Well, we survived our first airplane trip. And it went…….exactly as you’d expect. That is to say – it wasn’t the worst thing in the world, but it certainly wasn’t the best either.

When we originally purchased our plane tickets to head back to Texas (for a friends’ wedding), I was still pregnant at the time. Once the babies arrived, I realized our itinerary was TOTALLY unrealistic! It involved a short layover with a plane change (what? no way we’d make the transfer in time!) and was, in total, over 7 hours of travel – not including time in the airport before/after the plane rides.

So we paid a hefty price to change our tickets to a direct flight – which meant we couldn’t travel in and out of Tucson (where we live) – we’d have to drive up to Phoenix since Tucson doesn’t have direct flights to Austin.

Our trip to Austin was stressful. We were still packing early in the morning, and we had to leave the house by 6am to make it to the airport in time. We had 3 checked bags, 5 carry-ons (they allow you extra since you’ve got a mandatory diaper-bag), PLUS a double stroller and 2 car seats to gate check. We made the 2 hour drive up and parked in economy parking before boarding the shuttle (with huge double stroller) to the airport. There, we had trouble maneuvering the lines due to our bus-like stroller. Oh right, and we’re still pulling 3 bags and saddled down with all the carry-ons. And trying to keep the babies happy. No big deal.

Finally our checked bags were taken so we only had to manage the babies/stroller/carry-ons.

Security was a nightmare all its own.

We had to load up the conveyer belt with everything, take the babies out of their car seats and have the stroller & car seats searched. Then we had to declare the milk we’d brought through in bottles and have them tested for explosives in another area of the airport. It was a huuuuuge and time-consuming ordeal.

When we got to our gate, the babies started to loose it. It was time to eat, but they were refusing their bottles. I tried diaper changes, rocking and soothing, walking around, etc. Bailey, in particular, was screaming her head off. Not sure if it was stimulation-overload or what, but there was no consoling her. When “family boarding” started (which – by the way – is AFTER the “A” boarding group on Southwest) we were barely keeping it together and I was beyond flustered by everything.

Before boarding we ditched our stroller and car-seats and now Chris had Brooke, I had Bailey, and we were both loaded down with carry-ons. I had 3 different bags hanging from my shoulders and looked (and felt!) like a pack mule. I instantly saw that there were no seats together in the front of the plane. I told Chris to go ahead and I’d follow him to the back of the aircraft.

He started down the aisle at a quick pace. I started to follow, only…..I couldn’t fit. Like – literally couldn’t fit. I had too much bulk (in the form of bags) hanging from me to allow me to get down the aisle. I tried to rearrange the diaper bag, but things started falling out onto the floor. I tried to bend down to retrieve my items only to have more things fall out. I look up and Chris – not knowing what was happening – was halfway down the aisle toward the back of the plane while I was trying to gather my items, rearrange my bags to fit down the aisle, and calm my still-fussy baby.

Tears welled up in my eyes and my heart started to race.

Thank god for good samaritans because a woman in the front row reached out and touched my arm, “Do you need help?”

I couldn’t even speak so I just nodded as I tried to keep tears from flowing down my face.

She was so great to jump right up, grab all our dropped items from the floor along with the offending diaper bag which had caused me to not be able to fit down the aisle. She then followed me all the way to the back of the craft to help me get settled in (I should also say that Chris felt terrible for not doing anything. It wasn’t until he got to an empty row in the back of the craft that he turned and realized I was still stalled at the very front).

Thankfully, the rest of the trip was uneventful. I think the meltdown in the airport wore the babies out because they both slept the entire flight. Thank goodness. And its amazing, too, because they refused to eat for 10 hours straight (they normally eat every 4 hours). They were hungry – but when I got bottles heated and tried to feed them (at the airport), they just screamed and screamed.

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The return trip was another story.

I didn’t know this little tidbit, but planes only have 4 oxygen masks per row (and 3 seats per row). Our flight to Austin hadn’t been full so I sat in the window seat, the middle seat was empty, and Chris had the aisle seats – babies sat in our laps. Our flight back to Phoenix was full. That meant that we were not allowed to sit on the same row together because there would be 5 people (3 adults and 2 infants), when there are only 4 masks. So we had to split up.

Luckily on the way home the airport went much more smoothly. Austin is smaller than Phoenix, so that was an advantage. Plus, having just flown 5 days prior, we were a little more prepared for the security debacle. But the airplane ride was much worse. I don’t know why, but people (from the “A” boarding group) were saving seats (for people in later boarding groups) all over the place. Chris and I couldn’t find 2 seats even remotely near each other. Thankfully a flight attendant came and forced some people to give up their saved seats so Chris and I were able to sit on 2 aisle seats just caddy-corner from each other.

Again this time – I was holding Bailey while Chris held Brooke.

We made it past the initial pressurization of the cabin just fine. But about an hour into the flight, Brooke had had enough. She was tired but was fighting sleep and it was making her fussy. She ended up crying for about 15-20 minutes straight while Chris tried everything to soothe her. People around us were glaring, obviously annoyed. We’d brought emergency rations for this type of scenario (we brought earplugs and candy to pass out to neighboring passengers to try to appease them and let them know we were really trying). Unfortunately, the full flight meant the bag with candy and earplugs had been stuffed in an overhead compartment many rows in front of us – completely out of reach. So we sat. And we watched the clock. And we counted down until the plane ride was over.

And I just thought how lucky everyone else was that it was Brooke crying and not Bailey. Brooke’s cry is like the mew of a little sad kitty. Anyone who has heard Bailey wail can attest that her cry sounds like she is being stabbed in the eye. It’s blood-curdling. So if someone was going to cry, thank goodness it was Brooke.

By the time we landed, we were over it. Never flying again!

And then we still had to deal with finding a way to warm babies’ bottles, feed them, get our checked bags, take that shuttle back to our car, and drive the 2 hours back to Tucson. Oh right, and then get back to work right away the next day. Yikes!

***

We learned many lessons from this travel experience. Mostly that we’ll never travel with infants (or even toddlers) by airplane again.

That if we have to travel that we need to take the shortest, most direct route.

That security is out-of-control and takes forever, even when you get to skip the line (the ONLY perk of traveling with babies).

That some people are kind, some people are rude. Just like everywhere else in life.

And that if we can survive this, pretty sure we can survive anything ; )

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I have lots of pictures to share from the trip, but they’ll have to wait until another day. Stay tuned!

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