Travel Plans During COVID?
Updated: Nov 19, 2020
Please note that as of November 19th 2020, the CDC is recommending that the safest way to spend the holidays is at home, and without including any travel. This original article was shared on November 1st 2020, and whilst it still contains interesting/useful information, we recommend you always follow the current CDC guidelines for your own safety.
Much like any expedition involving multiples, it’s a lot easier to not do it at all..
But if you must travel this holiday season, or any time during COVID, here’s a brief outline of the best safety tips we’ve found online (and from personal experience):
Prepare Your Older Kids
This could be a good time! It’ll be a lot easier if everyone is prepared ahead of time and aware of what to expect from each stage of the trip.
Before COVID, the journey was part of the fun - but this year the spontaneity and adventures need to stay within the rules, and you can empower your kids to help you achieve this:
Discuss potential problems before they happen (e.g., not stopping at playgrounds).
If road-tripping, plan safe places to stop along the way (e.g., stopping at a baseball field or green space to throw styrofoam planes around).
If a child looks forward to stopping at a favorite restaurant, have them help you pack the snacks for the car, and explain that for now, your family will be bringing your own food and picnicking roadside, rather than dining out.
Encourage them to help identify high-touch areas to be wiped down with a disposable cloth (door and sink handles, light switches and countertops).
Practice the ‘rules’ before the trip, and learn to avoid the three “C’s”: Crowds, Closed Spaces and Close Contact.
Also, let down your concerns about screen time (a few days with 4 hours of a screen will not melt your children’s brains).
Prepare For Younger Kids
For 0-3yr olds, who will lick everything they can get their hands on, you can try these other strategies:
Wherever possible, try and reach surfaces and clean them before your kids get to them (restaurant tables, airplane arm rests, changing stations).
For shorter road trips (and if your little ones are compliant) consider making the bulk of the journey during nap time, or at night, so you can travel with mostly sleeping babies.
Younger children may also respond well to visual stories or homemade picture books that take them through each step of the journey in advance. Then if they get tired/upset, you can remind them that the trip is all about going to see Grandma/etc.
Please remember that masks/shields are not recommended for anyone under 2yrs old, which is why it's important for those around them (older kids/adults) to wear masks and follow the rules.
Know The Rules
Wherever you go, and however you travel, the rules are still the same* - and in combination, they are the best way to layer up your defenses. The “Swiss Cheese Analogy" (nicely laid out below by - Ian Mackay, PhD @MackayIM) is a simple and effective way of explaining this to your family:
*In case you need a reminder, the basic rules are: Wear a mask, wash your hands (20secs), keep 6ft apart, keep any interactions brief, don’t touch your face, avoid high contact surfaces.
Each destination is also experiencing COVID in a unique way, so be up-to-date on cases locally (this COVID Data Tracker is helpful) and also check the local Health Department Website for updates or announcements prior to your trip.
Bring your own snacks/food as far as possible to avoid needing to purchase items or stop for meals along the way.
Before traveling, pack sanitizing wipes and hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol (in case you are unable to wash your hands at your destination).
Bring extra masks and a sealable plastic bag. If your mask gets wet or dirty, put a clean mask on and put the wet or dirty mask in the plastic bag until you can wash it.
Bring extra clothes (more than 1 set) for kids AND for yourself (if flying be sure to put in your carry on).
Additional Notes for Air Travel
This is by far the hardest kind of travel with multiples, and whilst the CDC says that "most viruses and other germs do not spread easily on flights because of how air circulates and is filtered on airplanes", it also points out the importance of mask wearing and hygiene during these flights - and vigilance on the way to/from and through the airport too. GREAT.
But here are some tricks (learned from our pre-COVID experiences) which should help you have a safer and slightly easier flight with your multiples (here's also a good article from NPR on air travel during COVID):
Wear pull down/up pants. You'll often have to go to the bathroom while carrying your child, and you don’t want to be fumbling with your button in the 3x3 airplane bathroom.
Pack multiple pacifiers and/or have your kids drink water during landing/takeoff to help equalise their ears and avoid screaming (although remember that planes are loud, and if your child is screaming you won’t really disturb more than 6 people....)
Bring lots of entertaining activities. You won’t want to risk giving children snacks during the plane ride, so you'll want other distractions. If your kids are over 1yr, consider wrapping 1-3 of the activities in wrapping paper as a fun surprise.
If your kid needs a stuffy to be comfortable, think ahead on where you will wash or quarantine it upon arrival. Hot water and soap is enough to clean so even a bathroom sink with detergent will be enough.
When boarding the plane, understand that you can’t go on and off. One of you won't be able to go ahead, clean the seats, and then come back to the gate for the rest of the family.
Check as much baggage as you can. Carrying children, carry-ons and a stroller is not easy (especially when everyone starts having a tantrum too).
Remember there can usually only be 1 lap child per row. This means if there are 2 adults and 2 children, you cannot sit together. Check with your airline in advance about this.
Prepare Your Adults
It’s most likely you who will be taking the bigger risks on this trip. You’ll
need to remain vigilant for the entire trip - outbound and inbound - to
avoid bringing COVID home with you.
As much as possible, limit touching frequently touched surfaces, such
as kiosks; digital interfaces, for example, touchscreens and fingerprint scanners;
ticket machines; turnstiles; handrails; restroom surfaces; elevator buttons;
Use touchless payment and no-touch trash cans and doors when available.
If possible, exchange cash or credit cards by placing them in a receipt tray or on the
counter rather than by hand.
Share your rules and plans with anyone meeting you along the way. Setting “no hugs” and “masks” rules is hard, but it’s easier to establish them in advance, rather than last minute.
For in-person holiday gatherings, consider asking guests to avoid contact with people outside of their households for 14 days before the gathering.
Minimize gestures that promote close contact. For example, do not shake hands, bump elbows, or give hugs. Instead wave and verbally greet others.
Be aware that alcohol can cloud judgement and increase risky behaviors.
It also won’t hurt to share these CDC guidelines on hosting with Grandma, or whoever is hosting your holiday event, so you’re not the only ones who are playing it safe....
This breakdown from the CDC is also a great way to see the risks of different types of activities:
However you decide to travel and celebrate, we hope you stay safe!
Bon Voyage WLAPOM's
Swiss Cheese Theory Graphic: Ian Mackay; https://virologydownunder.com/about-me/