Flying during Covid-19. Sharing our experience and some helpful tips!
I would consider myself a pretty seasoned traveller, we've travelled internationally many times, both with kids and without. I'm usually so excited to fly & travel, but this time was different.
I was nervous. I was worried.
Before I get into our travel experience and share a few tips and insight into flying during this global pandemic, I'm sure you're wondering why are you even flying right now?
I'm from Canada, that's where my entire family lives but I live in Orange County with my husband and two kids. Every few months either we go to Canada to visit or family comes down to see us, but as of March 2020, all our plans got cancelled. Like the rest of the world, we have been quarantining for 4 months. Unfortunately, with being so far from 'home' I didn't have the luxury to do a social distancing driveway meet up so that my parents can see the kids or so I can see them. In many ways, not knowing when we were going to see each other again made this quarantine even harder.
Although I have loved the extra time and cuddles with my babies over the last few months, it's also been challenging, tiring and very imbalanced without any outside interaction or help. So around the 115 day mark we decided to continue this quarantine in Canada 🇨🇦....at least for the rest of the summer!
That meant we had to fly here. Yes it meant taking a big risk, but we felt like this way we can still control what our kids touch and who they are around while allowing them to finally have a bit of fun. As parents all we ever do is hope we are making the right decision, this was not an easy one, but we did feel we made the best decision for our family. Some people have started letting their kids play with friends, or go back to school, others have started to dine out, open up their circle and reunite with others. Everyone's situation is different and everyone is doing what works for them. No judgement.
So back to why you're here, few little tips and insight into the travel experience during covid. Keep in mind, the information I am giving is for the current state of the pandemic right now (July 2020), as time passes things may get better or worse, rules may change so just keep that in mind when reading this:
Depending on where you are going, try to book a direct flight. Minimize exposure to airports and airplanes as much as possible. We usually always have to have a stop over because there are no direct flights to my hometown Ottawa. So for our situation we felt it was safer to fly directly to Toronto and drive to Ottawa. It's one less airport and airplane to be in. Look into your options and just try to minimize the risk and exposure as much as possible.
Getting to the airport:
We haven't been within 6 feet of anyone in 4 months so we had to think about the safest way to get to the airport. Since we have car seats we had to take our car but we couldn't leave it at the airport parking lot for an extended period of time, so our dear friend and house sitter drove us there in our car. We all wore masks for this car ride. It was safer to be in our own car than in an Uber or any other way.
You have to wear a mask the entire time, from the moment you enter the airport to the moment you leave, so invest in one that is comfortable but safe. I shopped around a lot and found a lot of cloth masks but upon doing some research and asking some medical professionals, those masks are very porous so they aren't as effective.
We were lucky enough to get a few KN95 masks (last year's N95 masks) so we wore those and my son wore one he got from our pediatrician. My 10 month old did not wear a mask nor is she required to.
Food & Water:
They no longer serve any in-flight meals or snacks (at least not on Air Canada) so pack LOTS of food and snacks. I opted for items that we don't have to use our fingers with, things I could wrap in foil and hold like
sandwiches, granola bars etc. They do give lots of bottled water but we brought our own bottles to pour it into (Hydroflask, Thermos etc.).
Sanitization & Anti-Bacterial products:
Pack lots of hand sanitizers and wipes, give everyone their own little hand sanitizer to keep on hand. My recommendation is as soon as you get to your seat, use the anti-bacterial wipes to wipe down your entire area. It's impossible to not touch anything for the duration of the flight, especially with little kids, so just wipe it down.
Air Canada did give us these little bags with gloves, wipes, water and a mask but we brought all our own stuff as well.
Prepping the kids for travel:
If you have a toddler or child over 3, chances are you can probably explain the situation and they will understand. We have always spoken to our son like an adult, explained what is going on and I find it helps him prepare ie. "Next week we are going on an airplane, it's going to be a lot of fun BUT we have to be very careful on the airplane as there are germs and we can get sick from it. When we board the plane I want you to hold your hands together and not touch ANYTHING. When we get to our seats we are going to wipe down all the germs and I need you to be patient. We will have to wear a mask on the airplane etc."
We explained it to him, we even practiced "boarding" because he was so excited about our journey. Just get them involved, prepare them and it will make it so much easier. I'm happy to say that he wore a mask from the moment we got into our ride to the airport until we left the Toronto airport, that's about 7-8 hour all together.
A few other little tips for traveling with kids are:
Get some new toys, activities, books, distractions. ANYTHING, doesn't have to be expensive. I usually just grab a few things from Michaels and the dollar store. Kids just want something new.
Using the bathroom: Our son is potty trained but we did tell him that during the flight the bathroom will be broken (we didn't want to use the bathrooms unless we absolutely had to) we told him that just for the flight, if he had to use the bathroom he would need to go in his diaper. Once again, every child in different but I find preparing him and explaining before hand makes such a difference. It was only a 4 hour flight and he didn't have to use the bathroom.
We are a no device family, we try to do as minimal screen time as possible BUT for
this flight I brought our iPad and downloaded some shows on Netflix just incase he got ansy and I needed a distraction. You always want to prepare for delays or any extra travel time.
The legal stuff:
Every country will have different policies but to enter Canada visitors are still restricted. The kids and I are Canadian citizens (dual citizens), so we of course can enter; however, my husband is an American citizen so we had to show proof of the relationship so he can cross the border with us.
We prepared a written quarantine plan to show border & immigration how we plan to be safe and self isolate. We travelled with marriage certificates, birth certificates, all the documents we need to prove our relationship.
I'm relieved the flight and journey up went well. There were no lines or waiting at the airport, it was so empty! We actually had to rush to our gate so we didn't have to worry about waiting at the gate. The flight was only 40-50% capacity, people weren't walking around, we luckily didn't have to use the restrooms the entire flight so all in all it was a really good flight experience.
Self-Isolation for 14 days:
Upon landing, we changed out of all our clothes, we rented a car, it was strange to do that since both my brothers live in Toronto but it was the safest option. We didn't want to expose ourselves to anyone until we completed our quarantine. I wiped down the inside of the car and we made our way to our self-isolation location. The Government of Canada requires you to self-isolate for 14 days prior to seeing anyone or going anywhere. They did check up on us 3 times to make sure we were abiding by the rules, there are fines and strict penalties in place if you break the quarantine. We were in no rush to leave our isolation spot, we are lucky enough to have my parents lake house to stay at during the quarantine. My parents stocked up the place with enough food and drinks for 14 days (well there was enough food for 6 months!) and we have spent the last 2 weeks here. I'm so grateful we had this place that has allowed us to quarantine here so comfortably, it actually felt like a mini vacation! The hardest part was knowing we were so close to family and not being able to see them!
Now I'm excited to open up our circle to a few family members and finally be reunited! Thanks for reading! I hope this was helpful and please stay safe!
If you aren't already, please follow along on Instagram by clicking here. I've saved photos and videos from our travel journey in the story highlights! Stay tuned for more from our reunions and time in Canada! Come follow along: www.instagram.com/reshmaphotography