There are few things less intimidating than your first time travelling with your child. But usually, you do it the first time and find out that it's not really all that bad. You have a 1:1 parent/child ratio, or even 2:1 if you're lucky, and everything is fairly under control.
I flew several times by myself with Brennan before Brian ever joined us on a flight and while it turned out to be a fairly exhausting experience as he grew into toddlerhood, it's definitely manageable.
The difficulty grows when you add more children to the mix. As a parent of twins and an older child, you learn to adapt your parenting. Everyday is a learning experience and for the most part you are able to make slow adjustments ... until it's time to travel. Then, you're thrown into shark-infested waters with no life preservers and it's just the 2 of you keeping all 3 of your younger than 3 year old children alive. OK, maybe that's a little exaggerated. But just a little.
When we decided last fall that we'd head to Michigan for Christmas, the great debate began about how we'd get there. Brian wanted to drive, I wanted to fly. Neither would be cheaper than the other when all expenses added up, but it would take at least 2 days to travel each way and Brian had limited time off of work. And? We had no idea how these kids would do while traveling. I'd much rather be stuck in misery for half of a day than for a few days. So the decision was made to fly.
The December trip was a breeze. The twins were 4 months old and Brennan was just over 2. I was well versed in packing carry-on bags for babies, so it wasn't too much of a hassle aside from the sheer volume of stuff. Luckily, Santa came to our house early and brought Brennan his own little backpack so that he could carry his own books, toys, and crayons. Yes, that Santa Claus is one smart cookie. I like to think that Mrs. Claus is actually the brains of the operation. Aside from entertainment, we packed all the essentials: a cup and snacks for Brennan, bottles for the babies, burp rags, change of clothes x3, diapers, wipes, binkies, formula, and Tylenol just in case.
Our one hour drive to the airport consisted of us planning the logistics of getting all 5 of us and our stuff through the airport. We drove up to the curb check and dropped off our checked luggage, then drove to park the car. After parking the car, we loaded our carry-ons, a stroller, and the twins car seats (my mom had one in Michigan for Brennan) onto the shuttle and headed to the airport. We stopped back at the curb check to check the boys car seats. We don't put our kids in car seats on the plane because A.) That would require buying 2 more seats on the plane and we're poor and B.) There is no chance on God's green earth that they would sit still in them and go to sleep. It would be a waste of $500.
To get through the airport, we each carried one of the twins in the Boba and Baby Bjorn and we put Brennan in our small umbrella stroller. We each had one carry-on, including Brennan, and Brian carried a small snack bag that didn't fit in the diaper bag. Security wasn't bad, but it takes awhile. Luckily, the family/medical lane eliminates much of the normal wait time so the bulk of the time consisted of getting ready to go through the metal detector and getting put together again afterward. Each baby had to come out of their carrier. Brennan had to come out of his stroller, it had to be folded and put on the belt, and his shoes had to come off. Plus our shoes of course had to be removed and we needed to load all of our stuff onto the belt. Then we each carried a baby through and I held Brennan's hand as he walked in front of me. It's all a giant pain, but it's doable. I just pity the fools who get in line behind us. Pick another line dude, seriously.
About 45 minutes before we were scheduled to depart, we took everyone to the bathroom for diaper changes. We also try to board toward the end of the line so that we aren't sitting on the plane for forever waiting for everyone else to board. Not to mention that once we get settled into seats, we don't want to have to get up again to let someone else into their seat.
The flight wasn't too bad. Luckily, we sat near very kid-friendly people. One little known, crappy detail is that most airlines don't allow 2 infants in one row, so we were unable to get 3 seats next to each other. The gate agent wouldn't even let us sit across the aisle from one another, so Brian and Brennan ended up sitting behind me. Not ideal, but it worked and we were at least able to pass things back and forth. I mixed up bottles so that we could feed the boys as the plane took off and aside from trying to keep fidgety little Brennan entertained, the flight wasn't too bad.
When we got to Detroit, we headed straight to the bathroom for diaper changes. The flight is just over 2 hours, so we were able to avoid any on-plane changes. By the time we finished up and made it to baggage claim, my parents were waiting with our luggage and the car seats. It was perfect timing.
The flight home was very much the same. (Aside from Brian leaving me with the twins to take Brennan and get some drinks ... right before the plane boarded. And he took what seemed like forever coming back and we were the last people to board the plane and I may or may not have had a nervous breakdown.) This time we were able to sit across the aisle from each other, which was much easier. Getting all of our stuff from the airport, onto the shuttle, and to our car was interesting and we vowed to do things differently next time. That'll have to wait for part 2...