The Original Fly Tot Review: An Ingenious Sleep Solution for Kids on Planes

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My youngest child is now three years old, and every day I thank my lucky stars I am no longer changing diapers on airplanes. Very rarely do I wish I could go back in time to red-eye flights with tiny tots, but trying out The Original Fly Tot cushion almost made me wish just that. Almost.

What is The Original Fly Tot Cushion?

The Original Fly Tot is an inflatable cushion designed to fit in the space between the airplane seat and the seat back in front of it, creating a flat surface so a child can lie down and sleep. As anyone who has been on a long-haul flight with a child knows, they will eventually need to lie down. If they are taller than about eighteen inches, this is going be a problem, and you are likely to get kicked in the face. Unless, of course, you have come up with an invention that extends the surface of the seat so that it forms a flat bed for said kicky child.

The Original Fly Tot is an ingenious solution for families flying with very young children. I’m not really sure where I was when this first came out (probably hiding in my bedroom, covered in spit-up, wearing a three-day-old nightgown, and nursing an infant), but I I traveled with all three of my kids during the first years of their lives, and I sure wish I’d known about it.

Fly Tot
This is not the intended purpose of The Original Fly Tot, FYI.

Is The Original Fly Tot Better Than its Competitors?

I tried out The Original Fly Tot on a red-eye to Costa Rica last month. First of all, it’s a good quality product. It’s kind of a long story, but I actually had a generic, cheap knock-off I bought on Amazon for comparison — and there was no comparison. The knock-off was a plasticky-smelling basic inflatable rectangular cushion that took an awful lot of deep breaths to inflate (and as someone who has to yell at three boys a lot, deep breaths are in short supply around here).

The Original Fly Tot, on the other hand, comes with a hand/foot pump that all my kids were eager to try out. It inflates pretty quickly with the pump. There’s no way around the fact that any of these inflatable cushions are going to be somewhat awkward to carry on to a plane and then inflate on the plane, but The Original Fly Tot makes it as painless as possible with the location of the valves and the way in which the cushion and the pump fold up.

Another excellent feature of The Original Fly Tot is the two different-sized compartments. You can inflate just one compartment, making the cushion shorter. This makes it a great footrest, perfect for an older child whose legs dangle on a plane or in a car.

It also has a nice v-shape, which means that the top of it inflates so that it fits tightly against the airplane seat and the seat back in front of you. I wouldn’t underestimate the importance of this feature, as any gap between the cushion and the seat would make the whole “bed” idea less workable.

Kids on a plane
What my kids were doing while I inflated The Original Fly Tot. You’d think they’d help, right?!

Will The Original Fly Tot Work for My Kids?

Well…it depends.

When I tried The Original Fly Tot on my red-eye to Costa Rica, the issue I had was that my three-year-old is actually the size of a large five-year-old. He could not simply lie down with his head on the seat and his legs on the cushion, like all the adorable photos I had perused online. Instead, he writhed — and still kicked me in the face. That said, the Fly Tot cushion still created a nice surface that prevented him from slipping toward the floor, held back only by the seat belt, like my kids normally do on long flights. I’m pretty sure he slept better than normal while using the Fly Tot cushion.

This is where I felt really, really sorry I didn’t have The Original Fly Tot two years ago and vowed to share it with all my friends who are flying with smaller children, because preventable suffering should be prevented.

The other issue was that I only brought one Fly Tot cushion. Presumably due to airline safety regulations, they say you should use them in the window seat only, and we only had one window seat for our family. However, we have three kids. Honestly, I kind of wished I had two Fly Tot cushions. First of all, there was, of course, fighting over it. Also, if I had inflated them next to each other, two kids would have had a big surface over which to sleep tangled up in each other (and their seatbelts, of course). I think it may have worked pretty well, actually. Not that I would ever recommend breaking rules or anything.

Fly Tot Pump
The Fly Tot pump is well-designed with in and out values and a strap to keep it closed for travel.

Is The Original Fly Tot Worth the Space?

You should keep in mind that packing a Fly Tot cushion means packing an extra, bulky item in carry-on baggage. Fly Tot has done a good job — the pump and the cushion both fold down quite well — but they aren’t magicians. The whole setup took up just under a quarter of my carry-on suitcase. It comes in a box that is 7x6x11 inches, if you can squeeze it back into its original packaging. I figured I could possibly manage that at home, but probably not after a red-eye flight in economy class with small children.

If I was flying a long-haul to visit grandma, say, and not planning a Eurail tour of Europe, I would DEFINITELY pack The Original Fly Tot. If, on the other hand, I was on a round-the-world trip, I might think twice.

All in all, if you are looking for a way to allow a small child to lie flat on a long-haul flight, you can’t go wrong with The Original Fly Tot. They’ve clearly put a lot of thought in to creating a quality item for parents, and I love a company that appreciates the necessity of getting kids to sleep!

I was provided a free sample of The Original Fly Tot for the purposes of this review, but as always, the opinions are my own.


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fly tot