (Or, if you’re crafty like me, you can sew your own version.)

Get creative

What kid wouldn’t want a cool Darth Vader face mask? (Photo courtesy of GameTimePrints)

Kids love to pretend to live in different worlds, such as a galaxy far, far away. Buy them cool masks, such as this Darth Vader version from GameTimePrints ($8.99), and make their flight part of the fun.

There are masks available for just about every fantasy: Disney, zoo animals, sharks and rhinos, princesses and more.

Keep them comfortable

(Photo courtesy of CreativelyCustomCo)

As an adult, the face mask ear loops can be painful during longer flights, so you can only imagine how kids feel.

I used my fabric scraps to whip up headbands with buttons on the side to hold the mask on my kid’s face (I have my own version, too). However, these lanyards work just as well. They can be wrapped around the neck or on top of a ponytail and cost just $3.25. A mask with adjustable ear loops could help, too.

Masks that have nose clips can also help you find the right fit.

Let them drink — safely

(Photo courtesy of Sunbeam General)

If you want a mask a child doesn't have to take fully off to take a sip of something, the Sunbeam General covers the drinking part. When your child is ready to quench their thirst, they can open a Velcroed patch to reveal a hole that fits a drinking straw. The mask is $10.

Related: TPG’s 7 favorite face masks and where to buy them

Set expectations

You never know when a child will have a meltdown in the best of circumstances. However, it's a lot when you put them inside a metal tube and then ask them wear an uncomfortable mask for hours. The best way to handle this is to start preparing children before your next trip if you are hoping that they stay masked.

Young children need predictability. To that end, my partner and I always prepared our child for travel a few days before our trips. We walked through all the processes, even simulating the steps, from airport arrival to getting on the plane. We told them (and showed them via YouTube) what everything would look like. We allowed them to be active in the process and answered all their questions.

By the time we boarded, they were fine because they knew what would happen. The same is true now if you want masks to be a part of their in-flight routine.

Bottom line

There are now plenty of child-sized masks to choose from -- even those that offer higher levels of protection when worn properly fitted. So, if you are hoping to keep your child masked on your next flight, the time to start shopping and preparing them is now.

Related: Your guide to flying with kids of every age

Feature photo by EMS-FORSTER-PRODUCTIONS/Getty Images.

Featured image by Getty Images
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.