Thursday, November 3, 2016

Flying with a Three Year Old

When we found out a year ago we'd be going to Boston we immediately thought "We'll take the Amtrak".   We knew it went to Boston from where we get on for New York and we've had mostly good experiences with it.  We were already planning to use it in the spring for New York and it would make an easy way to take Luke along on the trip.  When we were on our New York trip we were still planning on booking our Boston Amtrak when we got home.

Then Matt randomly decided to check flights and found a direct flight from Indy to Boston which would end up being about the same price for mine and Luke's tickets (Matt's was paid by work).  And it would actually end up being much much cheaper than Amtrak because with arrival times on Amtrak we would have had to arrive in Boston a whole day early in order to make Saturday evening Mass (Matt's conference started at 7:30am on Sunday morning) and therefore actually pay for one night in an almost $500/night hotel room before Matt's work would start paying.

Part of the reason we hadn't flown with Luke in the past was expense but we also honestly never looked into it.  The idea of flying with a kid terrified me.  We've been on countless flights, heard horror stories...we knew kids on planes generally weren't looked on positively by other passengers (and after someone was screaming at 3am on the Amtrak...I'm sure we now have many people feeling the same about kids on overnight trains).

We planned our family of 3 vacations to places we could drive (Smokey Mountains, Sleeping Bear Dunes, Gulf Shores).  And they were all wonderful.  I took many road trip vacations with my family growing up, making it to 41 states that way by the time we were married.  There was no reason to ever consider something different.  Neither Matt or I flew before our honeymoon.  Our travel agent went over how to check in for a flight and get to the gate; we honestly had no idea before day #3 of marriage.

But then, this opportunity presented itself.  At first I was a little disappointed.  We've really enjoyed our Amtrak trips (except maybe the 3am screaming parts) and there is a reason we keep going to New York that way (trips 1, 2, 3).  The cost for this trip was a huge selling point.  The less time traveling.  And the idea of flying again.  I like flying.  I like pulling wheelie suitcases through an airport.  I like the "free" snacks.  I don't even mind (reasonable) layovers.  I just like flying.  The thought of getting to fly again, getting to take Luke on a plane, all while saving time and money?  Well, it didn't take long to convert me to team Let's Fly to Boston.
The plane was set-up with two seats on either side of the aisle.  I had booked seats across from each other and we decided each of us would sit with Luke for one trip - one there, one home.  That meant one of us was mostly on Luke duty while the other got a pretty relaxing flight.  That was wonderful.  I'll take two solid hours to read any day.

And despite my long held fear of flying with a kid it turned out to be just fine.  Wonderful.  It probably really helped that Luke is 3½.  He could suck on a sucker for take-off and landings.  He never complained of his ears hurting.  He can entertain himself reasonably well.  He could handle his in-flight snacks.  All of this made flying with Luke go pretty easy. 

We let him watch one episode of Daniel Tiger on each flight but other than that kept him busy with coloring, snacks, Lemur, and looking out the window (or in Dad's case, going to the bathroom, something that conveniently didn't need to happen on my leg.).  He's coloring in a $3 "magic" coloring book in this picture which entertained him for many hours on this trip.  Completely worth the $3.

We had Luke carry a backpack with some of his books and toys (and Lemur) but had some in my backpack too so it wouldn't get too heavy for him.  We had picked out some new books for him to read but didn't even get into more than one or two because he was so interested in everything else going on around him.  There were buttons to press and a tray to put up and down and things going on out the window.  A lot to take in for a 3 year old! 


Our number one tip for making sure a 2½ hour flight goes smoothly with a kid?  Go on two 17 hour train rides before flying.  That will make a short flight + a little bit of airport waiting seem like a piece. of. cake. 

I'm not sure if another flight is in our future anytime soon.  I have our vacation destinations tentatively planned through 2020 and all of them are driving trips (and maybe an Amtrak to New York).  I want Luke to know the pleasure and joy of hours trapped in the car with his family (I say that non-sarcastically.  I LOVED family road trips as a kid.)  BUT, I'm really glad we got this experience and Luke got to fly as a kid.  This year he's been on a train, ferry boat, plane, two subway systems, taxis and buses.  I think that's pretty impressive for a 3 year old.

So, flying with a kid?  Not bad.  Not bad at all.  Thank you, Amtrak, for making plane travel seem easy with a kid!

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