We planned our trip for the latter part of June, just before Sara turned 23 months. While she could have been a lap child, there was no way that my husband and I wanted to try to corral a squirmy toddler in our laps for almost three hours, so when booking our flight, I bought Sara her own seat.
I was nervous about her flight, as she hates to sit still for very long, and she can definitely throw some epic tantrums. I thought about bringing her car seat along, but with hauling our suitcases, a pack and play, a couple of big carry on's, and a jogging stroller, I decided against it. Besides, we were getting a car seat along with our rental car.
I also thought about getting her the CARES Harness, which is the only FAA approved safety harness for children, but I ultimately did not purchase one. I figured that since I would be sitting her next to the window, with our carry on bags and diaper bag under the seat, and with the confined space of a row of plane seats, she would be OK.
Before our trip, I visited this great little toy shop, Wishes, in our local mall and stocked up on plenty of Water Wow's and other toys to keep her occupied during the flight.
On the day of the flight, I sat Sara in her seat, and pulled out some of her toys and snacks. She was curious, and tried looking out of the window (she was a bit too short to see out) and buckled her in.
She did pretty good for about the first hour or so, and then she decided that she wanted to get up, and there was no stopping her! She was able to easily slip out of her seat belt and proceeded to climb over me to make her escape. She wanted Mark, who was sitting across the aisle from us. When I told her no, and put her back in her seat, I released the Kraken! She started wailing and screaming, and climbed back over me and then collapsed in the aisle to throw her tantrum. I had to pick her up, and stand in the back with her for several minutes. I also had to change her diaper in the airplane bathroom, which is no easy task!
When she finally calmed down enough to return to our seats, Mark was ready for her with his phone loaded with Peppa Pig, her favorite. We switched places, and she happily sat and watched her shows until she fell asleep. Luckily, she slept until we landed in San Diego.
On our return flight, a week later, I was hoping that things would go a bit smoother, but from the beginning, Sara didn't want to sit still. She learned to work the seat belt buckle, and kept unbuckling herself and standing up while we were taxiing out to the runway. I was really afraid that the flight attendant would yell at me, but luckily they didn't see us. There were a lot of other small children on our flight, and a mom of two toddlers sitting behind me lent me her large iPad loaded with shows to try to distract Sara, but she was not interested in sitting still. Only when the plane started down the runway, which startled her, did she finally sit still.
She played with her toys for a little while, but did not want to drink her milk or eat her snacks, and the pressure changes on this flight were quite bad, and she started screaming again. I took her to the back to calm down, and when I came back, Mark and I had to sit together, and he held her on his lap until she fell asleep.
This time, she didn't sleep until we landed. When we arrived in the Seattle area, we were put into a circling holding pattern above the city, and the pressure was really bad. It was the first time in years that I had pain shooting through my ears. Mark also had a Coke bottle, which completely collapsed flat from the pressure. Every small child on the plane started screaming, and Sara woke up screaming, and trying to make her escape. She was so distraught, that she wouldn't take her drink or a pacifier that I offered her. An older child several rows up from us even got sick, it was so bad!
We were just about to land, and I finally got Sara to take her pacifier, which helped, and she calmed down a bit. She was also able to see out of the window this time, and seemed intrigued by the treetops in the distance. I was very happy and relieved when we finally touched down! It had been one of the toughest flights I had ever been on, and my left ear remained closed and wouldn't pop until the following morning.
In all, I guess it was just an OK experience for Sara. At least we didn't get thrown off by the flight crew, and that's a big win for us! I wish I would have bought the harness to keep her restrained better. That is a big mistake on my part, and I'll definitely have it for next time. Her next flight will be next Summer when we head to Florida, unless we decide to go somewhere with her sooner. She'll be three, and hopefully a better traveler by then, but one day, when she's a seasoned traveler, we'll look back and tell her the story of her first time on an airplane!
Oh, and she really loved the airport! She loved the big windows, watching planes taking off and landing-she said "bye bye" every time she saw one taking off, and she loved running around in the open spaces and playing with all of the other children! I love airports too!
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