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. I concluded that piece with the rather ominous sentence, “Toddlerhood is just around the corner, and I know that won’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. Cheap. Very Cheap. 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. My wife and I had been considering visiting China to see some friends, but we hadn’t seriously thought about going this year. The availability of cheap tickets over Labor Day made us reconsider. Some quick discussions and a few clicks later it was settled – we were going to China for a week at the end of August. Does anyone else get that pit of the stomach feeling when buying plane tickets for a big trip?
The next decision to be made was whether to bring our fifteen-month-old son with us. 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. AirlineReporter Associate Editor and fellow father Blaine Nickeson’s exact words were, “It would be AWFUL. I’d strongly recommend against it.” Other friends told me horror stories of their young toddlers on much shorter domestic flights. No one that I talked to had ever even considered taking their children of that age on long-haul international flights. I myself was firmly set against taking my son along. I’m still not sure how she did it, but my wife talked me into taking him with us. Here we go. 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). 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. 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. However, flights to the Los Angeles-area at Christmas, even months in advance, were ridiculously expensive. 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. 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. 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).