Travel

This Trusty Gadget Makes Flying With Little Ones a Breeze

A life-changing travel essential for one Food52 editor and her family.

November  9, 2018
Photo by Pexels

Before my husband and I had our daughter Lana, we talked about how we’d try our hardest not to let having a child get in the way of our traveling―a hobby we enjoyed immensely, of course, but also a necessity with both of our families living abroad. For the most part, we made well on that promise, especially when Lana was just a baby.

Up until she was about nine or 10 months old, we would reserve the bassinet seats on flights, and have her sleep, play, and sit up in this cozy space. That was a dream compared to the forthcoming early toddler years (I’d say 12 to 24 months), which were, in my opinion, the most challenging. Not only are they starting to be on the move (read: unable to sit still), they’re also just learning to communicate their needs through words. They’re up! They’re down! They’re all around! Trust me when I say I’ve never yearned more for those leisurely solo flights of yore, when US Weekly, Vanity Fair, and Gardetto’s (you know what’s up!) were my only distractions from in-flight movie marathons.

But then suddenly they’re 2 years old, and an iPad or the in-flight entertainment seems to capture their attention. Screen time only becomes more of a handy tool as they get a bit older and television show preferences bloom, and favorite movies are decided (Boss Baby, who knew?). They’re getting bigger―physically and emotionally―and suddenly flying isn’t fraught with so much anxiety anymore.

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Still, there’s the issue of sleep. Their bodies are small, but not small enough to fit in that handy bassinet anymore. Sure, they can sleep with their head on your lap, but then your leg falls asleep 30 minutes into a 14-hour flight. So what to do to create a comfortable space for your small travelers?

Enter the Fly-Tot. I discovered this inflatable travel cushion on a parents’ board, and quickly scanned the consistently high reviews, noting―especially―the flight durations (and adorably convincing photos) in their testimonials. I ordered mine on Amazon Prime (because Amazon Prime is a godsend to new parents). Also, we had an upcoming 7-hour-plus overnight flight coming up, and I wanted to be prepared.

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Top Comment:
“The Fly Tot is $79. Does anyone else have experience with any other brands of these pillows? Thanks in advance!”
— Esvee
Comment

The Fly-Tot is a genius little air cushion (invented by two moms, by the way) that is placed on the ground fitting that space between your seat and the one in front of it. It fills that void, allowing little legs to be propped up while watching movies, or stretched out while sleeping.

Don't forget to bring your own headphones if their little ears are too small for standard-size buds. Photo by Hana Asbrink

Getting just a few straight hours of sleep on a flight is bliss―for anyone, really, but especially for small toddlers. (You don’t want to see an overtired toddler in closed quarters.) This time can be spent however you wish: resting up yourself, catching up on aforementioned glossy mags, or simply enjoying the freedom to use the restroom as you please. The world is your oyster.

Stretching out for a snooze (she also slept in the other direction) for at least a few hours! Photo by Hana Asbrink

The Fly-Tot is foldable, made with a durable nylon material, and comes with a convenient strap. It comes with a foot-controlled pump that pumps up the two-tier air cushion in just a few short minutes. It deflates in less than a minute, and then you can fold it back up and store it in a regular-sized canvas tote or your carry-on.

My tips to you for a smooth experience:

  • First and foremost: Check to make sure your carrier doesn’t have any restrictions when it comes to inflatable air pillows. We’ve not encountered any, but there are a few parents who have come across restrictions once onboard. Read the Fly-Tot FAQ section here for more information.
  • Inflate at the right time: Don’t inflate during take-off and landing. I would wait until you’re safely in the air before inflating.
  • Put your child in the window seat: This minimizes any potential inconvenience for other passengers who might have to maneuver around your child.
  • Buckle up your child before they fall asleep: If there’s turbulence, you don’t want to accidentally wake your sleeping child to put their seatbelt on.
  • Make sure you inflate fully: Give both tiers a gentle squeeze once in a while to make sure no air has escaped.

Since purchasing the Fly-Tot, we’ve used it on at least a handful of trips with no problems whatsoever. I wholeheartedly recommend it.

What are your travel tricks for smooth-flying with tots? Let us know in the comments below.

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5 Comments

Esvee November 11, 2018
I’ll be flying with my three year old to Europe soon and I’ve been eyeing these types of pillows. I wonder if the author could speak to the Fly Tot’s price? Others on Amazon are in the $20-30 range, with some even less. The Fly Tot is $79. Does anyone else have experience with any other brands of these pillows? Thanks in advance!
 
Author Comment
Hana A. November 12, 2018
Hi Esvee! Thanks so much for your comment. I realize the Fly-Tot is pricier than some competitors, but when I was initially in the market for this item, the cheaper options didn't exist! It's obviously up to you as to what you're comfortable paying, but I'd say the Fly-Tot has definitely paid for itself on the several long-haul trips we've taken in the last few years. Be sure to read the Amazon reviews carefully for the other options. Hope this helps and safe travels!
 
Esvee November 12, 2018
Thanks, that makes a lot of sense!
 
Ryan C. November 11, 2018
I'm curious, excited, and wary all at the same time. I know we need one of these after reading this but I also want to avoid a Knee Defender situation https://www.nytimes.com/2014/08/29/upshot/in-defense-of-the-knee-defender.html from happening because this thing is inflated. Does it impede the person in front from reclining?
 
Author Comment
Hana A. November 12, 2018
Hi Ryan,<br /><br />OMG I'd never heard of the Knee Defender! I think the Fly-Tot would still work well, even if you had a KD-user on-board... you can have your little one sleep with head toward the back of the seat (and not curled up towards the front, as shown in my 2nd photo). <br /><br />The cushion's top is flush with the seat, so even if the person in front of you reclines, there should still be plenty of clearance as long as the head is facing the back. <br /><br />If you guys ever want to take it for a spin, lmk! Happy to let you borrow it anytime before or after the holidays. :)