A few years ago, I got the chance to skydive. No, I didn’t jump out of a plane. I was on a cruise ship and got to experience indoor skydiving. I have strong vertigo when I’m up too high, and planes make me motion sick. So while I’ve always dreamed of hopping out of a plane and sailing down with a parachute, this gave me that sensation, minus the panic attack. My daughter, who I like to think of as my fearless little daredevil, has been itching to throw herself out of a plane, but US laws won’t allow her to do that until she’s 18 (which for this scared parent is thankfully six years away). She had seen my pics from my indoor flight and begged to go. Lucky for her, iFly came to New Jersey.
We live nearby, and have been watching construction and anxiously awaiting its opening. It finally opened yesterday, and my daughter got to give it a try. She absolutely loved this experience and is already begging me to sign her up for iFly’s flight school (a program that allows kids to fly regularly and learn some neat tricks, too).
If you’re thinking of taking the kids, here’s some advice.
Make a reservation in advance online. There’s nothing worse than getting there with the kids and finding out it’s booked. Also, there are online waivers that need to be filled out by parents/guardians in advance. This is especially important if you’re taking someone else’s kid. No one can fly without a signed waiver.
Get there early. Whether your kids are skittish or psyched, go ahead of their scheduled flight time, so they can see the tunnel in action with others experiencing the bodyflight. It’s mesmerizing to watch. And if you or your kid is nervous, seeing how it actually works, is really reassuring. They’ll see that first-time fliers are always with a certified instructor, who will help with form. And they use the handles that are on the back of your jumpsuit to make sure you stay within reach at all times. So if you’re worried your kid will go in and immediately fly up to the ceiling… don’t be. Even better, the facility allows visitors to view the experience, without charge, so you might want to go in advance to check it out first.
You should do it too! Don’t let the kids have all the fun. iFly is open to ages 3 to 103, and it’s really an indescribable feeling to just let the air take you up and allow you to feel like you’re flying. Know that you’re in a controlled environment with people that know what they’re doing. I watched the instructors for a long time and they’re constant communication with the person running the big fans that make you fly. They adjust them depending on the person’s size and how high they want you to go. Your first flight will be spent not too far off the ground so you can get the hang of the flying.
You’ll have to take a mandatory 30-minute training session, where instructors will walk you through the how-to of flying (basic positions and hand signals). The pros will also run through the moves, to make sure you’re fully prepped before you get your gear on.
Speaking of gear, there’s a bunch. You need to wear your own sneakers (no bare feet or other footwear, only sneakers), and take off all jewelry (there are lockers to stash your stuff in). Glasses are OK to wear, but note that they will be covered by the plastic goggles you are given, so if you don’t need them, you might want to take them off. My daughter opted to keep hers on and was fine. You’ll be given an iFly jumpsuit to wear over your clothing (I’d suggest wearing comfy clothes that aren’t too baggy). Everyone is given earplugs, goggles and a helmet. You’ll want to wear the earplugs because it gets really loud in the tunnel with the fans. It’s a bit of an odd sensation at first, so you might want to warn the kids.
Then it’s time to fly! You’ll be in an assigned group based on time slots, and you’ll all enter the tunnel waiting area, where there is a bench to sit on. It’s like entering an airlock, but it’s not scary. There’s one instructor inside and you’ll take turns stepping up to the inner door, putting your arms in front of you and leaning in. The instructor will have a good hold on you, and help you adjust your form. It can be a little weird at first, with the 100 mph wind in your face and the loud noise (dampened by the earplugs), but then after a few seconds you should be adjusted and be able to enjoy. My big tip is to relax and don’t forget to breathe. My daughter says her best tip is to trust the instructor. They won’t let go until they are sure you are ready, and even then, their hands are totally close by and they let go for seconds at a time. After your first short iFly flight, the instructor will take you back to the door and you can sit back on the bench and catch your breath.
The second time is even better! If you were nervous the first flight, those jitters are over the second time. You still lean in, and the instructor will help with your form, but then it gets exciting! Once you’re ready, the instructor will have the operator turn the fans up a bit, and you’ll lift off. This is the cool part (see our video for proof)! And while it may look a little scary going up a few stories, the pros are totally in control and have a hold of your jumpsuit. You’ll go up and down a bit, and then back to the bench.
Chances are, you’ll love it, and want to go again. I saw several adults (and my own kid) who wanted a third turn or more. There were a few who had enough after one try, but most were itching to go again.
And yes, I hear the complaints from everyone I talk to that it’s pricey. I’m a single mom on a tight budget. I get it. iFly flights on the weekends (and Friday nights after 5 pm) are “Prime Time” and start at $109.95 for two flights, but during the week they start at $89.95. Yes, it’s a lot. Yes, its a short amount of time. But my daughter had more fun doing this than spending a whole day at Six Flags waiting in long lines to go on roller coasters, which after parking, tickets and food, comes out to a similar amount of money. This is a special occasion treat for most people. And yes, you could actually go skydiving for usually around $200, but that’s not an option for the kids (and have I mentioned how high and scary that is?).
It makes a great birthday party option, and they’ve got party rooms for any events. iFly also has the aforementioned flight school, which is regularly scheduled weekly classes where the kids can learn more advanced moves (they’ve got adult coaching programs too, so the kids don’t get all the fun). And there’s talk that bodyflight might be part of the Olympics in the not-too-distant future, so this might be the start of her Olympic career.
For most (including me), it’s an experience gift to be sure, but they aren’t likely to forget that time they got to actually fly. I talk so much about my own time doing it that my mother (who is terrified of heights) went and did it (and loved it) while she was in Las Vegas. I guess that makes us a three-generation family of iFly addicts.