Like kids streaming out of school the last day before summer vacation, we are ready to soar! Vaccine card? Check. Masks? Check. Bored out of our minds? Check, check, check.
Leaving the kids with the grandparents is so last century. These days, according to VRBO’s annual Travel Trend Report, parents aren’t only bringing their COVID-weary children along for the ride, half of parents are likely to let their kids choose the destination, and 43 percent are likely to let their little people miss school for a trip. Of course, kids are like, Where’s the confetti?
And if the kids want to bring a friend along? One in three parents are all for it. But here’s where VRBO really nails it: More than half of the parents are insisting that kids turn off their devices and you know, play UNO, build a sand castle on the beach, or ride bikes. And if old-fashioned fun doesn’t cut it? A fire pit, marshmallows, and chocolate should get their attention.
That said, I’ve gathered the most current need-to-know info for parents traveling with the snickerdoodle-set at home and abroad.
Vaccines, the Kids, and Travel
Traveling with kids has never been a cakewalk. Adding pandemic safety to the equation? Trickier, but doable. The following information is assuming that you and your partner and older kids are fully vaccinated. According to the CDC, the younger set (ages five to eleven) are eligible for the Pfizer vaccine. Check with your pediatrician or local pharmacy to schedule vaccinations. As I write this, a vaccine for ages four and under continues to be studied and is slated to be available sometime this spring.
Experts agree, road trips are the safest way to go. Outfit your ride with great food and drinks, and only stop for speedy (and masked!) potty breaks.
Is your family flying? The latest is – vaccinated or not – everyone ages two and up must wear masks in the airport, on the plane, and on all modes of public transportation. And good news: The TSA is now allowing us to take 12-ounce bottles of hand sanitizer in our carry-on bags for each family member.
If you can get them, direct flights are smart because it exposes families to fewer people. Be sure to pack snacks into your handbag for a flight. It’s iffy whether the airlines are handing out snacks or drinks these days.
When you land, continue to avoid crowds and maintain distance from others when possible. Six feet of space is still recommended.
If you’re staying in a hotel and your kids love a pool, call the hotel in advance to determine whether they have an indoor or outdoor pool. An outdoor pool is safer, and some hotels with indoor pools have initiated a by-appointment-only arrangement for crowd-control purposes.
Also ask how the hotel is handling breakfast if you booked a free breakfast property. The current trend in family value hotels seems to be giving each guest a paper bag with a breakfast assortment inside. Think: small yogurt cup, juice box, a tiny meat patty (to nuke in your room), and a small orange. I have to say, this has not resulted in happy breakfast campers in these parts.
As of this publish date, many family recreation and entertainment venues – like museums and theatres – are taking a novel approach to the pandemic by booking reservations with entry times in advance. This keeps numbers down and helps guests maintain that crucial six feet of distance. Unfortunately, it also eliminates flexibility for out-of-town guests like you.
If you have something exciting in mind for the kids, look online or call ahead to ask about their COVID-safety rules. My nieces and I missed out on a fun aquarium outing because I didn’t know to reserve a time slot. Our loss.
The world is still adjusting to the complexity of the COVID era. Here’s a taste of what you need to know.
As the variant changes so changes the countries’ responses. For example if you’re headed overseas, dig deep as you research the country’s COVID history and current requirements for the vaccination passport. Because here’s the thing, you don’t want to travel to an open country that goes into lockdown during your visit and won’t allow you to leave your hotel or the country when it’s time to travel home.
But don’t assume that your regular passport is fine. This new piece of red tape may be a tad confusing, but stick with me. According to AAA travel advisors, many countries now require that our passport expiration date be at least six months after the date of our return travel date.
Say, you’re going to London for one week in January. Your passport must be updated for six months after you return in January from England. Why? Given the rapidly changing COVID-19 landscape, other nations don’t want to risk being stuck with us (and the logistics) if our passports expire while we’re visiting London.
If you’re planning the trip of a lifetime or any trip costing big bucks – no matter where you trek! – seriously consider purchasing travel insurance. It’s true that at one time travel insurance didn’t cover epidemics or pandemics, but that has changed. Many policies now offer insurance that includes outbreaks.
Who knew that several types of travel insurance are available? Here’s where to start for family travel:
Health insurance. We were on a cruise and docked in Mexico when my son fell out of the top bunk in our cabin. We paid out-of-pocket for a CT scan (fancy X-ray) that showed he was fine, no concussion. My takeaway: While we paid for the CT scan and were eventually reimbursed, I wish I’d talked with my health insurance company in advance of the trip. For peace of mind, if you have private insurance, call the phone number on the back of your health card to get a full picture of your coverage’s ins and outs on international travel.
Travel Insurance. Specific types of travel insurance usually cover natural disasters, passport theft, even jury duty. But travel insurance is not a one-size-fits-all.
As you research the right policy for your family, take careful note of exclusions and ask whether a particular policy covers any or all of the COVID variants. The great news is that insurance carriers consider kids free (up to age seventeen) and policies can also be purchased for young adults traveling with their parents (eighteen to twenty-six, as long as the parent or grandparent is with the junior adult). That’s right, grandparents can purchase a family travel policy, too.
To find the right policy for your family, consumer expert Clark Howard recommends beginning with InsureMyTrip.com that compares and contrasts many policies. Other sites to dig into include Clark.com, NerdWallet.com, Forbes.com, or Money.com.
Two years into the COVID-19 pandemic, we sadly can’t call a do-over. It’s been frightening, funny (that run on toilet paper, wiping down our groceries), mind-numbing, and tragic all at once. Still, the people who have passed away would implore us to go on living. So this travel mom says go! Life is short. Take the kids somewhere incredible, visit family and friends, embrace life with enthusiasm. But go!