Happy Father’s Day to dads and father-figures everywhere — with us in person or in our hearts. Personally, I became a dad just over three years ago.
Before that, my wife and I were used to taking weekend mileage runs, enjoying vacations, and all that stuff.
And then our baby girl was born in Spring 2017. She instantly stole our hearts. (She arrived three days earlier than scheduled. I wonder if Delta set her due date? 🙂 )
But to be honest, I selfishly dreaded traveling with a child. I am was very set in my ways. As fellow parents know, nearly all of your routines are gone the wonderful instant your child arrives.
Plus, I hate drawing attention to myself and usually prefer to keep quiet while blending in with the crowd. Being a glass-half-empty person, I knew a baby would put a quick halt to that.
And she did. At least, for some trips.
But that turned out to be a blessing. She taught me to grow up, stop being a self-centered punk, and enjoy life a little more.
It took a while — but here’s how my daughter changed my traveling life.
“What Will People Think?”
I always found kids fun and lovable.
But certainly not when traveling.
They cry. They stress out other passengers. Why in the world would anyone travel with one of those? I thought. I want to create the first adults-only airline. No kids!
Then my daughter was born in 2017 — and captured my heart. (True story: she had a Delta SkyMiles number before leaving the hospital!)
But during 3 AM feedings and diaper changes at home, I stressed out. Big time. I’d bark, “what if this happens on a plane?!” (Spoiler alert: it does.) “Some people will be upset and not like us!” (Spoiler alert: that, too, happens.)
One night, my wife had enough. She said something changed everything:
“Who [expletive] cares? That’s what babies do! Get over it!”
Own Up to It
Before the Comments section fills with, “Kids shouldn’t be allowed on planes!” let’s remember many of us discovered our love of travel when we were kids. (That clearly took me a while to realize.)
Plus, all of us were probably loud, little children on flights or in hotels at least once or twice. Or more.
How Passengers React to Us
I was a wreck during my daughter’s first travel experience.
My wife, infant daughter, and I were in the LAX T3 Sky Club before my baby’s first flight. She was fussing — and I was stressing. A rather well-to-do older couple sitting at a table looked at us.
At least I think they did. Both of them wore sunglasses. You know, inside.
Then the wife waved me over.
With my little baby cradled in my arms, I walked to their table. What’s this going to be about?! I thought.
“First time flying with your baby?” the wife said. I nodded. “Nervous?” I again nodded. “Worried about pissing off your fellow passengers?”
I didn’t like where this was going.
“Yeah,” I sighed.
She waved me closer. And lowered her sunglasses. So I knew she was about to drop something on me.
“[Expletive] ’em,” she said with a wink. “Don’t worry about what other people think. You’ll do great. Enjoy this time with your family.”
Honestly, that’s some of the best advice I’ve ever received.
Minutes later, they became new friends.
Now that she’s an active toddler, flying with my daughter is more challenging. I admit it: we’re tablet parents when necessary.
Most fellow passengers are pretty cool. We’ve experienced only a couple of very minor, disappointing moments.
One guy across the aisle from us downgraded from first class to coach — because my daughter cooed at him. He didn’t want to sit across from a family with a baby.
Another time, my daughter fussed a bit. Some idiot sitting in front of her and my wife shot me a look — and then slammed his seat back as hard as he could.
Not only was that rude — it was potentially dangerous to my baby. That scared my daughter, who then cried. Because the idiot limited our legroom, we had no choice but to elevate my screaming daughter a little over his seatback. Not wanting to be so close to a crying baby, he quickly brought his seat to the full, upright position. Yup, I guess he showed us. 🙂
How Airlines Treat Us
I think airline employees — especially the ones who deal face-to-face with passengers — understand that it’s difficult to travel with children.
There are rare exceptions when we’ve been negatively singled out. A snotty flight attendant on a Fargo to Minneapolis flight rolled her eyes and shook her head when we took our seats in first class.
And there’s the story of a rogue MSP gate agent setting his own upgrade rules — and originally decided our family wasn’t worthy of sitting up front.
Outside of that, our experiences have been very positive.
Her first trip was an LAX-SAN-MSP-FAR journey. After the first leg, we asked the captain if she could visit the cockpit.
As we stepped off the plane, the captain asked if we could take pictures with him— he wanted to send them to his own family. He got such a huge kick out of his flight being our little baby’s first trip.
Those memories are fantastic. And we’ve enjoyed so many more since then.
In fact, both my wife and I run out of Job Well Done certificates while traveling with our daughter.
Delta Sky Club employees graciously offered us extra milk when she was a baby. She’s enjoyed Delta coloring books and crayons, wings galore, and made plenty of flight attendant and gate agent friends.
A Southwest gate agent in Burbank saw us prior to a flight and was excited to give our daughter a certificate celebrating her first flight. (It wasn’t. But we didn’t say anything because the moment was so fun and special for everyone. The certificate is proudly displayed in my daughter’s bedroom. A frame for it is on my Honey-Do list.)
Flight attendants played great games of peek-a-boo with my daughter when she was an infant. Nowadays, many chat with us about their own kids, share stories, swap tips and child-raising hacks, and generally make us feel welcome.
How I’ve Changed
I enjoy solitude and freedom whenever I travel by myself (which usually is for business).
I think that’s important. We all need to decompress.
And that’s okay. There’s nothing wrong with enjoying time by yourself and not having to worry about anyone else.
When I travel alone, though, I miss my wife and daughter. Not seeing them for even just a night reminds me of how lucky I am. And gets me excited about our next family trip.
Most importantly, I’m also not the same person who dreaded children on my flights.
I now smile at kids and their families — because I know how stressful it is can be to travel with little ones.
No one loves hearing babies cry (except for the moment they’re born). But I’m certainly more patient, compassionate, understanding, and sympathetic than before. When babies cry or kids have meltdowns, I simply ignore it. (Noise-canceling headphones can help that. 🙂 )
I offer help whenever I can — because even the smallest gesture (holding a bag, assisting someone with a stroller) can be a big help to families.
The Best Part: My Daughter Loves Traveling
My little girl is obsessed with travel and aviation.
She loves watches planes and helicopters fly over our house. She sometimes guesses where they’re traveling: “That plane’s going to see Uncle Mike!” (And she was right! That particular flight was en route to Boise, where her Uncle Mike lives.) “And that one’s going to Grampa’s house! And that’s going to Peppa Pig’s house!”
She keeps asking me when we can fly again. And when we’ll stay in a hotel. She understands we can’t travel now because of “the big germ.” She misses her grandparents, aunts, and uncles. Most of all, she really misses her cousins.
So trips to see them are on the top of our list when we feel safe to travel again.
My dad introduced me to the joy of traveling — and for that, I’m forever grateful to him. It’s a privilege to continue that tradition and share it with my daughter.
I’m excited for when she’s old enough to truly appreciate the world — and we can enjoy it together. I’m in no hurry for that, though. (People are not kidding when they say kids grow up very quickly. It’s astonishing.)
Traveling with children certainly isn’t easy. But I learned to slow down, check my attitude (along with strollers, car seats, and …), be grateful, and enjoy time with my family. I appreciate and enjoy travel more than ever — thanks to my daughter.
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