Help! How Can I Help My Toddler Wear a Mask on a Plane?

At some point this winter, my wife and I are hoping to take our daughter to visit her grandparents on the West Coast. We live in New Jersey and haven’t seen my folks in more than a year. Our daughter will turn 2 in January and has no experience wearing a mask yet. We follow public health policies to a T and respect the overall good they bring; however, I can’t help but worry about what might happen if my daughter refuses to keep it on for the duration of the flight. How strict are airlines being? What can I do to prepare? Howard

As a mother and travel columnist, I’ve thought about this a lot. We haven’t flown with our 2-and-a-half-year-old son since the pandemic started, but my husband and I have nonetheless debated the hypotheticals. (Me: “He’d be fine.” Him: “You’re delusional.”)The anxiety about what could happen while traveling — at the airport, at 35,000 feet up, while stuck on the tarmac — is real, even for toddler parents who follow mask guidelines at home.In the United States, there is no federal mask mandate for airlines, but by now most have adopted the public-transportation recommendations outlined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Anyone age 2 and older has to wear a mask while in public. But there are some subtle differences.
Delta Air Lines bakes wiggle room into its official language: “Children under the age 2 and young children who cannot maintain a face covering are exempt from the mask requirement.”A Delta spokeswoman added, “Delta people are empowered to be flexible while facilitating our mask-wearing requirement with young children for everyone’s safety.”JetBlue Airways’ policy states that “only children under the age of 2 are exempt from JetBlue’s face covering policy, and children 2 years and older must maintain a face covering.” The no-exemptions policy has been in effect since August 10.

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