When quarantine restrictions were eased to allow children to go out, it was a breath of fresh air for parents and literally for the kids. During the lockdown, mommies and daddies have been scrambling for other ways to keep the fun but limit the use of gadgets for the young ones, and to spare them from anxiety and quarantine fatigue.
Now that they can go to parks, zoos, playgrounds, museums, beaches, and even inside the malls, children can explore more of what they’ve missed at the height of the pandemic. But for parents, who are likewise excited to bring their children out of their homes, it means a tough balancing act of letting them enjoy and ensuring they are safe, especially from the virus.
Restrictions and protocols
Generally, kids are allowed to go out, but there are still restrictions. Under the current COVID-19 Alert Level System imposed by the government, if an area is under Alert Level 4, point-to-point travel and staycations are only allowed if a minor is already fully vaccinated. Children living in areas under Alert Levels 2 and 3 are allowed to go on leisure travel, but still subject to restrictions as may be imposed by their own local government unit (LGU) or the LGU destination. Under Alert Level 1, intrazonal and interzonal movement is allowed without regard to age.
When going out, children need to wear face masks all the time. But for children below two years old, wearing of face masks is not encouraged as these may cause airway obstruction, according to the Department of Health. If you have very young kids, it’s better to limit travel to open air destinations.
The Philippine Pediatric Society (PPS) and the Pediatric Infectious Disease Society of the Philippines (PIDSP) strongly recommends children to remain home to minimize the risk of getting infected, but released a Joint Advisory for parents on the prevention of COVID-19 infection in children for settings outside the home.
We also interviewed moms who have already traveled with their kids and we asked them to share practical tips for parents when traveling with their children in the new normal.
1. Make sure the destination allows kids. Research on or call the site/s you plan to visit.
Whether it’s just a day trip to the beach, visit to the zoo, or an overnight staycation, planning is always important. You need to research if the place you plan to visit already allows kids and if there are any requirements prior to entry.
Kate Sarao, a 30-year-old mom of three, went with her family to an open park and mall in Pasay. She did not expect that many establishments have yet to allow entry of kids, and that there were places where social distancing was not properly observed.
She advises moms to contact the place ahead of time to know the restrictions and operating days and hours. It’s also helpful to join online groups for parents to have an overview on what to expect when visiting some destinations.
Make sure to visit only establishments that are compliant to government-issued health and safety protocols.
2. When traveling to another region or via plane, make sure you have all the travel requirements.
When Kathrina Salvador, 36 years old and mother of three, traveled with her family during the pandemic, their first destination was Boracay. The most tedious part for her was submitting the requirements individually, such as QR codes and other forms prescribed by the LGU.
To ensure a safe and hassle-free vacation, Salvador advises moms to download all the forms and other requirements, and double check when submitting to the LGU.
Eden Orozco, a 37-year-old mom of one, also went to Boracay for their first family vacation during the pandemic. She said it’s important to always monitor the news, especially since there are travel updates almost every week.
The Department of Tourism provides a list of open destinations with their respective requirements. But to be sure, check with your destination’s LGU for complete and updated requirements and safety protocol.
When traveling via plane, make sure to check the travel requirements of your airline carrier. Wearing of face masks inside the plane is mandatory, while using face shields is voluntary. The Philippine Airlines provides information on safety measures in place, as well as tips for passengers, such as booking neighbor-free seats for added peace of mind.
3. Choose the outdoors.
The PPS and PIDSP remind parents to avoid going to localities with high rates of transmission and to choose outdoor facilities or establishments with good ventilation. This is important, especially if your kids have yet to be vaccinated.
Moreover, communing with nature is something that children need, especially after being cooped up inside your homes for too long. Go to a park, such as Rizal Park and Paco Park in Manila, where they can see birds, run or bike, and breathe fresh air. Intramuros in Manila also has many open spaces, like Fort Santiago and Baluarte de San Diego. Make a visit to a zoo, like the newly-renovated Manila Zoo, so they can actually observe animals. Plan a trip to the beach for the sun, the sand, and the sea. Batangas has a lot of beach resorts to choose from including along Laiya Aplaya’s stretch of white sand beach. Just make sure to observe physical distancing.
But if you really want to visit sites that are enclosed spaces, such as museums and malls, consider the next tip.
4. Schedule your trip on weekdays or during off-peak hours.
The last thing we want is to expose our kids in an overcrowded place, whether it’s an open or enclosed space. If possible, plan your vacation on weekdays. School is still online or via modules, so kids can have a studycation while mommies and daddies can have workation, or simply take a vacation leave to have that much needed family vacation.
If you’re going to a museum or park, best to go during off-peak hours. The National Museum of the Philippines is a good place to expose children to arts and culture, and natural and cultural heritage. Call the place to know when is the best time with few people to visit.
Karen Biyo, a 35-year-old mom of two, wanted to avoid visiting enclosed spaces, so she chose a zoo and wind farm in Rizal to visit with her husband and kids. Still, she booked their trip on a weekday, between 10 A.M. and 4 P.M., to avoid the crowd.
5. Teach your kids the health and safety protocols.
Prior to their trip, Biyo already discussed with her children the do’s and dont’s when leaving home. Still, she had to remain vigilant throughout the day.
“I wanted to enjoy it 100%, but you cannot dismiss the fact that COVID is still here. So I needed to constantly remind them to properly wear their face masks, to not touch their faces, clean their hands, and keep a safe distance from other people and just stay close to us,” said Biyo.
For her part, Salvador read to her children books about pandemic, virus, and other relevant topics, to enlighten them about the situation and to make them understand the need to strictly follow the health protocols.
“It is really important that you and your kids are mentally prepared before traveling. I think it’s also a good opportunity to teach your kids the importance of personal hygiene,” said Salvador.
But as they say, experience is always the best teacher; so even if you’ve discussed all of these with your kids, you know you have to remind them all the time once you’re out there. Remember to bring with you a lot of patience as well.
6. Bring your baon and water.
There are kids who eat just about anything, and there are the picky-eaters. Whichever category your kid belongs to, bringing snacks and packed meals is the way to go when traveling with kids. You never know when they will get hungry and when that moment comes, is there a restaurant or store nearby where you can buy food?
When KC Astudillo, 34 years old and mother of four, went on vacation with her family to a Batangas beach resort, many food establishments were still closed. The towns they passed through had different protocols on dining in, so they opted for drive-thru.
Her advice for moms: bring food, so that when the kids get hungry, there’s always something they can eat. Plus, you’re sure your kids want the food you prepared.
You can prepare sandwiches, finger foods like hotdog and fried chicken, biscuits, and fruits. Bring lots of water too so you won’t need to buy anymore. This is also a way to avoid dining-in, especially during peak hours when there’s more people in food establishments.
7. Bring extra everything.
You know how it is with kids, you have to bring an extra of everything—clothes, wet wipes, tissue, alcohol. It’s always been like that. But now, you have more to bring.
The PPS and PIDSP recommend to “pack soap for handwashing, hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol, disinfecting wipes, tissues, extra masks, and a resealable bag to store the mask and while not in use (e.g. while eating or drinking).”
Astudillo suggests, if you’re going on a road trip, bring medicine for motion sickness, candies, and a vomit bag. The kids might no longer be used to long trips, so it’s better to be prepared.
8. Sanitize, sanitize, sanitize
When you’re already traveling, make sure you always sanitize your children’s hands and, if possible, the surfaces around them.
When going to the restroom, sanitize the toilet seat, and wash their hands afterwards. In fact, the PPS and PIDSP encourage toilet use before leaving the home to minimize using public toilets.
When you are dining inside a restaurant, make sure to sanitize the tables and chairs. Better if you bring your own utensils too so you don’t have to use disposable utensils and straw. It’s also a good way to teach the kids to be eco-friendly.
Once you’ve gotten back home, properly dispose of your face masks, take a bath, and sanitize all the things you used.
It could be hard to look after the kids when outside the home, but when you see them having fun, it will translate to your own joy as well.
Astudillo shared that when they went to the beach, it was like a new world to her kids, especially for her two-year-old daughter, who even tasted the sand out of curiosity. So keep an eye on them as they are sure to explore the environment around them.
For her part, Orozco admitted, “Traveling with a kid is a bit inconvenient. But seeing my child’s face full of excitement and happiness, it was definitely a stress-reliever!”
Once you’ve decided to travel with your children, try your best to enjoy the moment and let your kids know that they can play, run, laugh, and be normal kids (just with a lot of caution) even in this new normal.
10. Make sure you are ready to travel.
Moms and dads, you know that exploring the outside world is essential to your kid’s development. But with COVID-19 still in our midst, parents must never be caught off-guard. UNICEF advises to rethink the need to travel and to assess the risks.
Travel only with your kids if you are sure that you are physically, mentally, and emotionally prepared to take them out. Make sure you are also ready to watch over them closely more than you ever did before. It will be more tiring, but the experience will surely be worth it.
If you think you are not yet ready, there is always a next time. It’s always better to be safe than sorry.
For up-to-date information regarding local destinations that are open and the safety protocols and requirements needed for each location, you may visit philippines.travel/safetrip or download the Travel Philippines app at app.philippines.travel or the Google Playstore.