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Flying with toddlers in economy - bulkhead or regular row?

Flying with toddlers in economy - bulkhead or regular row?

Oct 19th, 2010, 08:17 PM
  #1  
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Flying with toddlers in economy - bulkhead or regular row?

I am flying from San Francisco to Hong Kong on Cathay Pacific next week. I am sitting in economy class with my twin girls who are 16 months old. My mother is traveling with us as well, but she will be in business class. My question is: Should I get three seats in the bulkhead row in hopes that the girls will be able to play in the floor area during the flight, even though the arm rests do not go up? Or should I get three seats in a regular row where the arm rests can be lifted, even though there will be no floor space to speak of?

I have heard that some airlines allow kids to sit on the floor during the flight and even lie down and sleep on the floor, but I have also heard that Cathay Pacific is not that permissive. They require kids to have their seat belts on (whether they are sitting in the seat or lying down across the seats), so we might not even be able to use the bulkhead floor space. Any thoughts or war stories would be much appreciated.

Thanks in advance.
addison637 is offline  
Oct 19th, 2010, 08:31 PM
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I would get a regular row. Having your toys and supplies easily accessible right after take off would be worth it to me. It can be quite a while before the airline turns off that seatbelt sign and you could be stuck with the girls and NOTHING for them to do for quite a while!

Personally I would no let my kids sit in the floor. One hit of tubulence and you have an "airborne child"

The other risk of the bulkhead is you can be evicted on some airlines. They will move you for passengers with special needs. NOt sure of Cathay so...
CarolA is offline  
Oct 20th, 2010, 02:35 AM
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For safety reasons, kids should stay buckled in during the entire flight, just like their elders. If you hit sudden, severe clear-air turbulence while they are playing on the floor, they could be injured or killed.

Airplanes seem like they are standing still when they are flying in calm air, but they're not. They are moving at 600 mph. It's possible for a sudden change in winds to move the aircraft very suddenly. It doesn't hurt the aircraft, but anyone not buckled up can be thrown about like a rag doll inside, causing severe injuries and occasionally fatal injuries. I've seen it happen.
AnthonyGA is offline  
Oct 20th, 2010, 09:13 AM
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Anthony's right, your children should be in their seats and "buckled in" during the flight. It's just common sense and, of course, the right thing to do as a responsible parent.

While most flights are major incident free turbulence can and does happen, often, without any warning. All it takes is one incident and your unrestrained child could suffer injury (and then you'll be looking to blame the airline for not insisting you restrained your children rather than taking the responsibility for a poor decision.

You would think about letting your kids play on the floor of the car while you ride around town going 30 mph so why would you even consider letting them play on the floor of a plane flying along some 30,000 feet in the air at well over 400 mph.

Do the right thing, get 3 seats together (you are better off not in the bulkhead because of the armrest issue) and secure your seat belt as well as the girl's seat belts.
RoamsAround is offline  
Oct 20th, 2010, 05:10 PM
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One nice thing about the bulkhead row is that you don't have to worry about the children kicking the passenger's seat in front of you. It's also easier to get them out for bathroom breaks.
The ideal situation would be if your Mom could sit back there with you and give you a hand!
Good luck, hopefully they will be tired out and can sleep.
Are you taking car seats?
Lynnaustin is offline  
Oct 21st, 2010, 06:51 AM
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Parents should also consider giving a child's dose of Benadryl or similar calming drugs. Get and keep the kid asleep for most of the flight so everyone can enjoy.

As for safety, in a seat, belted. Preferably in an approved car seat.

And Mom? She's already gone through this at least once and knows how to hide. Let her enjoy her ride, too.
NoFlyZone is offline  
Oct 21st, 2010, 07:45 AM
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I don't have kids, but I don't find the bulkhead seats comfortable in general. I prefer a regular row, so you each have your flip down tray table, etc. It's just more comfortable to me.
suze is offline  
Oct 22nd, 2010, 01:33 AM
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Regular row. I have travelled Australia to Europe/Africa/South America/North America several times in economy with 3 children under 5. The arm rests not going up is a pain, getting the tray away in the arm rest is a pain and gets hooked up with the ear phones.

Try to teach your little ones not to kick the seat in front of them and use inside voices. Litte ones legs are just the right length to push against the seat in front unfortunately. If anyone is rude remind them they are on public transport, they should take their own jet next time!! Ha Ha.

Plane seats are very uncomfortable for kids, they end up all scrunched over when they fall asleep not being tall enough for the head rests - so sometimes being able to put up the armrest so that they can lean on you is nice.

It is a huge hassle but if you can get the car seats on board that is your best bet for them sleeping their way through and being comfy. Maybe take only one - I used to just lock in the naughtiest, grumpiest kid and then presto they went to sleep. The issue is lugging it to the plane, having the airline ask is it approved - just say yes it is. You need a fairly small one (borrow someones if you don't have one) and it will make getting up difficult but the trade off is worth it. It is difficult to get the tray down with the car seat in, but at 18 months I am thinking that you will get the food - take what you need give back what you don't and then dole it out as required to the girls. Car seat is also good to secure the kids that is not waiting nicely at the luggage carousel in lines etc and for use in taxis and in hire cars where they won't have the right ones or any at all. A bugger to carry, but maybe you could ask for help from the airline - you would need to prebook it.


I hate the mess that goes with flying with kids so as soon as I get on I empty the backs of the seats ... take off the wrappings on everything (blankets, earphones) and chuck it all out. Give the mags and safety cards to the crew to stow. Read your own safety card of course. That way your kids toys fit in the pocket and you aren't trying to sort through all the rubbish when it is time to go and leaving the favourite behind.

Airlines don't let anyone sleep on the floor anymore, or play on the floor, I would keep the children in their seatbelts at all times due to unexpected turbulance. Ensure sleeping kids don't throw limbs out into the aisle - they can get badly hurt by other passengers or the trolley which is very heavy and sometimes the crew are not so careful about how they push it.

If they are old enough to watch the movies sit between them, otherwise you will get a bad back reaching over to restart and rewind and fix their tv sets. If you have ordered children's meals they will come early - make sure they get cleared befor the main meal service, usually they leave them till after all the services are done which can mean a few hours with the kids trays hanging around. If they won't take them take them yourself to the galley. Otherwise the kids will ask to go to the toilet as soon as your meal arrives and you will have to try to stack 3 sets of trays to get you all out!

I wouldn't let my kids play on the plane carpet - all those dirty toilets and feet in and out and the carpet isn't cleaned all that often.

If your children have a favourite movie take your own DVD player or ipod to watch it on, you can get a connector for the headphones so that they can both watch together. Other than that I find stickers or mosaic sticker boards are very good, time consuming for kids that aren't old enough to draw or read yet. Often the kids tv/movies on planes isn't suitable for toddlers or there is a very limited choice so having your own favourites is best.
Explain to the girls that when you get on you will have to wait a while before the plane takes off, that you will then wait a while for the seatbelt light to ding and then you can watch the tv, until then they can listen to music on the radio on the plane, if they have small heads enquire if they have kids headphones,if not bring your own, adult ones just fall off. I find that tucking them up with blankets and pillows helps them feel drowsy and ready for a nap.
Take a spare pair of clothes in carry on for all of you, if someone is sick they will be sick on ALL of you! Having the clothes is a guarantee that you won't need them. Take more nappies than you think you will need and be aware that sometimes the air conditioning/vents in the toilet are very loud and scary to the kids when taking them in there to change nappies and the toilet flush is very loud as well. So just make sure they don't get scared.

If they are fussy eaters make your own sandwiches to take with you and foods they like. I always take empty drink bottles to fill up the other side of immigration - you can take powdered drink mix too if you want. It gets expensive buying water for lots of kids otherwise. Drink bottles are necessary for the rest of the trip and better than letting littlies having cups on airplanes.. oops. Lots of small snacks you can hand out seems to be the best distractor and boredom buster for children. Sultanas, pretzels, etc.
I have never had to drug any of the kids and if you haven't used sedatives before then don't, some kids get hyperactive instead of drowsy.

Have fun on your trip, know that your children will be happy in your company, don't expect that you will get any shut eye or watch a movie, reading is your best bet, make sure you are well rested before you get on and then you will be able to give all you need to give to the children to ensure they are happy and settled.

See if you can get your departure cards early (from a travel agent) and fill out before the airport and keep a copy of passport numbers on a small card so that you can fill in cards without getting passports out and maybe misplacing them on the plane.

When travelling with small children, be polite and try lining up at the business class check in if economy is very long line, I have never been turned away, if I was I wouldn't fuss just get in the line I was supposed to be in. You should be able to with your Mum anyway.
jobudgey is offline  
Oct 22nd, 2010, 10:14 PM
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We did bulkhead with our 9 month old to Rome and it was a godsend!

Yes, we bought her a seat and kept her in her car seat, but we did let her play on the floor every so often for bits at a time.

Adults walk the aisle to stretch their legs, kids need to, too. (I assume those who say the children should be buckled up at all times never leave their seat to go to the bathroom during a long haul. )

When we flew at 15 months to Florida, we didn't have the bulkhead option and it was a nightmare. Firstly, she was much more active and much less willing to be strapped into anything. There wasn't enough room to properly hold her if she needed calming and even when she was in her car seat, it didn't even fit so that everytime she wiggled, it wiggled the seat in front of her. Perhaps if I had had a CARES device and no car seat it would have worked as her legs were too short to kick the seat in front of her. (http://www.kidsflysafe.com/)

Great tips jobudgey, I plan on stealing several for our next flight!

Shame on NoFlyZone for suggesting she drug her child "so everyone can enjoy." Sick, sick, sick.
Back2Sabi is offline  
Oct 23rd, 2010, 03:59 PM
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jobudgey ,

I think that is one of the best tips for traveling with a small child posts I have seen. Perhaps you can share over on the Travel Tips board too. Might help a lot of people.
Kay2 is offline  
Oct 23rd, 2010, 08:15 PM
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I agree Jo - excellent!
mztery is offline  
Oct 24th, 2010, 01:25 AM
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Sorry, Back2Sabi, I have worked for several pediatricians who have recommended the Benadryl trick to parents facing long flights with toddlers. When they are dealing with schedule shifts, time changes and the frustration of being told 'NO' all the time, a flight can be miserable for a little one. If helping them sleep through some of it is offensive to you, don't do it. But please don't judge parents who choose to.

Also, don't try the Benadryl for the first time right before a flight. A small percentage of kids do get very hyper rather than sleepy. Not the time to be finding that out!!
txgirlinbda is offline  
Oct 25th, 2010, 11:40 AM
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If you choose to sedate your child, you should get specific advice from your pediatrician for doing so. Just handing a spoonful of whatever you found at the drugstore to your toddler is very risky, since the dosage must be customized to the toddler's weight and medical condition. A quick discussion with the doctor can ensure safe use of safe sedatives.

I'm not keen on sedating children either, as it's a poor substitute for raising children properly, but at least it ensures a peaceful trip for other people on the flight.
AnthonyGA is offline  
Oct 27th, 2010, 09:36 PM
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Bulkhead.
travelgirl2 is offline  
Oct 30th, 2010, 10:29 AM
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"When travelling with small children, be polite and try lining up at the business class check in if economy is very long line, "

I hate to say this, but the "be polite" statement and doing something your aren't entitled to seem to contradict each other.

(And as a business traveler I have seen lots of folks told "I am sorry you need to go to that line" At some airports on intenrational they won't even let you IN the Business line wihtout proof you qualify)
CarolA is offline  
Nov 7th, 2010, 09:00 PM
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Many thanks to all who responded (and a special thank you to jobudgey for the long and thorough response!)

We made it back from Asia last night, and we are only a little worse for the wear. I ended up getting 3 seats in a regular row so we could lift the armrests. I brought one carseat as suggested and it was a lifesaver. I was able to get one girl to sleep in the carseat, and the other one to sleep while lying across my lap and into the adjoining seat (so I was glad I could lift the armrest!). My mother did come and take one girl with her into Business Class for a while so I ended up getting some rest too. (My mother has serious back problems which is why she could not sit in economy with us.) The Cathay Pacific flight attendants were extremely helpful and I would not hesitate to fly them again with children.

Thank you again for all your help -- I am very grateful!
addison637 is offline  
Nov 9th, 2010, 12:05 PM
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Sounds like it went about as well as anyone could have expected! CONGRATS for surviving it
CarolA is offline  
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