We all know times have changed and life is anything but normal. But, until we traveled 14 hours from Tel Aviv to Los Angeles during the coronavirus pandemic, suited up in masks as we walked through deserted airports, I didn’t realize just how much our world has changed.
When it comes to travel, everything we used to know and anticipate has changed. The airport feels eerily apocalyptic. This will likely change sooner than we know it, but as I write this on June 16, 2020, the airport is a ghost town. It’s sadly apparent the airline and tourism industry is shattered -hopefully just temporarily. Our experience flying during the coronavirus pandemic: Traveling with 3 out of 4 of our kids, despite the weirdness, was certainly an unforgettable adventure. We even saw a woman wearing a mask, a shield, and swimming goggles!
I thought I’d share some bits of my family’s experiences and hopefully help guide you with information so you can prepare for your next journey in our new travel world.
Before You Fly
Packing well is more essential during the coronavirus than ever before, since luxuries like restaurants and lounges may be closed in your location. You’ll also need to pack a Sanitizing Kit to stay safe. I packed each of my family members the following:
- A few face masks
- Face shields
- A few pair of gloves
- Hand sanitizer (I prefer the spray type)
- Antibacterial wipes and tissues
We used these things pretty frequently and many airplanes also demand them, so get equipped. Hazmat suits are not a terrible idea either!
You’re also want to pack food for the entire journey. Depending on your city, restaurants and lounges may be closed. And depending on your airline, airplane food options might be scarce.
For a day flight, bring some fresh food that you’ll consume within two hours — think salads, cut up veggies and dips, hard-boiled eggs or frittatas, or even sushi. We took a night flight, so I packed things that can last: gluten-free peanut butter sandwiches, seaweed snacks, nuts, granola, bars, canned sardines, or tuna. We normally pack emergency snacks that we rarely touch, but this time we polished them all off (well, except the tuna. Although I was craving protein, I couldn’t bare stinking up the cabin. Saved the tuna for landing!)
I also packed throat lozenges and gum for dry airplane air. Pack any other necessities you need, like earplugs, eye masks, cosmetics, medicine, disposable slippers that you can chuck at the end of the flight, and a change of clothing for long haul flights.
Bonus: Pack an empty water bottle.
Arriving At The Airport
Arrive to the airport early than usual because many airlines and security personnel are understaffed due to the coronavirus. We got there 4 hours early. I usually arrive closer to an hour before my flight, so that was a big deal!
Despite empty airports, be prepared for possible longer wait times. You just never know. There may be additional screenings upon arrival and again at check ins. For example, we had to sign declarations and forms, and there were very few check in counters. However, a fun bonus was breezing through empty security lines! Basically, just go with the flow. Hey, be flexible! I find that packing a dose of patience might be the most important thing you take with you.
Wipe down everything you touch with antibacterial wipes: seatbelt, tray table, remote, tv, armrest, everything. We brought a few large packs of wipes and didn’t go near a thing until our seats were clean.
Wear a Mask
We wore a mask for the entire 14-hour flight. I was admittedly anxious about being claustrophobic for so long, but you kind of get used to it. It’s better than it sounds. We wore the basic hospital blue masks because I find them the most breathable for that long. It’s hard to wear the N95 the entire time. Most people were following the rules, although I imagine it’s different on other flights and carriers. We were lucky because I hear about a lot of domestic USA flights that are jam-packed.
We wound up just using the bathroom as usual and touching everything, but NOT our faces at all costs. Then, upon exiting, we washed our hands well and used gloves or towels to open the door. Then, we sanitized hands with spray again back at our seat. The alternative is to wear a new pair of gloves at every bathroom trip, but then it gets kind of awkward doing your business in gloves. Your choice!
My 7-year-old was frightened when we got to our seat. Flight attendants wore hazmat suits and he was teary-eyed as I dettol-wiped his seat squeaky clean. He wore his mask the whole flight and was worried, but it’s remarkable what you can get used to. I took him to the bathroom and ensured his cleanliness. But beyond that, he was fine and self-sufficient. My recommendation: Just reassure your kids that they’re safe and use this as an adventure. He certainly won’t forget this trip!
Here’s How We Felt
While our trip was efficient and drama-free, there was something disturbing about it on a psychological level. Suited stewardesses have to be really careful. So, as a passenger, you kind of feel like you have cooties. The food (that we didn’t touch) was served on disposable everything and looked like it was packed 5 years ago -nothing hot or fresh. We didn’t interact with, or speak to, another human — usually, I meet interesting people on planes, but everyone is wearing masks and there’s zero contact. It’s also a lot of work to keep cleaning, wiping, and being careful not to touch your face — so we were semi on edge
Despite this, I’d do this again. I do think we all have to go back to living our lives, and, for us, that means travel. But I’m really hoping that people continue to be vigilant so we can all stay safe during the coronavirus pandemic. In this case, it does take a village!