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Dec 10, 2020

Kids and Covid 19: 2020 Holiday Travel

We have all heard from the experts: do not travel this holiday season – it is unsafe and we need to get this virus under control. Notwithstanding that important advice, the reality is that some of us will still travel and we will be traveling with children.Even among family members there are differing views of what is and what is not safe about traveling during the pandemic. We encourage you to respect others’ boundaries and views.

Some additional suggestions to consider:

1. Local guidelines. If there is a disagreement, follow the local guidelines for travel. You may not like the outcome or how it affects you, your children or the family plans, but remember: this is not permanent. If all goes as planned, by next year, we should be spending holidays with extended family members again. Get tested before you travel. We recently had a family trip planned, with a prerequisite that all family members test negative for the virus prior to arrival at the family cottage. To everyone’s shock, three out of ten family members tested positive for the virus; all three had no symptoms. The family gathering was canceled.

2. Guidelines at your destination. Check the guidelines or mandates in the location you intend to travel to, particularly if outside of the USA. Mandatory quarantines are in place in some locales and guidelines are often changing weekly. Even if you can travel to the locale, you could be required to quarantine upon arrival, or not be able to return home on the dates as planned, especially if you develop symptoms of an illness.

3. Preparing the children. We have all had age appropriate discussions with our children about the virus and steps needed to protect ourselves. Explain the travel plan and the time frames involved prior to the trip. Reinforce the importance and requirement of wearing masks in public locations and social distancing. They should keep their hands to themselves and be aware of unnecessarily touching surfaces. Wash or disinfect hands frequently. Stay away from indoor restaurants and crowded rest areas. In the past, it may have been fun to meet and converse with fellow travelers on long trips; probably not such a good idea in these times.

4. Who else will be at the location you are traveling to? Have they been tested? I recently attended a very small wedding (25 people). Every guest was required to produce a negative COVID-19 test taken within 2 days of arrival at the wedding. You may trust those in your “bubble” but honestly, do you know who your friends and family have been in contact with? Be careful: many of us have different views of what constitutes “safe” behavior.

5. Travel by car. If you can reach your destination in a day of travel, seriously consider this as an option. Be sure your children follow established protocol: maintain distance in crowded rest areas, keep your hands to yourself, your masks on and frequently sanitize or wash hands. If staying in a hotel, ask for a room that has not been used in the prior 48 or 24 hours. Sanitize frequently used surfaces such as counters, desks, TV remote and door handles. Avoid the gym.

6. Air Travel. Recent studies have concluded that viral transmission on an airplane is minimal, even at full seating capacity, compared to other enclosed spaces. Why? HEPA filtered recirculation on airplanes, very high air exchange rate and downward ventilation design. Another study showed that microparticles are removed from the air on an airplane 15 times faster than in a typical house, which means microparticles are removed in six minutes on an airplane compared to 1.5 hours in a house. This means the risk may be lower on an airplane than in other enclosed spaces but does not leave you risk free. Book a direct flight and try to avoid layovers, which place you in airports for longer periods of time. My experience is that although I book direct flights, recently the airlines have been changing my direct flights to connecting flights and I have had little choice in the matter. Masks must be worn the entire time you are on a plane, except for only brief removal if you are eating or drinking. Make sure your children understand the importance of keeping the mask on, which can be uncomfortable on longer flights. Stay back at crowded gates while boarding or deplaning. Seats and trays are supposedly sterilized between all flights; however, it is wise to carry your own sanitizer and clean seats, arm rests and trays before you sit down. Airports have hand sanitizer dispensers set up at numerous locations. Bring your own disinfectants. Despite what they advertise, most airlines have stopped limiting the number of passengers on a plane, so you are less likely to have empty seats on either side of you. As soon as you are seated, turn on the fan above your seat for increased air circulation. Bring your own food and drink for the plane ride as generally food is no longer served; on some flights you might receive bottled water as you board.

7. After your trip. A few days after arrival back home, your children and fellow travelers need to get tested and self- quarantine for 5-14 days. Remember: you may feel fine, but you want to be sure you have not picked up a virus that you could potentially spread to another.

To emphasize: Grunyk Family Law is not encouraging or condoning travel during these peak COVID infectious times – but if you must travel, or your co-parent will be traveling with your children, keeping these suggestions in mind while planning can help keep everyone safe. We wish a safe and happy holiday to all families!

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