The alarming prospect of fidgety, sleepless children on long-haul flights is enough to make any parent think twice about that dream holiday. But help is at hand from specially designed inflatable kid’s mattresses. Flying With A Baby tested two such products – Plane Pal and Flyaway (full review here) – on a flight that could turn laid-back Brad Pitt into a jibbering wreck: London to Sydney via Singapore, with Singapore Airlines.
First up, a crucial bit of advice. Some airlines prohibit the use of inflatable mattresses, seeing them as a safety hazard that could block seat rows in the event of an evacuation.
The airlines that do permit them are quite prescriptive about where they are used: the window seat of outboard rows, and the middle berths of a four-seat central cluster. Check your airline’s website’s Travelling With Children section for their rules:
You might also feel the need to get the approval of your neighbouring passenger, especially if it’s a mum whose bassinet might be hanging above the mattress. They might fear some wandering child feet will kick the bassinet and disturb the baby they’ve fought desperately to get to sleep.
Plane Pal review
Price from PlanePal UK: £61.99
Amazon UK price: Check here
Similar products on Amazon worldwide see here
Dimensions: 75cm wide x 37cm long x 44cm high
Age range: 2-8 years
Imagine an inflatable foot rest made of smooth black vinyl, and you have the Plane Pal. It’s simple to use: blow it up and position in your child’s foot space.
The inventors have designed in flexibility by allowing you to use it in three ways: lengthways in line with the seat, widthways across the seat base, or upside down. That’s because the Plane Pal is T-shaped and wider at the top than the bottom, so if you’re struggling to squeeze it in behind the seat in front, just flip it on its head.
It takes just over two minutes to inflate using a hand pump, which comes in the Plane Pal carry case along with the mattress.
There are two air chambers to fill, through two valves housed concentrically. Lift the clear stopper on the smaller valve and it works one-way, which ensures no air escapes if you stop pumping. Or blowing – if you have lungs like Andrea Bocelli and fear disturbing your airplane neighbours with a whistling pump: you might feel a bit self-conscious inflating either of these mattresses.
The bigger outer valve is designed to let the air out: open both these valves and apply pressure, and the Plane Pal deflates in 20secs, faster than the wind coming out of the sails of a nation that’s just crashed out of its own world cup.
Make sure it’s fully inflated and firm, and Plane Pal allows kids to stretch out to sleep. But it’s not irreproachable. Plane Pal’s inflated height may not be level with the seat base, leaving a ridge which may bother some children.
More of an issue for us was that, even lengthways, Plane Pal didn’t fill the ample space between the seat base and the bulkhead, which means it got dislodged by a child moving in their sleep. So long as you’re not sitting in the front row of a cabin section, you shouldn’t face this problem.
In summary, Plane Pal’s simplicity is a virtue, but also it’s undoing. It’s a pretty cost-effective solution, and if it wedges snugly into place in your child’s foot space, it’ll do a decent job. But both my kids were drawn to the costlier but more bed-like mattress that is Flyaway.
Flyaway Kids Travel Bed Review
Flyaway website and further Flyaway review
Dimensions: 50cm wide x 60-80cm long x 52cm high
Load: up to 50kg
Age range: 2-7 years
The Flyaway is an L-shaped mattress, where the uppermost section rests on top of the aeroplane seat, supported by a ‘leg’ which braces against the floor and keeps the bed level. Made of grey vinyl, it’s a very slick piece of product design.
It takes about 100 seconds to inflate, given there’s less volume to blow up than in the Plane Pal. Again there are two inflation valves which operate one-way to prevent any air escaping while you blow it up, and a third escape red valve which releases air pressure if you over inflate. Talk about attention to detail.
But there appears to be a slight design compromise: one of the valves is in the pillow area, which could cause discomfort for a child resting their head on the plastic cap. However an airline or carry-on pillow will fix that issue.
The Flyaway’s killer app is its holistic design: with the mattress resting on top of the plane seat’s base, any child lying on it benefits from one seamless, 80cm flat ‘bed’. It even has a couple of token side bolsters, though whether they’d have the heft to stop a kid rolling off sideways is questionable. They would however, stop any crayons rolling off during play time.
It’s more fiddly to deflate than the Plane Pal, because each valve has a membrane you have to dislodge with your finger as you compress the mattress.
If you’ve got taller kids, the Plane Pal can make for a longer mattress because it adds up to 75cm to the seat base’s length. But my four- and six-year-old, both preferred the comfort and robustness of the flat, one-piece Flyaway mattress. Staying exactly in place helps keep children slumbering – which is what every parent wants on a long-haul flight.
Do Airlines Allow Airplane Toddler Beds & Inflatable Footrests?
Quick answer? Some do and some don’t. Below details the airlines which officially allow or prohibit them and state this on their website. Just click on the links to view their entire policy.
Airlines who officially do NOT allow most sleep travel gadgets/airplane beds for toddlers and say so on their website are:
Airlines which OFFICIALLY APPROVE some sleep devices for children (as long as certain guidelines are met) and say so on their website:
However, note that the final decision will always rest with the crew.
- Air Mauritius
- Air Vanuatu
- Cathay Pacific
- EVA air
- Singapore Airlines
- Virgin Atlantic
- Virgin Australia
Have you tried any kids’ travel gear? What items do you recommend and why?
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