What to Expect Flying Across Country: The Pandemic Edition

Thinking about taking a plane ride, vacation, during a pandemic? With kids? I’d suggest not after having lived through it recently. However, if you must (like we had to!) – I’m happy to share my experience and tips.

A few friends and followers have asked what it was like flying across the country during these challenging times, three kids in tow. Well, it was decently stressful. 

Planning for our trip kept me up at night. Let’s be clear – this was not a vacation we were “looking forward to” or choosing to do in the middle of a pandemic because we have given up on it all. No, no. We are still in full ‘global pandemic mode’ regardless of the country ‘opening back up’ and people thinking going to an indoor bar is a safe place to be right now. 

We believe in math and science in this house. 

Facts are facts, the U.S. is not a safe place right now, less a few very small pockets of places around the country. Moving my whole family across the country during this time? Exhausting and nerve-racking. Let’s set aside the whole mess of packing up part of our belongings for storage that we won’t see for months, selling/donating a bunch of other stuff, and figuring out how to fit the remaining crap into suitcases manageable to get across the country. Focusing on the travel itself… 

We did not want to take an Uber or Lyft to the airport. Even though the companies are operating with safety protocols in place – I do not know the drivers and the personal precautions they or their household members are taking or not taking on a daily basis. I don’t know how many passengers have recently been in the car, or if the car was disinfected before our ride (likely not). We were lucky enough to have two of our local babysitters free at 6am on a Friday (haha, poor things!!) to drive us to the airport. Of course I paid a premium for their super early rise and roundtrip help getting to the airport – but I knew they were the safest option. We drove to the airport with the windows all cracked and all the adults wore masks. (and yes, we needed TWO SUVs to get our 3 kids and 3 adults + 10 pieces of luggage – including strollers – to the airport). 

Wes & C are old enough to not be confined to a stroller for most outings these days but for the airport – we brought both our double and single stroller to lock everyone in. I didn’t want my 3 year old and 2 year old running free around the airport – falling and touching the floor or random other airport ‘stuff’. I also wanted to keep us away from other people, and they are social little creatures. So, they were locked in – unhappily. P – she was happy to stroll around in her car seat covered up and had no clue where we were or when – happily. 

We arrived at the airport exactly an hour and 10 minutes before our flight. However, checking our 10 pieces of luggage (two toddler car seats and a box of frozen breastmilk included) was taking forever! Finally, the agent charged our credit card and told us just to “GO!” because our flight was already boarding. Matt and I filed for pre-check years ago, which comes in SO handy during this time. It includes all of our kids – which means everyone can keep their shoes on and laptops in bags. Thank god. However, our lovely au pair who is moving with us right now, does not have TSA pre-check and she got held up for an extra 15 minutes. 

(When we were checking in, the guy next to us immediately took off his mask to talk to the agent at 3 feet distance and then never put it back on. I watched him rub his runny nose 3x times and then touch his ID, credit card and bags – handing them back and forth to the agent and knew that kind of guy was bound to be on my flight). 

We were the last people on our Jetblue flight, which was not the plan (except for the rubbing his nose/no mask guy we saw at check-in who then sat diagonal from me). We had to walk by every person in the 20 rows ahead of us since we were late, but everyone had masks on and every middle seat was empty, which gave me reassurance. 

Once we got to our rows (the 6 of us took up three rows since middle seats were blocked), I whipped out my canister of lysol wipes (yup, I am that person) and wiped down everything. Especially where the kids were sitting since they like to touch everything! I also used seat covers on all our chairs but I am not sure I would necessarily do that again unless the seats were fabric (which they were not on Jetblue). We had hand sanitizer in everyone’s backpack/purse – and washed the kids hands before each snack they had (which was a million since it was a 6 hour flight). 

Honestly, the flight went as smooth as I could have imagined. The kids were all ANGELS. The boys watched iPads the entire time, and baby P slept most of the time – only getting out of her covered car seat once the entire flight (I bottle fed her in her seat a few times and she was happy with that). 

No one had a poopy diaper through the airport or the plane ride so I did not change anyone’s diaper until after the fact (W was in a pull-up even though he is potty trained I didn’t want him to have to use the bathroom if we could avoid it). I literally did not give them fruits or veggies for 24 hours before the flight to try to avoid changing diapers. 

The only ruffle in the whole thing was the nose-rubbing-no-mask-wearing guy diagonal from me sat with another guy who didn’t want to wear a mask (they just pulled them down to their chins the entire time and if a flight attendant came by, they pulled them back up for 5 seconds). At one point when I was standing up to give the boys a snack, I turned to them both and finally addressed the issue as nicely as I possibly could (I had thought about it for like 15 minutes, I am not going to lie). “I noticed you both aren’t wearing your masks. I realize they are super uncomfortable. Can I offer you a more comfortable mask? I have brand new ones still in their packages in my bag – the kind I am wearing now” I said as I pointed to the mask covering my nose and mouth. “These masks are not horrible, and I’d be happy to give you each one if you’d like.” Their faces went from annoyed/mean to apprehensive all in 45-50 seconds. They clearly wanted to fight me on the issue but I wasn’t being an asshole and even offered them a ‘gift’ – so what were they going to say, right? They both immediately pulled their masks up over their nose and mouth and declined my offer ever so politely. My husband said he had his phone ready to capture their reactions – he thought I was about to start an airplane brawl. 

Anyways – once we were off the flight and got ourselves to luggage claim we felt relieved. Until our bags didn’t come. For an hour. Only ours and a handful of other peoples were missing. I was sick to my stomach that we weren’t going to be able to get from Boston to Rhode Island (my dad and brother were already sitting in cars outside!) without our car seats, and my poor frozen breast milk was going to be lost forever! But more than an hour later – all our luggage came out and we were able to head home.

We had shipped our car to Rhode Island 3 weeks ahead of time, it was a pleasant sight exiting the airport to have it waiting curbside for us! My brother and my dad drove our car and their car to Boston Logan for us, left the key in our cupholder, viola! They took all our luggage in their SUV and we drove our crew in our car to R.I. in our separate car. This plan allowed us to protect them from all the germs we might have been carrying with us after two airports and a plane ride. We never got in a car with them, and sadly never even got to hug them. 

Once in R.I. – they dropped our luggage in the driveway and we piled into the house for immediate showers and clean clothes. We have been quarantining alone at my parents house ever since, as they have generously stayed at their friends vacant cottage 15-minutes away. They have come by some evening since then to say hello to us after the kids have gone to sleep – we stay outside 10 feet away and share nothing. Tomorrow is finally the end of our quarantining – we can’t wait for them to come home and combine our social-distancing-bubble!

All in all – it was super stressful but we felt like Jetblue did a great job and we hope they continue with it. We did not feel the same about our flight to Southwest (my husband and I had to go for a quick day trip to start the closing process on our new house). 

Some pro-tips: 

  • Bring lysol and hand sanitizer (make sure you have the RIGHT sanitizer – they are not all equal. CDC does not have a recommended alternative to hand rub products with greater than 60% ethanol or 70% isopropanol as active ingredients.)
  • Bring extra face masks.
  • Lock your kid’s in their car seats. Consider using rain covers as a protective measure getting through the airport if you airport is busy.
  • We had groceries and Freshly meals delivered to my parents house the day before we arrived. That meant we had food to eat immediately upon getting here and didn’t have to stress about dinners for the whole family after a long day of travel.
  • I used the Freshly meal delivery box, and the ice pack and insulation that comes with it to bring my frozen milk across the country. It worked way better than the box I sent through Milk Stork (and that one cost me a billion dollars!) The Freshly box is HUGE and fits 3 weeks worth of milk into. I used the insulation and ice packs it comes with and taped it shut, checked it in at the airport, and drove 2 hours from the airport to Rhode Island and it was all still completely frozen! It was also ‘free’ since I get Freshly for their meals and not their box. Thanks Freshly! 

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