“Soar on a cushion of air up to 30 feet high”. That did not sound like something my son, with his fear of heights and danger, would want to do. But as soon as he saw the iFly brochure in the lobby of our San Diego hotel, he talked of nothing else. With his father on his side, I was outvoted. That is how we found my children indoor skydiving at iFly San Diego. What we found was a unique unforgettable experience, and an unexpected lesson in overcoming adversity to conquer a fear.
It all started with my eagle-eyed son spotting an iFly brochure while waiting for us to check-in. I want to be clear. My son has admitted to having a fear of heights. He tries to do some adventurous activities and not always with success. Indoor skydiving is an expensive attraction. I was not sure I wanted to spend a lot of money on an activity that essentially lasted two minutes. If my son panicked last minute and didn’t want to go, I would lose a lot of money. I tried distracting him. I tried offering other ideas and things to do. But he was insistent. And he had his Dad behind him. “Come on, if he can’t do it on vacation when can he do it?” Urh. I gave in and consented. We bought a morning flight for that Thursday.
The morning of the flight, suddenly my daughter wanted to do it as well. But there were no more reservations at that time. At iFly we let them know about this issue and asked if they could squeeze in my daughter as well. They were close to capacity, but since both my kids are from the same household, they were able to accommodate. In addition, I was able to get a deal that was only offered onsite that gave each kid an extra flight, and the option of one of them to have a “high fly” if they choose. After the deal, it was an additional $8, and I figured it made the price for the two kids a tiny bit more tolerable. (vacation math 🤷♀️)
When you enter iFly, you are required to fill out waivers. For minors, the parents need to complete them. Then you are taken into the flight training. Here you watch a short video and then go over some basic hand signals to remember when you are in the flight tunnel. Next, it is time to suit up. You put on flight suits that are tight at the ankles and wrists and then zipped up to the neck. You are also given helmets and goggles. My son had worn sandals, so they provided him some canvas sneakers to wear. Also, scrunchies are not allowed (they fly off in the strong wind) so they had hair elastics so I could pull back my daughter’s wide hair. Once everyone was suited up and ready, the fliers are sent into the flight tunnel.
The flight tunnel is over 30 feet high and sends in winds over 100 mph. The group included experienced fliers learning to do tricks, and newbies who were flying for the first time. The instructor went in with my daughter first. My daughter is a dancer. As soon as he guided her into the tube, my daughter got into position, pointing her toes, and putting her arms out straight. Within 30 seconds she was floating mostly on her own. By the third flight she got it straight away. She even chose to do the high fly. This is when the instructor takes you up to as much as 30 feet so you can experience flying really high. My daughter did not go up that high, but she still thought it was really cool. The only part that scared her was she did not realize how fast it came down.
My son was a bit of a different story. He was visibly nervous as he entered his first flight. As he entered the tunnel, within 10-20 seconds he panicked. He started flailing his arms and legs and the instructor quickly got him out of the tunnel and had them shut down the wind and clock. I looked at my husband with my “I told you so” look, but my husband went to talk to our son. As we were exchanging looks, we did not realize the instructor had already walked out with him and was getting him a full-face helmet. Turns out, this is not the first time someone panicked, and the experienced instructor knew exactly what to do. My son panicked because the wind made him feel like he could not breathe. The instructor explained a full-face helmet would be able to breathe more comfortably. They usually cost extra to rent, but he wanted my son to enjoy the experience. They let him redo his first flight. With the full-face helmet, he was much calmer. He was able to get his body out, and while he was a little wobbly, but he flew solo a few seconds at a time. He was better still the second flight. By the third flight, he was flying solo most times and getting some height. He chose in the end not to do the high fly but did a spectacular job at flying. This time my husband gave me his “I told you so” looks and it turns out he was right.
There are a few tips that I suggest if you find yourself wanting to try an iFly near you:
- Cost: iFly is expensive, there is no way around that. List price in San Diego for a first timer doing the standard 2, one-minute flights was $85. There are a few ways to lower the cost and/or add in extras that make it a bit more economical. A couple attending had used a Groupon deal to save on the flights. The associate also told us there are often deals you can only get onsite. For my daughter we purchased a first timers deal with 4 one-minute flights, and 1 “high-fly” add on for $93. Since she was with someone, we could split the flights between the two, allowing each to have three total flights. It only came with one “high-fly” add-on, but if my son had decided he wanted to do it, it was an additional nominal fee. If you really love iFly and know you will want to return at some point, it is cheaper to buy returning flights at the end of the session, then to buy them later the internet.
- What to Wear: We made the mistake of having my son in sandals (to be fair we got to San Diego and discovered his sneakers did not fit, but that is another story). You must wear closed toed shoes when flying. So please be sure to bring socks and sneakers. Also, no jewelry or hair accessories besides a simple tight hair elastic. Small studs in the ears are fine, but nothing dangling. Also know you will need to put anything in your pockets, including your cell phones, in a locker. They have a nice picture of what happens to your phone if you accidently bring it in. And a story about how long it took to clean up the mess….
- Pictures and Videos: They have a camera in the tunnel that takes great pictures and video. They have a deal that lets you buy a picture and video, and it came with my daughter’s package. However, you are allowed a guest, especially if there is a minor, and my husband was also able to get great pictures from the side. If your whole group is flying, you will definitely want to pay for the pictures.
- Covid Considerations: iFly is indoors, there is no way around that. They do a temp check and a health screening when entering. There is hand sanitizer available in several places, and you are encouraged to use it, especially entering, and exiting the waiting area in the tunnel. All the flight gear is sanitized between each usage. You are required to wear a mask throughout training, getting on gear, and when you are in the waiting area of the tunnel. However, you are asked to remove it just as you get into the flight tunnel. This is because the wind can blow the mask into your face and it can be dangerous. You are in there with the instructor who is also not wearing a mask. It is a risk. There are no two ways around that.
In the end, the kids were bouncing out talking about how much fun it was. I, in particular, was impressed with our amazing instructor, who managed to help my son overcome his fear with experience and compassion. In the end, I am glad I was outvoted, and I was glad that I was wrong. Because in this trip my son learned a valuable life lesson that he could overcome adversity, he could conquer his fears, and he could be trusted to do all of this. For that, iFly was worth every penny.
* Starred Photos taken by Atma Photography