We left our house at 10 to be on time for the 10:30 shuttle. We made it to the airport with no problems, except for the woman on the shuttle who decided to be irritated with Gareth for no reason and kept shooting daggers my way. We weren't sitting behind her, so he definitely wasn't kicking her seat and he wasn't being terribly loud or obnoxious in any other way. Maybe she just woke up on the wrong side of the bed.
We used the curbside check-in, which was awesome. There was no way I was getting two bags, the carseat, Gareth in the stroller, plus our carry-ons into the indoor check-in lines by myself. And, for some reason, we didn't get charged for our checked bags, so we only paid a tip to the check-in guy! And when it came to the security we were able to use the family lane, so that went quickly and smoothly as well.
The difficulties started after that when Gareth was tired of sitting in the stroller rather than getting to push it. We got to our gate and got seat assignments and then I released him from his stroller. Bad idea. He was happy watching the planes for about two seconds before he wanted to take off running through the airport. Getting on the plane didn't improve anything. The light buttons on the plane were conspicuously large and yellow. Gareth had already figured out how to undo the seatbelt, so that was no help. He spent the whole plane ride wanting to turn on the lights and then turn them off and on and off and on and off. He refused to sit still and kept waving things in the faces of the people behind us. I was exhausted and my back was starting to hurt by the time we reached Dallas, where Gareth was even more wound up than before.
I tried to find us some dinner, but had a difficult time finding anything even remotely healthy. In the end we settled for pretzels and a berry parfait with granola and yogurt. Gareth was mostly uninterested in food and just wanted to run like a maniac. Thankfully most of the people around us were understanding. On our second plane we were on the very back row, right next to the bathrooms. One of the flight attendants was a seatbelt nazi. We went through some light turbulence so the seatbelt sign was on rather frequently. So, we had to hear a lecture anytime he managed to get out of his seatbelt (not hard for him to do). In her defense, I think they were required to remind people of the seatbelt thing, but it got old really fast. There were a couple of college-aged girls across the aisle from us and they were nice enough to lend me their portable DVD player, which kept Gareth occupied for an hour or so of the flight. (A four-hour flight with a three-year-old lasts an eternity, in case you were wondering.) The rest of the flight was spent trying to stop Gareth from turning the lights on and off over and over, taking him to the bathroom a million times, and trying (unsuccessfully) to get him to sleep. When it came time to land I forced him to keep his seat belt on, which finally got him upset enough to fall asleep 2 minutes before we touched down. The good thing about being on the back row was that Gareth got a few more minutes of sleep while we waited for everyone else to leave. Then he'd lost his toy cars under the seats, so we enlisted the help of our seat neighbor and the flight attendants to find them. The flight attendant (the seat belt one) even helped carry Gareth off the plane since, between his dead weight and our carry-on bags, I was making very slow progress.
Gareth was definitely awake by the time I strapped him into the stroller. We went and got our bags, but then I realized I should have picked up the car seat first since it was on a different belt. A family nearby watched our bags while I grabbed the car seat and then they helped me get our stuff onto an elevator so we could get up to the level where we could get a taxi. We were in the elevator with another family and they helped me get our bags off the elevator, across the walkway to the garage, and down another elevator to the taxi line. Once we were in the taxi it was easy going. It felt great to get to the hotel and have Ryan to help me with everything. After fourteen hours of travel, we had no problem going to sleep. We survived, but I don't want to ever travel alone with Gareth again - at least not on a plane and not until he's a little older.