Our Boeing 757 from Philly to San Juan
I do not have kids. I am an only child. I have a very small family where I haven’t really been around a lot of kids. By no means do I dislike strangers’ kids, but I am also not one to go out of my way to interact with them. But I do have to say that I love my friend’s kids. But how much?
I was recently invited to head down to San Juan, Puerto Rico from Seattle (with a short layover in Philly) with one of my best friends and his family: his amazing wife, three kids (ranging from 4-11), and his mother. Most of my traveling is done solo or in a small group of adults. How would flying with kids go?
I have seen others do it, I have even read a few stories on it, but I figured that the hands-on experience would be a bit different. I ended up with quite a few (good and bad) surprises.
Exploring the Forbidden City in Beijing – Photo: David Delagarza | AirlineReporter
Back in April, I wrote about taking my nine-month-old on a series of long-haul flights to New Zealand. Â I concluded that piece with the rather ominous sentence, “Toddlerhood is just around the corner, and I know that wonâ€™t be the same experience.” As it turns out, truer words were never spoken.
The genesis of this trip was a Twitter post from one of the airfare alert websites: Denver to Beijing on United Airlines. Â Cheap. Â Very Cheap. Â Heck, the miles alone were worth a substantial portion of the ticket – not to mention this trip would push me up to elite status with United. Â My wife and I had been considering visiting China to see some friends, but we hadnâ€™t seriously thought about going this year. Â The availability of cheap tickets over Labor Day made us reconsider. Â Some quick discussions and a few clicks later it was settled – we were going to China for a week at the end of August. Â Does anyone else get that pit of the stomach feeling when buying plane tickets for a big trip?
A United Boeing 777 – Photo: Al@fh | Flickr CC
The next decision to be made was whether to bring our fifteen-month-old son with us. Â Conventional wisdom seems to be that fifteen months is just about the worst possible age to fly – they are too old to sit still, but too young to pacify with electronics. Â AirlineReporter Associate Editor and fellow father Blaine Nickesonâ€™s exact words were, â€œIt would be AWFUL. I’d strongly recommend against it.â€ Â Other friends told me horror stories of their young toddlers on much shorterÂ domestic flights. Â No one that I talked to had ever even considered taking their children of that age on long-haul international flights. Â I myself was firmly set against taking my son along. Â Â Iâ€™m still not sure how she did it, but my wife talked me into taking him with us. Â Here we go. Â Again.
Southwest Boeing 737-700 taxing at KPAE
In the summer, my wife and I were planning a Christmas trip to Disneyland with our two toddlers (ages 2 and 4). Â We were looking to get out of cold Denver for the holidays, and had visited Disneyland in December a few years ago and thought all of the decorations were really cool. Â We decided to pull the trigger in late summer and I went work booking our travel.
I’m a very loyal United Airlines flyer, being Denver-based, and try to fly them exclusively. Â However, flights to the Los Angeles-area at Christmas, even months in advance, were ridiculously expensive. Â I’ve also recently come to grips with the fact that, having a newly-two-year-old daughter, four airline tickets really start to add up. Â So, I looked at the options on Southwest Airlines (WN) and was shocked – less than $200 round-trip for direct flights between Denver (DEN) and Orange County (SNA), which was less than half the cost of other options. Â I had never booked myself on WN, but couldn’t pass up the huge cost difference, especially for such a short flight. (Note – since I booked my “first” WN flights, I actually ended up flying on them to the Bahamas on a short-notice trip).