“Boy, I sure am stressed out”.
Was it because it was my first time boarding a plane with 2 kids? Yeah, I guess that was pretty stressful to think about but, there was something else, something that definitely made me feel like I was walking into the biggest unknown ever. Even as a world traveler, I couldn’t help feel a little anxious every time I thought about traveling to another country with my kids during a pandemic.
Well, today I’m writing this from the other side! Stress-free, ready to do it again, and with a couple of good tips that you can implement if you’re also freaking out about the idea of traveling with your kids during Covid.
Let’s break it down, shall we?
We’re going to start with some of the biggest fears and questions I had, which you’re probably having too. And then I’m going to share how the real experience actually was for us.
What if we’re not able to board the plane?
This has to be one of the things I feared the most about traveling with my kids during Covid! Having everything planned, tickets booked, bags packed, and suddenly being denied to board!? It was paralyzing to think about it but, I found that a big part of this fear was made bigger by my head, and the best -and only- way to make sure it didn’t happen, was to immerse myself in information. So I did some research, which was actually very simple to do, about every country we would be visiting, to identify the processes and regulations we would need for each of them.
What if we’re not allowed into the country?
Hand in hand with the previous concern, imagining we wouldn’t be able to set a foot in the country we were traveling to (even after surviving the plane ride) was very worrying! And honestly, I hold on to this fear ‘up until we were checking in for our first flight. Once I noticed the detail in which the airline counter representative checked our documentation, I felt immediate relief. If they were taking the time to check that everything was correct, I had to trust that they were making sure we would reach our final destination.
Will my Covid test be valid?
Oh, the uncertainty of doing things for the first time. This is exactly what it felt like every time we showed our negative Covid test at any airport. And you know what? The root of the feeling was just the fact that this was very new to us. As long as we made sure to previously check the specific test regulations of each country, and we followed them to the dot, everything turned out fine. Since we had multiple stops, we had to plan and organize accordingly. Here’s an example: We took a flight from San Francisco to Barcelona, with a layover in Lisbon. In order to enter Spain we didn’t need a negative Covid test if we had proof of vaccination but, just to pass through Lisbon, even as a layover, we needed a 72hr negative test. So we ended up doing a test before departure.
Will my kids need to be tested?
Although this question didn’t worry me at all, it was something that I knew I had to check for every place we thought about visiting. Families traveling with children under 2 should be exempt from any testing worldwide, and up until now, from showing any proof of vaccinations. In our case, even as US Citizens, in order to re-enter the country, all of us had to have a Negative Covid Test, including our 3-year-old daughter. This regulation was in effect for any child entering the US who is 2 years and older. If you have children over 2, take a look at the entry requirements of the country you’ll be visiting, to find out if they’d need to be tested.
Where can I take a Covid test while abroad?
They say Google is the best answer seeker don’t you think? 😆 Well it definitely was in our case. When wondering about where we could get tested while abroad, through a simple Google search we were able to find some good options. Something that we took into consideration was having this part sorted out before traveling to avoid last-minute wondering. Other great resources to find information are family members/friends who live in these places as well as Airbnb hosts. You can also find valuable info in Facebook groups and blogs.
How many hours in advance do I need to take a test?
This was a bit overwhelming for us at first since we would be visiting so many places. We wanted to make sure we didn’t get anything mixed up and that we had all needed tests booked in advance. So, going back to the research, we checked where we would need a test vs the vaccine and planned the tests inside the window required for EACH PLACE. I found it super helpful to mark in my calendar the testing dates beforehand. Keep in mind that some countries will ask for a specific “hour” frame for the results, and some countries will let you do “days” which will increase your testing window.
Will my kids be safe?
Believe it or not, I noticed this wasn’t one of my main concerns about traveling with my kids during Covid, although stepping into a foreign country did make me wonder if we would be less safe than at home. Something that helped with this though, was seeing the measurements every airline and country were taking for entry, as well as all the procedures still in place abroad. Most restaurants, museums, pharmacies, stores, etc. that we entered still required masks, and a lot of them only allowed vaccinated individuals inside. Once we were traveling, the idea of my kids being unsafe quickly faded away.
Do I need to be vaccinated?
As of now, you or your kids don’t need to be vaccinated in order to travel to most places although there are countries with stricter rules than others. For example, we were not required to be vaccinated in order to travel to France but, we needed to show proof of vaccination everywhere we wished to enter (bars, restaurants, theaters, stores, cafes. museums, etc). Since there are new updates frequently, I advise you to check on the official webpage of the country you wish to visit beforehand, to find out exactly if you need to be vaccinated.
Will there be food on the plane?
Yep, traveling with kids means you’re probably wondering about the amount of food you’ll need to carry with you, as well as the food you can expect to receive aboard the plane. In all honestly, we were expecting to starve and planned to carry some extra snacks with us. What a nice surprise it was to hear the flight attendant announce that we would be receiving our dinner some hours into our overnight flight. We had heard that with Covid, all meals had been reduced to a bag with crackers and other snacks but after our experience on this trip, I will dare say that inflight meals are back, if you’ll be taking a long flight. (Ours was a 12-hour flight).
Will we need to wear masks the entire plane ride?
After more than a year of constant mask-wearing, this shouldn’t be concerning at all but I figured you’d probably still have this question. So the answer is yes =) You and your kids 2 years and older will need to wear a mask during the entire flight. Masks won’t be required while you’re eating or drinking but you’ll need to wear them when sleeping. At first, I thought it would be uncomfortable to keep our masks on for more than 15 hours straight but noticed that at one point, you kinda forget you’re wearing it. We talked to our 3-year-old in advance to let her know what to expect, and since she could see everyone else at the airport and inside the place wearing a mask, everything turned out very smoothly.
Now that we went over some of the biggest fears I had, I really hope you were able to relate to some of them and get some important answers for your coming trip. The idea was to share my experience and get you to picture how traveling with kids during Covid really is like.
Before finishing up, I’d like to share some useful tips that you can follow to help you have a smooth family trip. Remember to visit each country’s official website to find up-to-date info on regulations and requirements. Even if you’ve checked already, make sure you review the info as your trip approaches.
- Bring a digital copy of your vaccine (if vaccinated). If you live in the US, you should be able to get one from a certified online platform from your State. (I used www.myvaccinerecord.cdph.ca.gov for California)
- Take a print screen of any vaccine records or Covid tests and save them to your phone. This will give you quick access when going through airports and entering various places, and it’ll be a lifesaver if you suddenly don’t have Internet access.
- Be prepared to fill out forms (some online and some printed) for all family members. In some instances, you’ll need to fill individual ones only for everyone 2 years and older, and in some cases, you’ll also need to include babies.
- Arrive at airports with plenty of time. Every time you travel with kids, having extra time will give you a cushion for unexpected bathroom runs, checking travel gear, etc. Now for traveling with kids during Covid regulations, consider everything will take even a bit longer so give yourself additional time to arrive.