Leaving on an airplane… a practical guide for families who need to travel abroad

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Flying right now with the family!? That sounds crazy, doesn’t it? Sometimes circumstances force you to pack your suitcases though and to jump on a plane. Sounds easy? Mmm… not really. If you need to travel with your family out of Malaysia, there are quite a few new SOPs you need to take in before you decide to travel.

The thrill of booking tickets, enthusiastically packing suitcases and taming excited tummy butterflies belong to yesteryear. These days, when a trip is eminent, the challenges ahead of organising a trip barely make up for the experience of traveling. Well, it is what it is. We’re still living in an Empire called COVID-19.

Which permit have you got?

Do you have a Malaysian passport? You can file your application on the MyTravelPass website here, unless you have a work or study permit abroad. Do you have a non-Malaysian passport? You can leave any time, but it is strongly recommended to apply for approval from Malaysian immigration before your trip. Filing an application depends on the type of visa you have. With an Employment pass, please apply through the MyTravelPass website here. If you’re on a TalentCorps pass, please go to the MyEntry website here. MM2H passholders can only apply for return to Malaysia after they’ve exited the country. More info for this type of pass here on the MyTravelPass website. 

Now what?

After you’ve got permission to (exit and) return to Malaysia, you need to obtain approval from your local police station to travel to KLIA from your place. Please make two copies of the itinerary plus two copies of the passports of each member of the family and take this to a police station. Best to do this just a day before you depart. If you come to the police station earlier than that, they might ask you to come back closer to your departure date… You also have to bring a filled in form called borang pkp with you.

It’s bests to pre-arrange early for quarantine accommodation in KL, in case you’re looking to book a hotel yourself, rather than waiting for the ‘lottery’ to take you to an unknown quarantine hotel, assigned by the government. You also need to prepay for quarantine costs (foreigners only) and the PCR test on arrival at KLIA airport. All this can be done through the MyTravelPass website. 

Are we there yet?

Not quite! You need to do a PCR test within 72 hours of your arrival at your destination. Please do check though with the government of the country you’re flying to and the airline you’ve booked your ticket with. At the check-in counter at KLIA, they will ask for the result of this test. 

After you’ve got the results of the test, you can start to relax? Ah… not yet.  Make sure to leave early, it might take longer than usual to get to KLIA, since a few roadblocks might cause delay on the way there. It took us 90 minutes to get there instead of the usual 45 minutes. I was quite nervous about the one-person-per-car requirement (beside the driver), but since we got the green light at the police station the day before, I thought we should be fine. My two teenage kids (13 and 16 years old) were doing their best to become invisible inside the car. A skill they obviously practiced during a school year of too many online classes. It worked very well. At the first roadblock the officers were nice and waved us through and at the second one we were told to drive on quickly.

A deserted airport

Without the usual crowds, KLIA airport looks empty, sounds hollow and feels almost creepy. The check-in was smooth and it seemed our flight was not even half full. After immigration, we’d normally take the train to the C piers where planes depart. Due to COVID, trains are no longer operating but are being replaced with busses. Just take the elevator downstairs and follow the signs. Friendly staff will await you at ground floor to point you to the bus. 

Arriving at the piers, all restaurants except for one or two are closed. If you’ve got younger ones, you may want to bring a few snacks and drinks. If you were thinking to bring a memory with you from Malaysia, bad luck. All shops are closed!

All aboard…

The boarding process went smooth too. Please ensure that your kids are keeping their distance from other passengers at all times, even when queuing for the security check. On board: a lot of empty seats. I had bought Economy Plus seats, with extra leg space. In hindsight, there was no need to pay the extra money for this. The crew allows you to lay on every empty seat you can find, after taking off. 

The use of face masks was required all the way through the flight. While we’re used to them in Malaysia, wearing them for 16 hours straight is kind of tiring and the back of my ears said ‘ouch’ when I finally could take the mask off again. Make sure to bring at least three face masks per person, especially for long-haul flights.

Remember to bring a head set for the entertainment system on board. Most airlines do give out headsets, but for health reasons during this pandemic, we felt more safe just using our own devices.

Meals on board of our flight were ok, but it was one-meal-fits-all. If you’ve got fussy little eaters, make sure to order food before boarding for an additional charge.

Remind your children to be careful with touching surfaces, water taps and door handles of the toilets. We brought a few packs of anti bacterial wipes with us!

After landing at our final destination, I felt we could finally relax. Traveling is still not yet what it used to be. Think twice before you book. Let’s hope we can soon safely travel again without all the worries that come with it these days!

Note: rules and SOPs change regularly. Please do check for the latest changes with airlines and immigrations before deciding to book flights.

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