Then there was a pandemic and no one was flying for a while.
As I started my maternity leave, I had all these grand ambitions of travelling a lot during my time off. Visions of trotting around Europe, wearing my baby in a carrier. Showing her one of my passions, seeing different cultures and trying new foods.
That obviously did not happen, but we did make it to Spain (returning a few weeks before the UK went into lockdown).
We were then grounded. No flying for goodness knows how long it felt like.
I missed out on my mum visiting at the end of March, a flight to Northern Ireland in May and early July for my dads 60th, and my family coming to England for our baby dedication service at church.
Then things started to reopen, and flights recommenced.
At first we did not entertain flying for quite some time. However, after almost 7 months of not seeing my family, we made the decision to return to Northern Ireland.
Initially we had considered getting a ferry like we did at Christmas. However, this would have meant a 6 hour drive to Liverpool, a night in a hotel and a 8 hour ferry crossing. Not something we felt would be worth it for a short trip. Plus the fact it was twice the price of a flight!
Our new flying experience
Initially I was quite daunted by the prospect of flying. I was concerned how our baby would react to seeing us in face masks. About how to socially distance on a plane and whether we were putting ourselves at risk of getting covid by travelling.
We took an early morning flight, staying at the airport the night before.
We arrived a little over 2 hours before our flight, which I wouldn’t normally do for a domestic flight, but we were unsure about how long queues would be given the social distancing etc.
I was surprised to see just how busy it was at bag drop with several flights leaving. We queued as normal with not much social distancing going on, however we had masks so y’know that’s ok!
Exposing our baby to mask wearing
A few days prior to flying we would put on face masks for a few minutes and take them off, showing her that it was us underneath.
On the day of flying she didn’t seem to bothered by it all, she was much more interested in looking around her at all the new sights and sounds.
Security again was busy but it is worth noting that for family travellers (at Gatwick at least, early August 2020) that the family/assistance lane was not open, so we queued up with everyone else but seemed to get through at a reasonable time. Bag drop to getting through to departures was approximately 30 mins.
It was quite strange seeing the departure area much more closed off. Several shops and restaurants were not open so we were quiet limited as to what we could have.
Luckily we managed to get a table at Wetherspoons and grab a dirty fry up, which thanks to the Government eat out to help out scheme (In August) was half price!
We ordered and paid via the app and got served within 10 minutes.
There was a reduced menu so we made sure we packed a puréed fruit pouch and some baby banana muffins for our little one (though she did steal some of sausage and toast!)
The boarding area felt like normal, but the process was a bit different. Rather than everyone hoarding onto the plane and being in a queue from the moment the gate opened, they boarded in rows. Which I think is how they used to do it and to be honest is a much more civilised approach.
Luckily we managed to score a whole row to ourselves which made me feel better not being squashed next to a stranger.
We had to wear masks throughout, which after a while felt a bit claustrophobic, so I am thankful for it being a short flight.
We were able to remove masks for eating and drinking, and they had a reduced menu in flight food and drink service.
Due to a 5am start and an 8am flight, our little one slept most of the journey, waking up just before landing.
The return journey was much the same as our outward. However, this time we did get to use the special assistance lane to whizz through security. We were on a busy flight so sat right next to someone. Our little one decided not to sleep, but we managed to keep her entertained for the hour we were on board.
Flying in the wave of a pandemic is certainly different, but it didn’t put me off.
That said, I am not quite ready to fly further afield just yet.