So, when are you going to fly with your kids again?

Jun 12, 2020

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Now that Vegas has turned the lights back on, national parks are reopening, roller coasters have brought happy screams back to Orlando in theme parks such as Universal Orlando and even Disney World is only weeks away from unlocking the gates, there’s one question I’m getting over — and over — again.

“So, when are you going to fly with your kids again?”

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If someone asked me that question even two or three weeks ago, I would have probably said I have no idea, but it won’t be anytime soon. I didn’t feel ready to fly by myself, much less with my kids. But then, things started to change, slowly at first, but then lept forward with one big announcement.

Related: What it’s like to fly in the U.S. right now

Baby steps toward flight

First, factor in that I live in Texas, where life is pretty much fully reopened. Sure, things aren’t 100% normal, and who knows what will happen when school (hopefully) starts in August, but my youngest daughter is back in her small ballet class, my older daughter’s children’s theater is set to resume in a few weeks, we’ve done a few small meetups with friends and very little remains closed.

That first time back to ballet class felt terrifying, but it’s amazing how quickly things feel less scary once you do them (for better and worse).

As life resumed here piece by piece over the past month or so, things that felt totally off the table not that long ago, started to feel more acceptable. (Now, here is the part where I absolutely acknowledge that there is risk involved with returning to things like ballet and friend meetups, and not surprisingly COVID-19 rates are again increasing in a reopened Texas.)

But, if I was willing to go to some kid activities, get my haircut and meetup with a few friends, perhaps going to a largely empty airport and carefully boarding a disinfected plane isn’t as far off as it once felt?

Related: How to purchase a second airline seat for yourself 

The Disney factor

Then, as I was incrementally adding more small steps to what we felt OK doing closer to home, something else happened.

The morning that Disney World announced its reopening date and plan, all of a sudden, I felt a shift in how ready I was to fly. It’s not that I’m that big of a Disney nut and missed eating a Mickey-shaped ice cream bar on Main Street U.S.A. so much that I couldn’t wait one more minute — OK maybe it was a tiny bit of that. But really, it wasn’t just that.

For me, when Disney announced it was close to reopening, that decision carried a psychological weight associated with it.

From going on Disney Cruises to watching Disney films, countless visits to the Disney theme parks and numerous stays in Disney hotel resorts in Florida, California and even Hawaii, it’s fair to say that I trust the Disney brand. Disney hasn’t always gotten it 100% right by me, but it has always seemingly put its best foot forward and done a good job fixing the issues on the rare occasions when things didn’t go as well as we’d hoped on the first pass.

Disneyland is quickly approaching its 65th birthday in mid-July. Next year is set to be Disney World’s 50th anniversary, which is one of the reasons it had so many projects and improvements underway before COVID-19 hit.

With its track record, it’s fair to say that Disney isn’t in the travel and tourism game to make a quick buck. It’s playing the long game.

While Disney is certainly taking a massive financial hit keeping most of its parks closed in the short run, it feels like the type of company that would rather remain closed and lose more now, if reopening risked its long-term reputation and future by placing visitors in an extraordinary amount of danger. Naturally, there will absolutely be some inherent risks involved in bringing people together in a theme park environment, even with mandatory face masks, social distancing guidelines and reduced capacity. But if Disney feels like it can bring families back together for a ride on Big Thunder Mountain and some pineapple Dole Whip, then maybe I am almost ready to venture out a bit more, too.

Share Disney with a friend or family member (Photo by Melissa Ann Photography)
(Photo by Melissa Ann Photography)

So, when will you fly again with the kids?

While Disney’s reopening date was absolutely a turning point in how actively I am considering taking a flight, it’s not enough by itself to cause me to leap. Now that my home state of Texas has pretty much reopened, over 400,000 travelers are getting screened by the TSA most days, Vegas casinos are back in action and Florida theme parks such as Legoland and Universal have welcomed back visitors, I’m just attentively watching and waiting.

I’m watching whether this return to travel cause COVID-19 cases to spike, or if the numbers largely hold steady with more marginal increases. I’m continuing to read about recovery rates and treatments and tests and anything else I can get my hands on that give an ever-changing picture of the illness.

While my opinion could change again tomorrow, right now I am considering flying once with my 10-year-old this summer. She understands what that would entail in our new reality, what she’d need to do to take an active role in reducing her risks and I feel like she and I could mitigate our risks to a level I’m almost OK with at this point knowing everything we know right now.

That said, I’m not yet ready to do the same with my 4-year-old. She has a harder time wearing a mask for longer periods without messing with it, has a track record of sometimes getting motion sick on planes and just isn’t to the same level of understanding about the disease and how to reduce her risk due to her younger age. If I flew with her right now, it would be because I truly had to — not because I wanted to. For her, my earliest penciled-in plans are currently in the fall … with an emphasis on the written in pencil part.

Related: Do kids have to wear masks when flying

But again, that is all subject to change at any time as the situation is still so fluid.

Bottom line

There’s no question that the more you do outside your home, the more at risk you are of contracting and spreading coronavirus. I’m by no means advocating that anyone else should hop back on a plane right now, much less with their kids.

But in our situation, we already aren’t just staying home anymore. We are making calculated risk and reward-based decisions almost every day. We are still probably on the conservative end of venturing out for our area and aren’t anywhere close to living life just as we were before March arrived, but we also aren’t hunkering down as tightly as we were in April.

While our first flight with my kids in this new world felt really far away just a few weeks ago, I’m now considering again taking to the sky with my older daughter sooner than I thought.

Featured image by Andrea Bacle Photography

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