The world is opening up again and some families are dusting off their passports and packing their bags to begin traveling again.
Back in 2020, I did something that no mother ever really WANTS to do. I flew internationally with my two children ages one and three, during a pandemic.
Was it one of the most nerve wrecking experiences of my life? Yes.
Was it worth it? Also yes.
Whether you’re planning to take a flight anytime soon, or just preparing yourself for a safer time, here are my top tips for traveling with young kids during a pandemic.
Prepare Yourself Mentally
I cannot stress this enough. Once upon a time ago when I was an athlete in high school, my swim coach would have us prepare for a big meet by visualizing all of our races. From the moment we walked up to the starting blocks to the moment we slammed our hand into the touchpad at the end of the race, she wanted us to go over every detail that would get us to the finish line.
That’s exactly what I did to prepare myself for 12-plus hours of traveling with a toddler and preschooler.
My in-laws helped us get everything to the airport, but we had to say goodbye before entering the building. My husband helped us through the check-in process, until we parted ways before the security check. From that point on, I knew I would be on my own until I walked out of the doors of the airport at our final destination.
When I arrived at the security checkpoint, I knew that it would take me at least 10-15 minutes to unpack all of our electronics and snacks, before even taking my kids out of the stroller. I waved at least five people ahead of me, as I unpacked and prepared myself for the next steps.
There is no shame in taking the time you need to make it to the next step.
Anticipate the Unexpected
What do you do when your preschooler says he doesn’t have to potty before you board a flight? Take a deep breath, and use the running water trick.
Or your toddler suddenly decides she no longer likes the flavor of spinach, peas and pears in her mouth and lets the beautiful green baby food slide out of her mouth, down her neck and onto her black and white outfit? That’s why you packed an extra change of clothes.
Those are actually highly expected scenarios when traveling with young kids, and the reason why I never leave home without a potty bag.
Our potty bag is a bag that has at least two compartments – one with at least one set of fresh clothes and socks for each child, and the second compartment with the capacity to hold wet or soiled clothes without affecting the clean compartment.
Based on where your final destination may be, you may be required
Do Your Research and Ask Questions
Know what to expect from the airline you’re flying on. Some airlines have thrown social distancing out of the window, while others will uphold it and refuse to fly full flights. When I checked in for my flight, I asked if they were expecting a full flight. Unfortunately, the answer was yes, but I knew what to expect when we boarded the flight before the row was full.
Most airlines have a mask mandate, which means that everyone ages 2 and up must wear a mask and keep one on for the duration of the flight. Young kids have a tendency to play with their masks, getting them wet or pulling them off completely. A back-up mask is a necessity, or else risk getting kicked off your flight.
If you are a breastfeeding mama, decide if you are going to seek out a breastfeeding suite available at some airports, or have a coverup if that’s your preference. Even if you don’t feel the need to coverup while breastfeeding, I consider a breastfeeding/carseat cover a necessity during a pandemic, to provide some level of protection for babies who are too young to wear a mask. It’s not perfect, but its something. I tried as best as I could to keep my daughter covered up, but it only really worked while she was asleep.
Research the Covid-19 guidelines of your airport and destination before traveling. If you are required to take a test or quarantine, plan accordingly.
If you arrive at your gate and are already at your wit’s end, consider whether or not it will be in your best interest to board early or along with your boarding group. When traveling with my husband and the kids, we love to board early so that we can get comfortable before flight time.
Since I traveled solo with the kids, I decided it was best to wait until my boarding group, or later, to allow the kids to burn off as much steam as possible before sitting for the duration of the flight.
My advice here is make a decision and take action. Don’t wait for someone to do something for you.
The same goes for checking in – if your flight isn’t full, don’t be afraid to ask for an upgrade, or a better seat assignment. Airline employees can be very understanding of a parent flying solo, but it is all in your approach and attitude.
Celebrate the Small Wins
My husband booked aisle and middle seats for us, which wasn’t ideal, but it ended up working out for the best. Brice slept on my shoulder, while Jordan slept on my chest, and I was able to stretch my legs in the aisle.
Both babies fell asleep about 20 minutes into the flight, leaving me with some time to myself, albeit with my arms full. For the first time, in a long time, I was able to enjoy a movie without being interrupted!
I sacrificed my sleep, but it was all worth it when we landed safely in Nassau.