Do you travel with small kids?
If you do, you are likely always looking for ways to make the trip easier. Flights are something that parents particularly dread… Keeping the kids entertained, quiet and relatively still, especially on a long-haul flight, is stressful.
We’ve always kept an eye and ear out for various solutions to assist with this, and among our team, we’ve tried a lot of things and learned a lot along the way.
Recently we came across the Plane Pal. Essentially, it’s a travel cushion that you inflate and place on the floor between your child’s plane seat and the seat in front of them, which they can pop their legs up onto and create a kind of flat bed.
The Plane Pal comes with strict instructions for use of course. Never use on take-off or landing. Only use in a window seat so you never block access to the aisle in an emergency. The child must always have their seatbelt fastened. Always notify any passengers around you of what you are using so they understand and are comfortable. And always check that the airline you are on permits their use (35 international airlines currently accept them).
We recently tested the Plane Pal out on a Virgin flight. The deflated Plane Pal comes in a handy little carry bag with shoulder strap – the kids can even carry it onto the plane!
It is not bulky. It weighs less than a kilogram (900g) so it doesn’t take up much of your carry-on allowance, and the whole pack, containing the Plane Pal and pump measures 40cm x 16cm x 10cm.
Once we were safely in the air and seatbelt signs had been switched off, we inflated it. Luckily we had a window seat (always book the seat in advance and be prepared not to be able to use it if you don’t get one) and the other two seats before the aisle so we weren’t affecting any other passengers.
Inflating the Plane Pal is pretty easy. It is designed so that you can simply use your foot on the pump to inflate the two air compartments you need to fill, while the Plane Pal is positioned on the floor in front of your child’s seat (always have it in position, do not try to inflate elsewhere and then put into position).
Personally, we found it slightly easier using our hands to pump it up but each to their own.
Filling both the air compartments takes a couple of minutes in total at the most. The valves are those clever ones that don’t allow air to escape once you remove the pump which is always a relief. We recommend practicing the set up at home before you travel so you know what you are doing in the air. We found the pump emitted a whistling sound when we pumped, but in the air, the sound of the plane drowned this out a fair bit.
Once it was up, it was time to (fingers crossed) relax.
We have a 9-year-old and 1-year-old. Our 9-year-old was slightly too tall to properly stretch her legs out but could certainly curl up in the fetal position and have a snooze, and also relax and watch a movie with her feet up. Her feedback? Much more comfortable than trying to sleep sitting up! Our 1-year old didn’t have his own seat but we will be bringing the Plane Pal along when he does!
One of our PWG team Emma has a 4-year-old daughter, and has previously used another variation of this concept. The other design she found a little tricky – it involved using a hammock-like sling over the tray table in front of her daughter to hold two inflated pillows and her feedback was that it was just too complicated and too many pieces. But her verdict on the Plane Pal? Perfect and much easier to use. Her 4-year-old daughter stretches perfectly out on the pillow and actually SLEEPS! 10 hours on a flight to the USA was a milestone, and for the first time, it was not on top of, or across, her!
Our overall verdict? This is a great concept as long as it is used with the ‘rules’ and absolutely safety in mind, is accepted by the airline, and is not affecting any other passengers. We think it’s perfect for 2-6 year olds and we would probably only recommend you use this on long-haul flights where the effort of inflating it etc is totally worth it and your child will make the most of it. The bonus is that if you are travelling somewhere and then using trains or buses, you can use the Plane Pal on those too!
What do you think about this concept – is it something you have tried or would like to try? Tell us in the comments!