I've done two round trips with Silas now, for a total of eight flights. When you consider that both times, my return trip consisted of at least two trips to the airport each due to cancelled/delayed flights, I feel like I've pretty much mastered airplane travel with a baby.
The only problem is, my baby is growing much faster than intended! Right now I've been taking advantage of the "infant free in arms" part of flying, which puts the cost of flying somewhat close to the cost of driving. The time saved by flying easily pushes the flight option into the "best choice" category. However, the last time I flew, I had a heck of a time trying to nurse Silas on the plane. He's just too danged long!
It's no secret that I'll be seeing my family this summer again. I've started staking out plane tickets. Except, summer plane tickets are apparently very premium, as the prices are already over $100 more than I'm used to seeing. Between that and the fact that Silas is still growing, I'm starting to think driving might be the answer after all. (There's no way that the answer can be "buy two plane tickets" due to the cost). Assuming an average of $4 a gallon, I'd be able to drive there and back over two days for cheaper than a single plane ticket.
There's other benefits as well - I'd be able to bring larger toys and more books. Packing more clothes would be nice, though certainly not a necessity. We could stop closer to the times Silas eats and plays instead of attempting to have playtime at an unused airport gate for ten minutes in between flights. I wouldn't have to deal with a diaper blowout in an airplane bathroom. (It took me ten minutes to decide whether writing the words "poosplosion on a plane" would put me on some sort of government list.)
The huge downside is the time factor. The drive is about 16 hours (that's with about three to four stops for fill ups and food) which is a huge amount of time for a baby to spend in a carseat, even over two days. And it's a lot of driving for me. I've been able to do up to 8 hours of driving by myself, but my back does start to complain at 3-4 hours.
It's not an issue of days off; thanks to my school schedule, I can take my time and drive up over two days without cutting into the time that I see my family (though it does sadly leave me away from my husband for a day longer, he might not complain at the chance to have an extra full night of sleep). It's an issue of whether or not a marathon car ride is worth not having to twist sideways to nurse and apologize to a seatmate as Silas wants to explore their side of plane and maybe fusses for two two-hour flights. Whether it's worth it to stress about Silas crying in his carseat after the first hour of driving or to stress about running across an airport and missing a flight while wearing my baby and carrying our luggage. If it's worth it to have more of our items from home than to get there faster.
I'm not sure. I may feel like I have a lot of travel experience with a baby under my belt but right now it seems like I need to pick the lesser of the two evils. I certainly wouldn't mind any thoughts or comments or experiences with driving vs. flying, that's for sure!