Flying with a child is daunting at the best of times. Packing and planning involves military levels of precision, and the inevitable side-eye from a business traveler who absolutely does not want to be seated next to your infant is never fun. But despite the hassle, being able to fly is a huge luxury and one that many of us (myself included) took for granted pre-COVID.
Making the decision to fly wasn’t one I made lightly. I did my research and found this Bloomberg article Is It Safe to Fly? particularly helpful (possibly because it told me what I wanted to hear). In the article, MIT professor Arnold Barnett estimates the odds of transmission on a 2 hour flight at around 1/7700 if the middle seat is kept free. In weighing up the pros and cons of airline travel, the risks seemed low and the reward of seeing our families seemed high.
The airport experience was surreal. I’ve never seen SFO so quiet. Most passengers were being sensible and following social distancing guidelines, sanitizing hands religiously, and wearing masks. As always there were some extremes, a traveller in a hazmat suit sat waiting at a gate while a pilot wearing his mask pulled down underneath his nose stood a few feet away (I’m glad he wasn’t flying my plane!).
Overall the experience of flying was slightly more stressful than usual, but it didn’t feel unsafe. We did take precautions to mitigate the risk of transmitting COVID which included a 14 day quarantine when we arrived in the UK.
Having flown during the pandemic aside from the obvious washing of hands, sanitizing surfaces, and following social distancing protocols I don’t think there are any pearls of wisdom I can impart that relate specifically to traveling during COVID-19. That said, there are definitely a few things that did make the trip a little easier!
Rent or borrow whatever you can.
Rather than checking a bulky car seat into the hold, we were able to rent one affordably with our rental car. We also borrowed a travel crib, bringing our own sheets with us to ensure cleanliness.
Prepare food in advance.
Airline catering services are either altered beyond recognition or not available at all. On our flight a limited menu was available for adults but the kids menu was completely removed. I found preparing food in advance that could be frozen and defrosted during the flight a good hack, such as these Baked Oatmeal Cups.
Look into hacks based on your flight time.
For red-eyes, the Stokke JetKids contraption looks pretty sweet.
A travel stroller is a good purchase.
Traveling with kids is never easy and, of course, nothing we do outside of the home during a global pandemic is completely without risk. But when friends with kids who know I have flown ask me if it’s been worth the flight, the cost, and the 14 day quarantine to see family, my answer is 100% yes.