Be aware that mask compliance on planes isn’t always ideal.
“The scariest moment for us in terms of exposure was the flight. The plane was fairly empty, but the passengers on board were surprisingly lax. Lots of masks below noses, or that ‘slipped off’ while they slept. We spent a lot of time prodding flight attendants to correct this, which they often had to do multiple times for repeat offenders.”
But for the most part, precautions at the airport are strong.
“But for the most part, the travel experiences exceeded our expectations. The airports were clean, sparsely populated and very well managed. Not only were there few people to queue, our stroller got us sped through the gate. Everyone was wearing masks and following rules. The flight had some non-compliant passengers, but attendants were quick to address. The one regret we have is pushing for bulkhead seats—our daughter refused to sleep in the provided bassinet, and it was scary being next to the bathroom with people replacing their masks as they came and went. We wore masks and face shields the entire time.”
You can avoid crowds in the airport by heading to the lounge.
“Go into one of the airport lounges to avoid crowding at the gate! We flew in August and did that -- made a huge difference in terms of avoiding airport crowds.”
Consider boarding close to the end of the line.
“Honestly I’d board last unless you have a ton of bags that you worry about storing up top. It limits the time contained to the plane and all the people breathing on you as they walk by. I’ve always boarded late w the babe because it gives me more walk around/outside of an airplane diaper change time. Also I’m sure you know but nurse or bottle at takeoff and landing to help w pressure.”
Avoid seats in high-traffic areas like near the airplane bathroom.
“We had been advised to request bulkhead seats for the bassinet, but this made things worse. The front of each section is adjacent to the toilets—a high traffic zone. Countless times, passengers would come out of the toilet (ugh) blowing their nose, mask dangling from an ear. Our daughter refused to sleep in the bassinet, and even when she did fall asleep the toilet flushes and slamming doors quickly woke her back up.”
Learning about air circulation on the plane can help reassure you.
“There's no easy answer, but I wanted to make sure you had seen the NYTimes article on air circulation which I found really useful.”
Plan out precautions that will keep you as comfortable as possible.
“My family is in a similar situation and has decided to fly to Chicago next month with our two young children, including our 13-month-old who hasn't met any of our extended family. This includes my grandparents, who are in their 90s and unable to travel. We asked our pediatrician (whose judgement we really trust), and he recommends that we fly. A year ago there was no way we'd travel but now that this has continued for so long we are willing to take the risk.
Some of our considerations include:
It is a relatively short flight
We are flying during off peak times
We are flying JetBlue out of JFK partially because they have an outdoor area where we plan to spend most of our waiting time at the airport on the way out (one of us will remain outside with the kids while the other ensures we don't miss boarding)
Once we arrive, one adult will take the kids outside as quickly as possible while the other collects our bags and picks up our rental car
We purchased seats that will put the baby in the middle of our group in a window seat (as far away from other people as possible) and towards the front of the plane so we can exit quickly
It's certainly not the same as wearing a mask but we will use a rain cover/blanket over his stroller/car seat as much as possible when indoors.”
“Our pediatrician said to bring alcohol wipes to wipe down the seat area, and keep wipes and purell on hand when my son tries to touch or grab things.”
“On the prep side, what we did was book [our 6 month old] his own seat and are bringing his car seat. We got a rain cover for it and plan to keep him in there for the whole time if possible and give him his toys to play with inside the rain cover. We're hoping that prevents him from touching anything. Of course with a cross country trip it's much harder to keep them in a car seat the whole time but it should at least help limit the exposure. Definitely going to be sanitizing our seat area either way though.”
For kids under 2 who don’t wear a mask, a blanket and air purifier can help.
“Both ways when she was sleeping we blew the filtered air on her while covering her face with a light blanket, she doesn’t wear masks.
The staff gave us some flack about the purifiers as no batteries are allowed but since they’re USB charged ultimately we won. :) And they said we had to sign something since the younger one wasn’t masked but I don’t think we did in the end.”
If you wait to eat until others finish, you can minimize maskless exposure.
“We closed the vents until we were up in the air and had the vents on full blast when up in the air. We wore N95 masks and waited for everyone else to eat before we did. Our 4yr old daughter slept well even with her mask on. We had a face shield for her too just in case she wasn't able to sleep well with a mask, but she was fine.”
“We like to eat before getting on the flight and wait for everyone else to snack before we take our turn. That way the others have their masks back on before we take ours off. It's also good to have a shield if you want that extra protection once your mask is off but we didn't bother with the shield because we were just facing the back of seats.”
Be sure to pack comfortable masks (we have lots of brand recs here).
“I'd say the most important thing is an obvious one -- make sure you and your [kid] have masks you'll be comfortable in.
I personally hate KN95 masks (when they get fuzzy inside and tickle my nose it drives me bonkers) and felt bad making him wear one, but we can both wear Happy Masks for hours and hours, so that's what I tend to travel in.
He occasionally needs a reminder to put it back on after a snack, but he wears them in school so is used to it.”
Air filtration systems or hoods provide even more peace of mind.
“These [air filtration masks] are expensive and I’m not sure they’re worth it but if you have $ to burn perhaps it’s worth the peace of mind.
We got the cheaper uglier colors to save a few bucks.”
“My family used these [hooded face shields] when we flew to Australia, and had good success pretending to be astronauts/just making it non-negotiable and discussing safety.”