If I were to tell you there was an easy way to get your kids to sleep COMFORTABLY in economy on a commercial flight would you believe me? Well I found it, Fly-Tot, and it is genius. So much so every flight attendant on both our fights to and from LA were amazed with it and couldn't believe they hadn't seen more people using them.
The idea has been taken from the Sky Couch concept, except it's not the $800 upgrade it would have cost us on our flights, or in our case with two toddlers and two adults, double that. Sky Couch closes the gap between the seat in front of you leaving you a small single bed to lie flat on. Very cool from Air New Zealand and something I would definitely opt for first if we had the cash for the upgrade for two rows (we wouldn't fit in one)...but we don't, so I searched to find my next best option and up it popped on Facebook.
Once I found Fly-Tot I got my google on and a few other brands that had similar devices, but I settled on Fly Tot for a few reasons; the design looked good, it was compact and light. In its simplest form it's basically a durable blow up cushion, that you put on the ground behind the seat in front of you to close that gap just like Sky Couch.
How does it work?
You use a small foot pump to blow up two chambers, one that's slimmer to fit where you feet go, and the top one which is slightly larger to fill the space and create a "bed" between your seat and that in front.
Once inflated, which took only a few minutes, the seat becomes a tiny mini single "bed" where my rather tall almost 3 year olds could comfortably curl up and lay flat to go to sleep. Even better having two side to side, so they could kind of share the space, and even Jay and I could tuck our legs up to rest on the edge of them. Dreamy, literally. The boys were out like lights, which was perfect as Jay and I were left to eat dinner and down a few wines in peace in quiet, without heads or legs on our laps. I don't know about you but I love a few red wines and a movie or two on night flights, I'm one of those people that really enjoy flying and find it relaxing. Which is why I was dreading having the boys all up in my business when we booked the trip. I hadn't found these bad boys yet and I'd heard the horror stories of not being able to eat or sleep, due to wriggling toddlers sleeping/climbing all over you. On a over night 13 hour flight that is my idea of hell.
A few key points, questions I had when I first received the Fly-Tot and general guidelines on use:
- The pump made a reasonably loud whistle when you pushed on it to blow up the Fly-Tot, I wondered if it would disrupt other passengers and make me look crazy standing up pumping my leg up and down? Basically didn't want to draw attention to myself and stand their with a red face whilst doing a leg jig with a whistling sounds coming from my seat.
- The white noise the plane makes completely drowned the noise out, and I could sit in my seat and pump my leg up and down to inflate it. Which meant no one around me was wondering what the heck I was doing and didn't even notice it happening. Win.
- How easy was it to deflate?
- There are two massive valves that open up so you can deflate it in seconds.
- Would the crew tell me it wasn't safe and we weren't to use it?
- None of the crew on our flight had a problem with it. As long as it isn't used during taxi, take off or landing and the boys had their belts on they were fine with it. Plus if, god forbid, anything bad were to happen it wasn't blocking the access to the aisle and I would be picking my kids up quick smart and carrying them off the plane. Fly-Tot say they have talked to regulators and they believe it does not violate FAA regulations. *EDIT Singapore Airlines have officially approved them. Apparently Emirates won't let you use them - you will have to double check that though as I can't find any info anywhere and on certain airlines depending on the crew they may not want you to use it. As I said, we didn't come across any problems but look into it with your airline before purchasing.
- Would it be useful when they weren't sleeping?
- Yes, their little legs aren't quite long enough to bend over the seat so it made their time awake watching movies etc so much more comfy as their legs were supposed rather than half dangling off the edge.
- How much space would it take in my carry on?
- It folded down pretty small and we just took one foot pump to do both. I really didn't feel like it was cutting into our carry on allowance weight and size wise too much. But Jay and I both use a carry on bag, we had Trunkis for the boys and I had my baby bag.
- Would the boys be able to sleep with their seat belts on?
- Yes, they turned the opposite way so their heads were on the Fly-Tot and the belt easily went around their middle.
- Would their heads get squashed when the person in front moved their seat back?
- They slept the whole time with the people's seat reclined and it only moved the seat back slightly at that point, it moves the furthest at the top of the seat not the base. Their heads fit easily under the angle of the seat and didn't bother them whatsoever. The photos above have the seats in front all reclined. But of course you can put your children the other way around, this is just what worked for us.
- Why did I choose for their heads to be that way round?
- Air NZ seats are kind of on an angle, so if they slept the other way round they were tilted downwards with their feet above their head. They tried both ways and seemed the most comfortable with their head on the Fly-Tot. Also this way the seat belt sa across their hips versus chest.
- Is it worth the $?
- YES! When you are already paying thousands to fly, the extra few hundred is so worth it to make the journey more comfortable for all involved.
- Would it work for older kids?
- I think it would still be useful. They can stretch their legs flat out in front of them, way better than dangling legs and have more space to cur up into a ball to sleep. Fly-Tot have pictures of older kids on their gram and site with reviews from parents saying it still made their trip that much more comfortable.
- The boys turned in their seats and slept leaving against the seat with their legs stretched out, they were happy that way too and I think thats how bigger kids would sleep using it.
Cons, if you can really call them that:
- The rubber band they provide you with to keep the foot pump closed when not in use broke pretty fast. Not a massive deal but meant it couldn't be folded smaller and took up more space in my bag. I would recommend taking a piece of string to wrap around the hooks at the end of the pump to keep it closed.
- It deflated every so slightly throughout the trip, but nothing major and didn't affect how they slept. I would say less than 5% of air came out over 12 hours. Apparently this is normal during descent though.
So basically I'm scrapping the barrel to pick any major faults with it.
So to sum it all up, if you are flying with your kids and they need to sleep, get this! It seriously made our flights so much more enjoyable, the boys slept 9-10 hours and we didn't have to compromise our sleep to get them to do that. Boom.