Travel + kids + pandemic – Ab yeh bhi Karo na!

Travelling with kids anyway is not my favourite part of being a parent BUT and it’s a BIG BUT, travelling during a worldwide pandemic is the scariest thing I have ever had to do in recent times (and I’m a rollercoaster junkie you guys).

So, here’s how I travelled with my 7 year old daughter and my 2 year old son from Mumbai to Lucknow. The first step was to convince myself to travel… I read dozens of articles, interviews and saw random YouTube videos (even the ones with only a few hundred views and incomprehensible English – I mean, the pandemic has given everybody the confidence to become a social influencer, just like with alcohol – paranoia, confidence and delusion, sab milega!) Khair! It took me two months of research, stalking my friends and acquaintances on various platforms for a hint of travel and as soon as I would find it, my DM would magically appear on their profiles. Side note – one thing that I feel has changed for the better during this pandemic is that everyone wants to help, no matter who they are, what they want, if they can, they will do everything in their power to help others, no matter what the relationship. Thanks to my friends, a few articles, some sleepless nights of googling and both mothers asking me ‘toh beta, when are you coming?’ some 15 kazillion times, we mustered up the courage to book our tickets.

The planning starts as soon as you decide to travel. According to my research (btw, I could’ve got a doctorate TWICE with the amount of research I did day and night for this trip) morning and direct flights are better as the airports are less crowded and everything is freshly sanitized. So, we took the 10:30 am flight (which was the earlier of the two daily flights shuttling between Mumbai and Lucknow). You need to print-out your tickets; or even better, block your seats and print out your boarding pass for zero contact. The most important aspect is the ‘Arogya Setu’ app., authorities will NOT let anyone enter without seeing the app. (which I personally feel is a sham as alot of people are not there on the app and we are relying on people to tell the truth, which as we all know, is not in our DNA.)

Once you enter the airport (me with 2 kids and very limited handbags as they do not encourage carry on and nothing in the over-head bins, so we had to carry small bags which we could put under our seats. I travel with my backpack anyway with both the kids (which travels well always! #backpackloverforever) you go to the check-in counter, drop off your bags and head for boarding. All this was done keeping social distancing regulations in mind for which you have to reach at least 2.5 hours before your flight, which is a small price to pay if you ask me. Fortunately for some (i.e. me), due to no international flights, all domestic flights are taking off from the international airport so there was a lot of space and aero bridge!!! Woo hoo! Also, must say, one of the things that I had heard repeatedly from all those who had travelled was, no civic sense, people were pushing, shoving, not wearing masks, breathing on each other and I’m not going to say it didn’t happen, it did – but not as much as I thought it would.

Once we reached our boarding gate, people were sitting one seat apart as they had blocked every alternate seat with paper but, there will always be rebels who would fit their kids on those seats or try and stuff their bags or bottles on the empty seats. So, we went to one corner, occupied two benches and settled in with bag and baggage there, away from everyone.

Now one of the most important things that we did was that we bought one box of disposable masks, one box of disposable gloves and two shields per traveler. Disposable masks for little children are not available so I bought 3 cotton masks and kept changing them. After every checkpoint, we disposed our masks and gloves and wore fresh ones. We changed after check- in, after security check and before eating at the gate, that was also before boarding and once before landing.

Once we reached the gate, we sanitized everything including the seats in front of us, as the little ones tend to touch everything in front of them. We threw the disposable masks, gloves and ate food. Now, I got a good hack from a friend for food (had made stuffed paratha rolls and sandwiches) which I had wrapped in foil in such a way that we only had to peel and eat it. Do try to keep your shield on even while eating, have zero skin contact with the food. I had carried warm water for the kids in their self – insulated bottles, which helped, keep them warm as well as disinfect their throat every time they drank some.

PS – going the loo is also tricky. Carry a surface sanitizer and sanitize the hell out of everything you touch i.e. seats in the loo, the tap before you wash, knobs and door handles, diaper changing station (carry your own changing pad) and then dispose the gloves and masks. Wash your hands thoroughly, then wear fresh gloves plus mask and you are ready.

The airlines board according to row numbers which is another thing to keep in mind while booking tickets. Try and block seats in the first 3 – 5 rows if possible as the airlines board from the back and deplane from the front. We were in the 3rd row from the front, we boarded last and deplaned first which was awesome! The airlines provide face shields at the boarding gate but honestly, I found the material to be rather weird as I couldn’t see clearly through them. We changed our shields to the second one that we had bought before we boarded. 

On the flight, food and beverages are not served (honestly, not missing out on much there) and you are not allowed to eat anything, even if you have carried it with you from home. Therefore, eating before you board is important especially if you have kids along. Also, do not use the washroom on the flight (go before boarding), as you will need to change your gloves and masks.

Early morning flights also work better with kids as this is when they can doze off, in which case you can remove their mask while leaving the shield on to let them breathe. Avoid taking tablets, books, toys unless absolutely necessary as sanitizing these can be a pain and also if not properly sanitized, there is a risk they could be carrying the virus.

Once we landed, Lucknow airport was completely empty. We walked out (thank you aerobridge! Woohoo again!!) , took our stroller bags (a few airports like Lucknow have removed luggage trolleys so it is better to travel with stroller bags, even better if they turn 360 degrees) and went to our personal car. Avoid public transport especially if you are travelling with children. If you do not have a personal vehicle, request a family member who can drive you. If that also is not possible, take a cab but sanitise it to your hearts content and then some… remove your gloves and masks before you enter and put on fresh gloves and masks once inside.First things first, once you reach your destination – breathe a sigh of relief; tell your kids they did well and then assume you have the virus even before you get home. We were coming to my parents house who are in the high risk category so we did not touch, hug or even touch feet once we reached home. My mother-in-law got a fogging machine that was superb so she fogged us all and then we entered. We left the baggage outside (since I had kept one change for everyone in a carry on) something, I anyway do when I travel with kids. I changed, gave both the kids baths – head to toe is important! We had warm kaadha, turmeric milk and the works.

Quarantine yourself for 10-14 days and presume that you have the virus. Don’t ineteract with anyone, sanitize everything that you had worn or carried – very important to use soap and Dettol or any antiseptic at least once.

Finally, a couple of things before I end this saga – prepare your kids for a week or at least 3-4 days. Make them wear their masks, talk to them about not touching their face or anything or anyone. Also, most importantly, don’t panic!!!! Breathe and stay positive because only then can you think straight. Everyone’s journey is different and as mothers we need to have our instincts working at their best. Stay Safe!

By – Roli Singh

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