Flying with Kids Sucks (Trip Report)

This should have been an awesome trip. Thanks to nonstop flight times that don’t work for us (redeye), we nearly always have to connect when we go to see my wife’s family in Indiana. This time, however, Delta had retimed its flights to compete for too few passengers with American, and we were excited. As if that wasn’t enough, we were able to snag something more rare than a unicorn: 4 saver awards using Delta miles. Excellent, right? Well sure, if not for having to fly with a 2 year old. This was a rough trip, and it wasn’t Delta’s fault.

Reign of Terror

I dropped my wife off with our daughter at the curb at LAX so she could check our bags while I went with my son to park off-site. When we came back, the security line-minder tried to corral me and my son into the family line, but I showed her that I had Pre Check. She didn’t seem to understand why that was better than going in the family line. Strange.

Once through security, we found a very busy gate area. Gates 53A and B are crammed into a small waiting area, and both had flights leaving at 942a. (The other one was going to Boston.) We couldn’t find seats so we set up camp on the floor.

I went up to the gate to get a pink tag to gate-check our stroller, and the gate agent asked where we were sitting. I showed her that we had 15AB and 16AB so that my wife could tackle one kid and I could tackle the other. She then said the flight was pretty empty so she could move us toward the back and give us each a row of 3 to ourselves. Awesome, and very nice of her.


April 19, 2014
Delta 962 Lv Los Angeles 942a Arr Indianapolis 439p
Los Angeles (LAX): Gate 53B, Runway 25R, Depart 3m Early
Indianapolis (IND): Gate A13, Runway 5L, Arrive 5m Early
N362NW, Airbus A320-212, Standard Delta colors, ~65% Full
Seat 23D/E, Coach
Flight Time 3h39m

I should have known this was going to be a tough flight when my son decided he didn’t want to get on the airplane at all. He threw a fit which, fortunately, he completely forgot about within about 2 minutes.

Once we got past that, we found our seats and realized that this had become the family section. There was a woman across the aisle who was traveling alone with two children, one in her lap! (That is the definition of insanity.) Another couple families were in front of us.

My son didn’t want to be buckled in (we use the CARES harness) and he kept throwing a tantrum for just about anything. Great.

The captain came on and told us that we’d have some bumps over the Rockies and then on landing but that was about it. We pushed back a little early and headed east.

Once on the airplane, my daughter was great. That’s because she ended up spiking a temperature and just slept the whole time. Unfortunately, my wife was the lucky one who got to deal with her.

I, instead, was with my son who was in no mood to obey anything. That might have been easier to entertain had the seatbelt sign not stayed on for so long. It came off briefly when we reached cruising altitude but then over Northern Arizona it came on again. It stayed on until we were well over Kansas, went off briefly, and then came back on. My son was downright angry and decided to let everyone know. He even refused the iPad, which we had filled up with his favorite movies. It was a struggle, to say the least.

Somewhere over Missouri, when I was contemplating opening a window exit, he passed out. That gave me about 20 minutes of much-needed rest. I had signed on to wifi with my phone, so I browsed that a little. But then it was time to start descending and my son woke up again.

As we started the descent, my wife’s head, stuffed up from one of the three million colds our kids have shared with us this winter, felt like it was going to explode. Meanwhile, my son again staged a protest by squirming so I couldn’t get him buckled in. Finally, I won that battle, but it took considerable effort.

It was a beautifully clear day in Indy but the winds were rockin’. It probably wasn’t more than light to moderate turbulence at most, but it was enough for my son to keep referring to the “bouncy airplane” for days afterwards. (I think that was the one thing he liked about the whole trip.)

Once on the ground, I was begging to get out. Of course, we waited for everyone else to get off before we gathered our things (and did a brief cleaning) and headed into the terminal. We had a one week respite before the return.

I was hopeful that the return would be better since we had such an early departure. I figured we could scoop my son out of bed and then get him nice and tired. Hah.

We got to the airport and checked in with no problem. Then we went through security and to the gate. Once again, I went to get a pink tag for the stroller and asked if we might be able to get a little breathing room again. This time, the gate agent had no full rows open, but she started calling people up over the PA to see if they’d want to move. They had more room and wouldn’t be next to an angry child, so it was an easy sell for them. Another above-and-beyond effort from Delta.


April 26, 2014
Delta 877 Lv Indianapolis 7a Arr Los Angeles 850a
Indianapolis (IND): Gate A7, Runway 23R, Depart 5m Early
Los Angeles (LAX): Gate 53B, Runway 25L, Arrive 14m Early
N367NW, Airbus A320-212, Standard Delta colors, ~65% Full
Seat 13E, Coach
Flight Time 4h15m

We pre-boarded this time (yes, Delta still allows it) and I nervously asked the captain whether we were expecting a smooth (and seatbelt sign-free) ride. His response? “Dunno, haven’t been up there yet.” Ah yes, a funny guy. I liked it. We pushed back a little early and headed straight toward LA in mostly clear skies.

Departing from Indianapolis

There’s something about a very calm early Midwest spring morning. It was pleasant enough to lull me toward sleep. I can’t say the same for my son. He was wide awake and ready to wreak havoc, so I clearly would not be dozing.

I stocked up on all kinds of food for him and started trying to bribe him to be good. It worked for a very brief moment in time. But then he wanted more, and if I refused it, he would scream bloody murder.

Once again he refused his iPad but instead became infatuated with the window shade. Up, down, up, down, up, down. I’m guessing the people around us were not enjoying the light show. I finally got him to stop but not without a good bout of screaming first. Then he decided to move on to the tray table. Open, down, up, closed, open, down, up, closed. I put a stop to that immediately because I knew that had to bug the person sitting in the row in front of us. More screaming ensued.

The seatbelt sign came on and off over the first couple hours, but by the time we were over New Mexico, it would remain on the rest of the time. There was a storm below and we were feeling it above the cloud tops as well. My son thought this was a good time to learn how to unbuckle his seat belt. Click, open. (No, he didn’t put it back on. When I did that, he screamed.)

It was somewhere over Northern Arizona where I just about lost it. My son decided to get his angriest when I refused to let him go outside. No, I’m not kidding. Is it bad that I contemplated letting him do it?

We finally began our descent and I figured I was the happiest guy on the airplane. It certainly wasn’t my son, since he refused to drink from a straw, suck his thumb, or eat anything so his ears wouldn’t hurt.

As we got closer, he finally gave up the fight and fell asleep. If only that had happened two hours earlier. At least it was a beautiful ride in. The pilot came on to tell us that it was an incredibly clear day in LA. He said that he could see the airfield 90 miles away and that is indeed a rare thing. The mountains were covered with snow, and I took my first deep breath of the trip.

Arriving at LAX

We landed, and of course, our gate wasn’t ready. But we were really early so I couldn’t be surprised. My son woke up while we were waiting, but at that point, he was disoriented enough that he just sat there. I was thrilled once the door opened and we could get out of there. Of course, he saved one last tantrum for the parking garage. He refused to hold my hand when we were walking through the place, so he just went limp and made me drag him.

The next trip with him is in September and the flight is even longer. I really hope he’s grown out of it by then.

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