Travelling with kids Post-Pandemic
I want to share our first travel experience since the pandemic started without getting too much into my thoughts and feelings about Covid.
My husband and I have always enjoyed traveling. Before becoming parents we would travel several times a year. When we had our first daughter, that didn’t stop us. Although we chose closer destinations because of easier logistics, we have always enjoyed traveling with her. Our first trip as parents was to Paris (a pretty decent flight for a 5-month-old as it was just 4 hours). And that was the start of all our adventures with our firstborn. She’s now 4 and has travelled around a dozen times. We’ve had a lot of practice navigating the airport with one baby, and we planned to continue our love for traveling as a family even when the second one arrived. But then came COVID…So finally, just last month, with our second child already over a 1-year-old, we took off to Dubai.
I live on an island off the coast of Spain. As beautiful as it is, it isn’t the best for traveling long haul because it means we have to transit to mainland Spain. Pre-kids this was okay, sometimes even enjoyable, but post-kids, let’s just say - you have to be prepared. Logistically and mentally.
So our journey began at 5am when the taxi driver picked us up. We always order a Viano with fitted baby/toddler seats for our two children because it is the most spacious and comfortable and fits all of our luggage in. We took one stroller (Baby Zen Yoyo) and I took my BabyBjorn carrier which was the biggest lifesaver. Even though my youngest was already 20 months and probably ‘too big’ for a baby carrier, I popped him in there and found it so much easier to get through the airport. I have also seen my sister use this little strap-on-to-your-luggage Toddler Seat, which is another great airport gadget when going through busy airports with young kids.
Now I’ve had my son strapped to me in a carrier since we left the Viano. He’s in a forward front carry and I have a backpack with all our inflight essentials on my back (snacks, toys, some arts and crafts, almost nothing for me). Carrying one child allows me to then be hands-free. I’m able to keep my son in the carrier through the metal detector and don’t have to fiddle with taking anyone’s shoes on and off. Once we found our gate, I took my son out of the carrier for a short time just so he could stretch out a bit before being on a plane for 2 hours to Madrid. And I always make sure my daughter uses the restroom prior to boarding in hopes we won’t have to use the tiny airplane bathroom (spoiler alert…we still had to use the tiny airplane bathroom).
Even before the pandemic, I brought travel packs of wet ones to wipe down the seat and tray. After all, kids literally touch everything, and before you know it their fingers are around their mouth, so it was something I didn’t mind doing anyways. Having two kids with me now I just made sure my daughter didn’t touch anything and my son was still in the carrier while I wiped everything down. The seatbelt, tray, the tv, the armrests, and all over the airplane window because we all know how much kids love to look out that with their faces pressed up against it. Of course I always carry a pocket sized sanitizer which hangs off my backpack and my daughter has one too hanging off hers!
Our daughter is at the age where she loves to watch shows and movies so keeping her attention on the little tv for a few hours was easy. My son at 20 months old, on the other hand, needed more activity and variety in his flight entertainment. I packed little toys I knew would keep his hands busy, but also ones he wouldn’t be tempted to put in his mouth. I had a few toy cards, a few hand size pocket books and I even packed some finger puppets. For my daughter, I had packed the water works pad, a pencil and notebook, and stickers. She loves drawing, writing, and playing with stickers at this age. Bringing a new toy is super helpful too because it will keep their interest longer. I also travel with an ipad for the kids. I am not so big on videogames and screen time but on the plane I am all for it. Getting through the 10 hour journey was my goal and if it takes an Ipad to get me through well so be it.
My husband and I used an N95 mask which we only removed to eat. My daughter had a kids mask and did want to remove hers now and again which was fine because it is not obligatory for a four year old to wear a mask. I just did my best to have her keep it on until after everyone else around us was in their seat and there wasn’t so much movement on the plane. My son being just one years old did not wear one.
The only time we had to take our masks down was at security where they check your ID and boarding pass.
Snacks & Bottles
Security did not bother us about any snacks, as long as they weren’t liquid. And for a baby, you can bring breastmilk or formula. This time, I had packed a brand new sealed can of formula (just for the flight, my son drinks regular milk otherwise) figuring it would make it simpler to get through and not have to be tested. But they didn’t even bother looking at it at all, it remained tucked in my backpack. Having the baby and young child with me, I packed two sealed bottles of water as well and had no trouble with those. I truly needed the water to make a bottle for my baby, but also brought the second water along for my daughter. Top flying tip: Nursing or providing a bottle during takeoff and landing is the best thing you can do for a baby’s ears during the flight, even when they are over 12 months!
The Tiny Bathroom
Like I mentioned, I try to avoid using it but sometimes duty calls and that call won’t last too long for a 4-year-old. She did not need to go on the first flight but on the second flight which was Madrid - Dubai, a whole 8 hour long journey, obviously she went a few times. Timing would have it that my son was napping on me when she needed to go so my husband took her. Both packed in like two sardines, he did try his best not to rub up against everything. It was a tight adventure with lots of handwashing, but they survived. Of course I had to use it once for my little boy too, 8 hours without a nappy change would not be very fair on him. I had packed disposable changing pads to place over the changing table. And I made sure to pack 1 nappy for every hour of flying, that way I would have enough in case there are any accidents.
To sum up my first travel experience post-pandemic and with kids, I don’t feel like a lot had changed except that I personally had a second child tagging along! We’re all pretty used to the whole mask-wearing and social distancing guidelines by now. I felt pretty comfortable on the plane and I’m already itching to book our next trip, but this time without any airport stopovers in-between!