When we booked our 10 hour flight from Calgary, Canada to Tokyo, we decided to fly with our 14 month old son as a lap toddler. At this stage, we’d flown enough with our kids that we thought could handle flying with a toddler on our lap. But as the trip got closer, we both started to get nervous about having him on our laps for such a long flight as he did not like to be held and just wanted to move all the time.
My husband made a concerted effort to hold him on his lap leading up to our trip, but he just wouldn’t sit still. We were really worried, but there was no turning back at this point, so we had to make this work.
Oops, were you looking for a post about toddler travel beds? Read our post on the best toddler travel bed here!
This post contains compensated links.
We are grateful to Fly Tot for providing us with the inflatable cushion we used for this review.
Updated March 2020: We wrote our initial review based on our experiences on our 10h+ flights from Canada to Japan. We have updated this post as we have used it multiple times since Japan and as you can see, it really has fundamentally changed the nature of long flights with our children. We now own two Fly Tot inflatable airplane beds and continue to use them on all our long haul flights.
Enter the Inflatable Toddler Travel Bed
The Fly Tot is an inflatable cushion that fits in the leg room area between your seat and the seat in front of you. The idea is that it will allow your little one room to lay down flat on a regular, economy seat, turning the seat into a travel bed for toddlers on airplanes.
I had read about some really positive experiences with the Fly Tot airplane cushion in a few Facebook groups that I was a part of. If we could get at least one of our kids sleeping on the plane, that would be a huge win.
So how did our flight go?
Much better than expected, despite a rough start. We initially set up our 3 year old daughter with the Fly Tot and an iPad. She loved this inflatable airplane cushion and was perfectly content to sit there and watch her movie.
Our son was a different story… As expected, he did not want to be held and was just getting increasingly overtired and vocal. We spent most of the early part of the flight with him in the area near the toilets or at the back of the plane. We tried to get him to sleep by walking in our Ergo baby carrier but it just wasn’t happening – he wanted to play.
Finally, my husband suggested we put him on the area with the inflatable travel pillow and put our daughter between us. It worked perfectly. He had his own area to stand, sit and play. We were able to relax and not struggle to keep him in our arms. Our daughter was still happy as long as her movie was on (Frozen – it’s always Frozen).
He eventually had a sleep on the inflatable travel bed, and although we would have preferred a much longer sleep we were happy with what we could get. As a bonus, our daughter also had a sleep on this miraculous inflatable toddler bed a little later.
Our flight home was even better. We were lucky to have a relatively empty flight, so I was able to grab two seats next to a window with our little guy. My husband stayed in the three middle seats with our daughter. I made use of the Fly Tot again to give him an area to play and he even slept for 4 hours straight!
I said to my husband after: “Is that what it feels like to have kids sleep on the flight?” For the first time in our 3 years since having kids, my husband watched a movie and I read a book. Amazing!!
We originally got our inflatable airplane cushion, the Fly Tot, for our 10 hour flights to and from Japan, but we’ve since used them on trans-Atlantic flights to Italy, Norway, London, Thailand (the list goes on…).
So, with well over 50 hours of in-flight experience using this inflatable travel bed for kids on airplanes, we can confidently share our views of the pros and cons of getting an inflatable airplane pillow like the Fly Tot:
Pitfalls of Inflatable Airplane Cushions for Kids
- It’s a little big to carry. I can’t complain because I didn’t carry it, but it did take up the bottom 1/3 of my husband’s carry-on bag. Given the huge benefit of getting our kids to sleep on flights, he doesn’t mind carrying it.
- The cost may be a bit more than you want to spend for use on a single trip. However, if you plan to use it frequently, then it’s well worth the price. For example, we have used it on 8 international flights so far and we have gotten 8 sleeps out of it – that’s only $10 per sleep – a small price to pay for well rested kids!
If you like the idea of an airplane travel bed, but don’t like the price of the Fly Tot, perhaps look at one of these budget inflatable travel cushions for airplanes.
- According to some of the negative reviews, some airlines do not allow these inflatable airplane seat extenders. As of this update (March 2020), Fly-Tot reports that 50 airlines have accepted it for use.
See the Resources section at the bottom of the post for the complete list. (Note, despite some negative reviews, there are currently 4x as many 5 star reviews as there are 1 star reviews)
Benefits of Inflatable Airplane Beds for Toddlers
- More sleep for everyone. Isn’t that what every parent wants on a flight?
- Extra room for everyone. Both of our kids have enjoyed the extra room the Fly Tot provides for sleeping. But there’s more to it than that… when the kids aren’t sleeping the inflatable leg rest gives the kids extra real estate to play, without having to worry about them falling on the floor.
- More freedom. No more worrying about needing to go pee after your baby falls asleep on you…
- It’s is super easy to inflate and it literally takes seconds to deflate. Nobody on the plane has ever noticed when I was inflating it. Deflating was as simple as opening the valves and pushing the air out. See our YouTube video of the inflation process in the Resources section below…
- It’s durable and high quality. We’ve hauled the Fly Tot with us on four major trips totaling over 120 days on the road. It still works as good as the first time we used it. In fact, we are looking to get a second inflatable travel bed for our upcoming trip.
Should You Buy an Inflatable Travel Bed for Kids?
So would I recommend the Fly Tot? Yes, without hesitation. Just look at the pictures below to see why… it works. Since getting our travel toddler bed for airplanes (ours is a Fly Tot), we have used it to get our kids to sleep on every single international flight we have taken. We couldn’t ask for more than that…
Using the Fly Tot on Airplanes
The pictures above were from our October 2016 trip from Canada to Japan. Here are the pictures from our subsequent trips. This inflatable travel bed for kids has worked every single time.
CANADA TO ITALY
CANADA TO NORWAY
(Whoooo’s the cute little owl? He’s Ollie the Owl, a combination white noise machine and wireless Bluetooth speaker)
CANADA TO LONDON
Fly Tot Resources
To help visualize how an inflatable travel cushion can be used as a travel bed for toddlers on airplanes given your seating arrangements, here is a useful infographic from Singapore Airlines.
List of approved airlines (as of Sept ’18): ANA, Air Japan, AirAsia Japan, Aegean Airlines, Air Asia, Air India, Air Vanuatu, Alaska Airlines, Alliance Airlines, American Airlines, Austrian Airlines, Cathay Dragon, Cathay Pacific, Cebu Pacific, China Airlines, China Eastern, China Southern, Easy Jet, Etihad Airways, Eva Airlines, FlyBe, Garuda Indonesia, Hong Kong Airlines, Iceland Air, Japan Airlines, Jet2, JetBlue, KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, Lufthansa, Malaysia Airlines, Norwegian Air, Oman Air, Peach Aviation, Philippine Airlines, Royal Jordanian Airlines, Scandinavian Airlines, Scoot, Silk Air, Singapore Airlines, Southwest, Thompson Air, Vanilla Air, Vietnam Airlines, Virgin (America), Virgin Australia, WestJet.
Who Should Purchase an Inflatable Travel Bed for Kids?
You can only use an inflatable travel pillow if your child will be occupying a seat. If you have purchased a seat for a toddler under 2 years old, make sure you know the rules of your airline and if a child restraint is mandatory.
You can expect to have your toddler on your lap for takeoff, landing and in the event of any turbulence.
Tips To Successfully use a Fly Tot
- If you’ve called your airline and they told you inflatable cushions for planes are not allowed, that may not be the case. The customer service desk may not know what you are talking about. A lot of times it is up to the discretion of the flight crew.
Your biggest risk is that you end up carrying it and not using it.
- You can not use an inflatable airplane bed during takeoff or landing. Don’t try. In fact, I usually wait until the meal has been cleared and everyone is settling in.
- What if you do get told that it is not allowed on the flight? Apologize and put it away. Be polite. Getting angry and creating a fuss will not make anything better.
In fact, we recommend going out of your way to treat the flight attendants well as they can be so helpful on a flight!
- Don’t give the flight a crew a reason to ask you to put it away. Only use your inflatable travel cushion in seats that won’t block anyone. The window seat is best.
Inflate it quietly without bothering other passengers and we recommend doing it within the confines of your seat rather than in the aisle. You’ll want it in place as you inflate the travel cushion anyways.
- Always put the seat belt on your child. If there is turbulence, you’ll have to wake your child to put on their seat belt so it’s best to do it before.
What about Fly Tot Alternatives
It’s true there are several alternatives to the Fly Tot inflatable airplane cushion. The original is the Fly Tot, but there are two others that are nearly identical and others that are similar.
Flyaway Kids Bed
One new alternative that we own is the Flyaway Kids Bed. It’s also an inflatable cushion but it has some improvements that we really liked. Read our full Flyaway Kids Bed review here.
Plane Pal vs. Fly Tot
While I have not personally used a Plane Pal, I can see from the images that they are nearly identical though the Fly Tot is slightly smaller. They both come with a pump and the Plane Pal comes with a carrying bag. The pumps are slightly different. The Fly Tot model can be collapsed and secured shut to take up less space.
The Kooshy Kid Kooshion is most similar to the Plane Pal.
If you are shopping from Canada, the United States of UK, the Fly Tot is the one that is most consistently available on Amazon. You can even get a double unit with only one pump – perfect for families with two kids!
What About Cheaper Alternatives to the Fly Tot?
While we think the Fly Tot is one of the best toddler travel beds for airplanes, it might not be the right choice for you.
If the cost of a Fly Tot is too much of a risk, in the event that the airline you are flying with decides to make the Fly Tot banned, then there are other cheaper alternatives. These are typically a cube shape which is different than the Fly Tot cushion, but the reviews for ones like the Wapwap Travel Pillow and the 1st Class Kid Pillow are good considering the much lower price. Just keep in mind that these will not come with a pump for inflating.
Have questions about using an inflatable airplane bed for toddlers on your next flight? Come join our private facebook group for traveling parents! Join here…