Flying with small children was never an easy experience, but then the pandemic happened. My mind was blown as I realized that those mask requirements weren’t going away and that this was going to be our new normal for flying. Many people I knew started saying how they would just drive everywhere instead because their kids would never leave a mask on for an entire flight. For those of us who travel overseas, however, driving is not an option!
Before I continue, I want to be clear that this post is not about whether people should be made to wear masks, made to be vaccinated, etc. I’m just a mom sharing my recent experiences of flying with small children and navigating the world of Covid-19. My kids are 8, 6, 5, and 2. Before we traveled, I had a lot of questions and nerves and would have appreciated reading something like this.
Being tested for Covid-19 before flying:
Because we were flying overseas (March 2021), we were required to present a negative RT-PCR result before boarding our international flights. The timing of everything was tricky. The test had to be done within a 72-hour window of reaching our final destination, and we had about 40 hours of travel time. This did not allow much extra time for possible flight delays or other travel-related mishaps!
We bathed the situation in prayer and asked God to help us through. There were seven of us traveling together (including my mom), so we needed seven negative tests. We learned that the RT-PCR tests are not the same as rapid tests, so we would have to pay extra to get them expedited if we wanted the results within the 72-hour time frame! Insert calculating different time zones between the US, France, and India, and our heads were spinning.
The tests ended up costing well over a hundred dollars per person. The airlines we were flying with as well as the government of India required that passengers over the age of two be tested. We all fell into that category. I had heard horror stories about how uncomfortable the tests could be. I had only been tested once before and it was not that bad, but as we learned, it can depend on who is administering the test.
Thankfully, the people at Covid Testing LLC in Lady Lake, FL and at the Bengaluru Airport (we were tested again upon arrival in India) were very gentle. However, we ended up having to be tested in India twice before flying back to the US (LONG story), and one of the times, the kids were extremely traumatized by how painful the test was. I felt terrible about subjecting them to this new protocol, especially when Sophie was so little and couldn’t understand why we were doing it. The second time we were tested there, the lady only swabbed the inside of their mouths. Whew. Big sigh of relief.
Wearing masks while traveling:
Our children did remarkably well with wearing a mask for forty hours of travel. We know this was the grace of God in answering our prayers! Overall, the flight attendants were very kind. According to the regulations on the two long-haul flights (Delta and Air France…please note that their guidelines may have changed since), children under six years of age were asked to wear masks, but not forcefully required to. This put my mind at ease since I knew there would be times when the little ones absolutely needed a break!
The domestic flights were a slightly different story. Southwest Airlines was stricter about the masks for kids, but I have heard mixed reviews on this. Perhaps it depends on the flight crew. The biggest surprise was the domestic flight in India on IndiGo Airlines. We were all handed face shields, and the kids were made to wear gowns, too! Again, God helped us and the kids handled it like pros. It was also in our favor that this was the shortest flight.
Finding food in the airports:
We were surprised in the Stateside airports at how difficult it was to find an open restaurant, let alone a place to buy a cup of coffee! In March when we left, we got stuck behind an accident en route to the airport and missed our first flight. We were able to quickly rebook and get on a later flight, but the time we lost did not allow for buying lunch. By the time we got to where we could buy food in Atlanta, everything was already closed besides a McDonald’s, which closed shortly after we purchased food around 5pm. We were all thankful even for McDonald’s by that point!
On our return trip, the situation was similar, but we had more options since we bought food earlier in the day. Traveling has certainly gotten strange since this pandemic began!
As far as the airports in India and Paris went, it seemed like all the restaurants and cafes were open as usual.
A word of advice, Covid-19 or not: Always, always, always pack more snacks than you think you will need when you’re flying with kids!
This sums up the main differences that we dealt with now versus pre-Covid. If there is something I did not cover that you are curious about, feel free to drop a question in the comments! 😊
Check out the posts below for more about flying with kids!