Many families are debating if, when and how they might travel in the weeks and months ahead. If you are pondering the possibility of air travel, here are five things to consider:
1. How important is the trip?
Before making final preparations for air travel, discuss the relative importance of taking the trip now. Can it wait for a few months? Assess your family's individual risk factors, including age, underlying medical conditions and current health. If any family member in your group is sick, staying home is the best choice. If visiting family at your destination, consider their health and risk factors as well. If you decide to go, check with your airline for their most recent updates including your flight schedule, any changes in requirements for travel (like wearing a mask) and the expected capacity on board. With social distancing in mind, some airlines will allow passengers to change flights without penalty fees if the aircraft is expected to be near capacity.
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2. What are the expectations?
Depending on the ages of the children, discuss what to expect on this trip. Many aspects of the experience will be different than previous outings to visit family or flights to festive destinations. Let them know that the airport may feel different as fewer people may be traveling. Many people will be wearing masks and or gloves. Some travelers may be feeling anxious, which can result in unusual behaviors. Discuss the importance of sticking close to the adults in your group, of social distancing, of not touching random objects and regularly washing hands or using hand sanitizer while en route.
3. How can you plan ahead?
Give yourselves plenty of time at the airport to keep stress levels down. If possible, avoid the confines of shuttle buses by having a friend or family member drop you at the curbside check-in area. Skip the airport trains and walk to your gate. Print boarding passes at home to avoid touching extra computer screens.
Plan to bring your own masks, hand sanitizer, wipes, water bottles and snacks. The Transportation Security Administration recommends putting all your supplies, including keys, phones, wallets and other personal items in your carry-on bags when going through security thus avoiding the use of the plastic bins. It will likely be easier to manage a bathroom session in the terminal than on board the plane. Use wipes or a tissue to open doors, turn knobs, flush and operate handles. Wash hands with hot, soapy water or use hand sanitizer. Choose a sparsely populated section of the gate area to regroup.
4. Tips for settling in.
If possible, consider sending one adult on board ahead of your clan to begin sanitizing your area before the younger children climb into the seats. Wipe down the tray tables, seats, armrests, seat belts, window covering and the gaspers (air vents). Then toss the wipes in the trash and sanitize your hands. Once everyone is on board, make sure all hands are sanitized and masks are in place.
5. Be aware in the air.
Experts advise that you be aware of your surroundings, taking note of those seated next to you, two rows ahead and two rows behind you. If someone in this region appears ill or is coughing repeatedly, ask to move. If you or a family member is seated on the aisle, use caution to avoid touching passersby. Avoid using the aircraft bathroom, but if it is necessary, use caution and remember to sanitize. Keep snacks and drinks to a minimum. Be mindful of toys or devices that the kids might be using (or drop on the floor) and remember to wipe them down with sanitizing wipes. Then, if possible, take a deep breath and enjoy the flight.