Traveling with Unvaccinated Children
While travels have opened up and parents are seeking some semblance of normal for themselves and the children, it's still a challenge. COVID-19 is still a threat and cases are surging in many parts of the world.
After two years into a pandemic, families are itching to take that long overdue vacation, but not all children are vaccinated. The question is: how do you travel safely with unvaccinated children and what are some ways to minimize the risks?
It's a long and confusing exercise for families to figure out safe travel options. We'll answer a few important questions from families who are traveling with unvaccinated children.
Is It Safe to Travel?
In the United States, domestic travel is now considered low risk, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). All public health bodies recommend putting all the non-essential international travel plans on hold. However, if you're fully vaccinated or have a negative Covid test report taken within 24-72 hours, depending on the destination, you can travel safely to countries that are open to visitors.
What Are the Symptoms and Risks of Covid for Children?
Experts are still learning about the virus. Many children who contracted the virus were either asymptomatic or have reported milder infection. However, some children have reported symptoms caused by inflammation throughout the body, otherwise known as multi-system inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C). MIS-C is a serious condition that appears to be linked to coronavirus disease, but most children who have been diagnosed with MIS-C have recovered with medical care.
Common symptoms of Covid on children include:
- Shortness of breath
- Loss of smell and taste
- Abdominal pain
If your child has reported any of the symptoms, seek care immediately. You can start with our Parent's checklist for successful travel during Covid.
It's also a good idea to pack carefully. Pack medication and first aid materials that you may need during your trip and pandemic travel essentials such as:
- Face masks
- Alcohol-based hand sanitizer (at least 60% alcohol)
- Disinfectant wipes (at least 70% alcohol) for surfaces
Should You Vaccinate Your Children?
The Food and Drug Administration authorized the emergency use of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 for adolescents between 12 to 15 years of age on May 10, 2021.
The Kaiser Family Foundation recently released a survey showing less than a third of parents say they plan to get their children vaccinated and another 32% said they would "wait and see."
The Centers for Disease Control and The American Academy of Pediatrics endorsed the decision. Available data from the ongoing clinical trial of children in the U.S. aged 12 to 15 suggests that the Covid vaccine was found to be 100% effective in preventing symptomatic Covid.
Ongoing studies will continue to follow vaccinated children closely and robust safety monitoring will help identify any rare or unexpected concerns if they emerge. Consult your doctor before making any decision for your children.
TSA's mask mandate applies to children two years and older, with exemptions for certain disabilities. It may be difficult for children to keep their masks on at all times. Traveling with children vaccinated or unvaccinated is challenging. But, with a little planning and patience, it's possible to have a memorable vacation.
This chart shows what action parents have taken regarding vaccination based on the age of their child.
How to Travel Safely?
Firstly, practice the holy trinity of safety - wear a mask at all times, wash your hands regularly, and keep six feet distance.
Secondly, get good travel medical insurance that covers medical emergencies. Travel medical insurance plans such as Cover-America Gold cover Covid for people traveling to the U.S. who aren't citizens or residents. Other popular travel insurance plans include Atlas America, Patriot America Plus, and ChoiceAmerica.
Thirdly, get tested within 24-72 hours before your trip and after your trip. If you have other family members that were not part of your travel bubble, self-quarantine for seven to ten days after the trip to limit exposure.
Lastly, try to stick to outdoor activities such as camping and hiking. Keeping in mind the overstretched healthcare system, avoid adventures that are considered high risk in general. If you are planning on participating in any form of adventure sports, ensure that you have travel insurance that covers adventure sports.
Investing in good travel medical insurance will cover the emergency medical assistance you may need while you are traveling. If you have a big family of more than five members, consider group travel insurance, which sometimes offers cheaper rates.
Is It Safe to Travel by Air?
Technically, air circulation and filtration systems in aircrafts prevent viruses from spreading easily. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has also increased sanitation and disinfection protocols across all airports. However, crowded airports and flights make social distancing difficult.
The idea of maneuvering in a crowded airport and ensuring that children adhere to safety guidelines amid an already stressful travel schedule can be overwhelming. If you're traveling by air, here is your safety checklist:
- Book a direct flight
- Avoid crowded areas inside the airport and at travel destinations
- Find out hotspots and infection rates of your destination
Where Should We Stay?
Renting the whole space for your family through Airbnb or any of the vacation rental providers is considered a lower-risk option. You can also choose regular hotels and motels, provided they follow public health guidelines, which include:
- Enhanced cleaning procedures
- 24 hour waiting period between guests
- Strict social distancing measures
- Masking of staff and guests
- Contactless payment
Regardless of the place you choose to stay in, make sure you disinfect surfaces such as doorknobs, light switches, tables, faucets, etc before using. And ensure that the children are wearing their masks at all times and avoid crowded places.
What if We Change Our Minds?
Life is uncertain and changes in plans are inevitable. While fewer children get seriously sick with the virus, according to the CDC, it’s still possible for them to become infected.
If there's a sudden surge of infections or you're getting cold feet at the last moment, travel insurance with a Cancel For Any Reason option protects you from the financial risk.
Traveling is still limited across the globe, and safety measures are much more strict right now. Ensuring safety of your children in this Covid climate is paramount. But by taking precautions like available vaccinations and travel insurance, you can travel with greater peace of mind.