I ran into a couple of friends today, who said they’re worried about taking their two young kids on a plane during COVID-19. They’re moving from Los Angeles to Seattle for work and asked if I had any tips.
Of course I do and I learned most of them from our first-ever family trip back in June (LAX-JFK).
1. Splurge For First Class
Medical experts say the riskiest part of catching COVID-19 while traveling is in the airport, since airplanes have hospital grade HEPA filters. Of course, if a person near you has COVID and is coughing, that’s not going to help you, which is why it’s best to splurge for First Class if you can, since you will be surrounded by fewer people. These days, not a lot of business travelers are flying so you can sometimes upgrade for cheap, so always ask.
2. Book The Last Row
We flew Business Class to New York and First Class on the return. I purchased our tickets months in advance using AA miles when there was a sale. It cost me just 20,000 miles per ticket instead of the usual 80,00! In fact, I just booked seats for next summer for the same amount. FYI: For both trips, we made sure we had the last rows of those cabins so no one was breathing on us from behind. Tip: Not all cabins are created equal so make sure the toilet isn’t located near you for obvious reasons.
3. Check-in online
I asked my friends (the ones who asked me for my tips) if they were checking bags. Of course they were since they’re moving and traveling with two little kids. If they weren’t checking luggage, they could have just printed their boarding passes at home and then gone straight to security.
4. Use Curbside Check-in
If you’re checking bags, you can see if the airport and your airline offer curbside check-in. In the past, I would use one of American Airlines’ porters working curbside to check-in but they didn’t have any available when we flew. But it looks like they are back, which is great. Just bring some cash to tip them.
5. Have Family Wait Outside
This is the most important tip, which my friends loved and was the inspiration for this post. I told them that when we arrived at LAX 90 minutes before our flight and I saw that the line to check in was fairly long and slow (and that was the Priority Line), my spur of the moment idea was for my wife and kids to wait outside while I waited in line. When I was next up, I texted my wife and she and the kids went right to the front, she showed her ID and we all got our tickets.
Doing this not only minimized the kids’ time inside the airport but made the whole experience safer and more pleasurable for everyone in the line. I suggest doing this with older people or those who have a compromised immune system.
6. Get TSA Pre and CLEAR
Having TSA Pre and CLEAR allows you to skip any long security lines. TSA Pre takes advance planning but with CLEAR, you can sign up for it at the airport if it’s offered there.
7. Find A Quiet Place
Once through security, go to a part of the airport that isn’t crowded and wait for your flight to board. Just be sure you don’t miss any announcements since sometime gates change or they board early.
8. Be The Last To Board
Once they start boarding, mill around the gate but away from people and then be the last to board as long as you don’t need any overhead space. We did this and we didn’t have to wait in any long lines on the jetway or have passengers walking past us, since we were sitting near the front of the plane.
9. Avoid Crowds at the Baggage Carousel
The best thing you can do is travel with carry-on only so you can avoid the crowds at baggage claim altogether. But if you’re traveling as a family, that’s often impossible to do, in which case, the tip from above applies here as well. Don’t everyone stand around packed tightly together like this crazy crowd (pictured above) that was at LAX upon our return.
So there you have it! Anything I’ve missed? How have you stayed safe when you’ve traveled during the pandemic?
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