Due to family reasons I won’t get into here, Sarah’s been in Oklahoma for the past several weeks, for a total planned stay of a month. Because that’s obviously a long time for me and Talia to be missing her, we planned a visit midway through. And that meant Talia would fly on an airplane for the first time ever (exciting?), and I would be the only parent accompanying her (terrifying!).
Leading up to the trip, I thought about what might make it go well, and what might turn it into a disaster:
Signs of a good trip:
- Talia loves airplanes. She always points out when she hears them flying overhead
- Rather than act up in public, Talia tends to more often get shy and clingy. So hopefully no massive disturbance of nearby passengers
Signs of a bad trip:
- Talia gets really frightened of loud noises (e.g. vacuum cleaner, lawnmower, etc.). Airplane jets are really loud
- Talia is not generally a very cuddly kid. She prefers more action, running around and such, and thus may get really squirmy on the hour-long flight legs
- There’s virtually no way to avoid the flight disturbing her nap, and that can make her really cranky
So, how’d it go?
Super super well!
Talia was a great flyer. I think she showed brief moments of concern about twice across the four flights, but most of the time she was calm and even happy. We entertained ourselves with SkyMall (loooots of pictures to point out and ask “that?”), and the flights that overlapped her nap meant she rested her head on my shoulder (she doesn’t normally get this cuddly, so that was doubly nice). But making this a nice experience involved some good prep.
About a week before the trip, I bought Talia a toy airplane and began talking about the trip so she would get excited. I don’t know how much of it sank in, but as soon as we got past security I got her toy out so she could compare it to the real thing:
Speaking of security, I don’t think I would have survived this trip if Sarah hadn’t helped by taking a ton of stuff with her when she drove to Oklahoma, meaning I had much less to pack. By bringing the pack-and-play, clothes, toys, and the current car seat (we upgraded her car seat so we could do this, but she was about ready for that anyway), she made it possible for me to travel with just a carry-on and diaper bag!
The next thing to take care of was getting Talia some breakfast. The Austin airport gets major props for having high chairs available (unlike Dallas Love Field), so after purchasing some milk and finding a water fountain, we were all set for a normal, casual breakfast!
We still had a fair amount of time before boarding, so we hung out by the window. Talia got quite excited when our airplane arrived.
Once on board, Talia started out her normal shy self, which I figured would last until she freaked out with the engine noise at take-off. But I planned to enjoy the peacefulness while it lasted. Luckily enough, the flight was not full, so the middle seat on my row was empty; that was a handy place to put things, as I quickly learned that having a toddler on one’s lap doesn’t leave room for much else.
I did my best to prepare Talia for takeoff: “we’re going to go really fast and it’s going to get very loud, but it’s fun!”. As I’ve already revealed, things worked out great! With a “whee!” from me and a giggle from Talia, we were off! She didn’t care much about looking out the window (even on later flights with a window seat), so it was time to bring out the entertainment. I had the diaper bag filled with toys, books, and snacks, but thanks to the sheer density of pictures in SkyMall, I didn’t need to pull out any of them. We got to the end just as we were about to land. I made sure landing sounded fun by telling her “we’re going to go bumpity-bumpity-bump!”, and when it happened it elicited another giggle.
Layover time! With an hour and a half between flights, I wasn’t sure what kind of entertainment I would find. I stalled for ideas by taking a stroller tour around the airport (small airport), and that exploration yielded the perfect option. We found an area between two (eventual?) gates that had no furniture at all, the perfect place to just run around! The first picture in this post is from the window in that area, where she spent a lot of time pointing out trucks (this was common at other stops/windows as well), but we did chase each other to make use of the space too. Eventually we stopped to eat lunch (this time with Talia on my lap), and with Talia eating slower than usual, we were all set to get on the next flight. This time the flight was so empty that the flight attendant guided us to a seat toward the back where we could have our own row to ourselves. Talia did enjoy the window during and shortly after takeoff, because she could point out all the “truck”s and “person”s she saw.
However, once we were in the air she lost interest, and I encouraged her to try to take some kind of nap. I’m pretty sure she didn’t fall asleep, but she rested her head on my shoulder the whole time (with a few position shifts).
Finally we arrived, which meant getting to see Mommy! Sarah was waiting right outside the one-way security gateway, and while Talia didn’t squeal with excitement, she did right away start asking Mommy to play with her in various ways, including showing her this frog.
A frog, and a lion, near a tree with a slide, in the space between the terminals and baggage claim. Don’t ask me why that’s there, but yay, something to play with :).
We had a really nice time over the weekend with Sarah, but I won’t get into that because I ramble too much already and this post is about air travel. But when our trip’s time was up, Talia was already a pro at the whole flying thing.
See? Super confident and happy, just waiting for the plane. We quickly set up camp at our gate, and Talia decided to pass the time taking selfies.
I don’t have any pictures of the return flights, but it was much of the same. Some SkyMall on the first flight, supplemented by safety pamphlets and in-flight lunch, and more head resting on the second flight. All in all a quite enjoyable experience (except ergonomically, as the flights left me with a sore neck for a few days). I’d even look forward to it again, except any upcoming flight would certainly involve travelling with all the baggage I was able to avoid this time. Yay for airplanes! Now I leave you with a video of Talia and I taking off.. note how the acceleration pushes her against her Daddy’s chest :).