Traveling when pregnant can be challenging in and of itself, but the additional challenges of traveling during the Covid-19 pandemic make it exponentially more complicated. At the time of this writing, the CDC still recommends avoiding travel when possible, but sometimes traveling is necessary. If you’re venturing out of your home oasis on a trip, we’re here to help.
On my recent trip to Hawaii with my husband, three year old and bun in the oven, I learned first hand some of the challenges of Covid travel. Here are my tips:
Practice wearing your mask in advance to ensure it is comfortable and you are able to breathe. Consider bringing multiple types. *Note: Masks with vents are not allowed. We bought multiple masks for my 3 year old and the travel leisure mask on amazon was by far the favorite. We practiced in the week up to the trip having her wear it while watching cartoons and when we’d go out in public. She wore it without any problems the entire time, aside from while eating and drinking, on our 18 hour journey from DC to Maui. Pro tip: Transport masks in a quart sized ziplock, and bring another labeled “masks to wash” for any that you have used. This will help avoid cross contamination. Wash hands or use hand sanitizer after touching your mask. This Travel Leisure mask was the favorite for my husband and daughter, but was too large for me. I was concerned about my ability to comfortably wear a mask long term (pregnancy plus asthma makes this extra challenging) but had no issue wearing this one the entire time.
Plan your meals and snacks in advance, as meal services will likely be discontinued. Check in advance with your airline. On our United flight from Denver to Maui, the only meal service was a snack bag with a mini bottled water, a tiny bag of pretzels and a cookie. The flight was 7 hours. Snacks were not even available for purchase. Needless to say, this was not enough for my snack loving toddler (or for the baby growing within me). In anticipation of this, I packed SO.MANY.SNACKS: Baby food pouches, trail mix, apple sauce, crackers, cookies, raisins, sandwiches, and SIX protein shakes. Fun fact: you are allowed to go over the 3.4oz liquids minimum for young children’s items or if you have medical necessity (i.e.- pregnancy or breastfeeding). Take advantage. Adults and children over the age of 2 are required to wear masks at all times, except when eating and drinking. The more snacks and drinks you have, the more little breaks you can offer yourself and your little one on the flight though keeping your mask on throughout the duration of the flight is the most safe. Face shields are an option to decrease exposure during meals is you wish to remove your mask for a quick snack.
Bring your reusable water bottles. While water fountains at airports are closed due to Covid, bottle refilling stations are still open. You can save yourself a pretty penny by filling your own large bottles rather than purchasing the expensive bottled water in airport kiosks.
Pack your carry on bags wisely so everything you need is easily accessible. We had one large ziplock bag with all of our baby food pouches and liquids (waters, protein shakes) over 3 ounces. This allowed us to easily remove them during our security check. They had to be screened separately and I had to open some of them to be checked. *Note: Allow extra time for this step.
Consider bringing a car seat if traveling with a little one. If you can afford the extra seat for your child under 2 or are on the fence about whether to bring one for your 3 year old, it was extremely helpful at containing my child and limiting her exposure to germs. Pro Tip: if the seat belt buckle ends up under the fabric behind your child’s back when you’ve installed the car seat, you can request a seat belt extender from the flight attendant or wrap the seatbelt around the armrest before installing. This ensures a tight fit without causing your child discomfort.
Bring hand sanitizer. While our plane was sanitized between flights, and everyone was given an alcohol wipe upon boarding and in their snack back, I was grateful for the extra cleaning products to wipe down the air vent controls, screen, tray table, arm rests, seat belt buckles and seat pocket. *Note: TSA is now allowing one carry on hand sanitizer up to 12 ounces! Being pregnant, I had to use the restroom regularly, so having extra hand sanitizer at my seat helped ease my anxiety. I washed hands with soap in the bathroom and used additional sanitizer at my seat. For diaper changes, consider keeping an easily accessible plastic grocery bag with the necessities: Diapers, wipes, (ideally disposable) changing pad, extra outfit for baby and antibacterial wipes. This is helpful to have to hang on the door of the airplane bathroom to avoid getting your diaper bag germy.
Feeling extra paranoid? Consider putting your carry on bags inside reusable grocery bags before putting them on the floor at your feet to keep them germ free.
Due to the pandemic, travel restrictions are constantly in flux. If you choose to travel, do yourself a favor and closely follow the State Department’s Travel Advisories for updates on restrictions at your destination (as well as any layover locations). When we flew to Maui, Hawaii had just opened up to visitors and required Covid testing within 72 hours prior to the flight. Only certain trusted partner’s tests were acceptable, and many travelers were very frustrated to learn that their negative tests were not acceptable. Thus, even after a negative test, a two week quarantine was required upon entry. For more information about traveling to Hawaii check out this link.
Finally, be kind to yourself! We can all use a little grace right now. If you choose to travel focus on keeping yourself and your family safe. Try not to stress over the little things, like screen time limits for your child during travel. We’re all doing our best.
This post was written by Arrow content contributor, Caroline Wiedl.