For the typical family, flying international business class is probably out of the question. The cash rates are incredibly high, and even on so-called “amazing deals”, you’re looking at over $1,000 per ticket. Not gonna happen. Luckily, award travel can make almost anything possible. Still, looking at the number of miles we’d need for five business class tickets, and we come up short in basically every currency I have. Plus, finding the award space can be a challenge.
However, I have booked multiple business class tickets now (always on miles) when flying with just 1 or 2 of my kids. Our first experience was flying Cathay Pacific 777-300ER business class home from Hong Kong. Now that I have three more trips with kids under my belt, I’m questioning whether flying business class with kids is even worth it.
Upside: Far Less Jet-Lag
The upside for me is unarguable: I arrive far more refreshed. On our flight back to California with Cathay Pacific, I slept well for a few hours and brokenly for a few more. This was still plenty for our evening arrival. We would sleep again once we got to our hotel. I hardly felt tired at all the next few days, even though we had adjusted completely to China time after spending 10 days there.
Likewise, I felt great on arrival into Buenos Aires during our trip to South America. The business class return wasn’t so bad, either, even though I don’t feel like I slept particularly well on that flight. We flew an old 767-300 from Montevideo to Miami. But I hardly felt tired during our day in Miami Beach. A shower and a walk on the beach worked wonders. Flying up front works for me.
But with the kids it has been mixed. Sometimes they sleep well, sometimes they don’t. And therein lies the issue.
Under-Appreciation and Under-Utilization
This is where the issue gets tricky with kids. Our first business flight went well. Both children slept soundly for 3-5 hours. My son also did fantastic when we traveled to Taiwan in China Airlines 777-300ER business class. But my daughter would rather sacrifice sleep to have a movie binge. And this totally defeats the purpose of having them fly business. If you want to stay awake the whole time, economy will do just fine.
Flying business class to me means sleep, first and foremost. I can no longer really sleep at all in economy. I’ll doze for 20-30 minutes, but wake up with a terrible neck-ache every time. I’ve tried out the Trtl neck pillow and it helps some. Guess that means I gotta stop chuckling at the folks who wear their pillows all through the terminal.
The comfier seat and better food in business class are certainly welcome, but if I am not going to sleep, then the mileage premium is simply not worth it to me, unless it’s a ridiculously good deal. This makes flights back to the U.S. from Europe a case where I will almost certainly opt for economy. They are long daytime flights, and simply pushing through is the best way to conquer jet-lag. Flying to Europe, however, I would prefer to sit up front. But if the kids are going to resist my plan to have them sleep, well, we may as well sit in the back and suffer through the next day.
Case in point: even after flying business class, my daughter was a mess and passed out when we got the The Confidante Hotel in Miami Beach. Meanwhile, I enjoyed a lovely Florida sunrise.
Downside: Moodiness and an Awful First Day
I distinctly remember how tired we all were after arriving into Paris last spring. It took everything in me to keep the kids active and moving. We visited Notre Dame and Luxembourg Gardens, and I kept them going until they finally passed out in our hotel room at around 7:30 PM. It was a rough day, but we enjoyed it, and still had fun.
This was after a long day of economy travel. We had an early morning flight from SFO, connected in Seattle, and arrived in Paris around 8:00 AM the following day. The kids didn’t sleep a wink on the flight, and I wasn’t able to doze and rest my eyes for more than a couple hours. We had to power through basically two days without so much as a nap.
This led into a day that was definitely a chore. Luckily, we didn’t have much of a plan, and I found simple, fun ways to keep them active. If we’d had anything more intense planned, I think they would have both rebelled. In any case, I’ll always suggest keeping the schedule clear on your arrival day for any long-haul trip. Have a basic idea of a few easygoing things to do, and leave it at that. Avoid pushing yourselves too hard with exhausted kids.
Is Flying Business Class with Kids Worth It?
With four business class flights with kids in the bag, I’m starting to wonder if this splurge will become more rare. I certainly appreciate being able to sleep on a plane a arrive far more rested. But they aren’t quite as keen as hopping on a plane, eating, and then snoozing until we arrive. They’d rather be watching movies and playing games. I’m going to be judicious about when I have us fly in a premium cabin in the future.
While we’ve had plenty of available to make these premium cabin trips happen, it might be nice to save the miles for future uses. Cost is the biggest factor. I do my best to live by the mantra of “earn and burn” with my miles and points. However, the extra miles could be the difference of having enough for 5 tickets versus just 2 or 3 down the road for another trip. Or they could fuel another entire trip. In the case of our China Airlines flights, we’d have another 100,000 SkyMiles banked for the future. That’s certainly enough for another domestic vacation.
If your family doesn’t travel often, but you do accrue plenty of miles and points, then business class might make sense every time. Go all out each time you do travel. But if it is the balance between one trip or two, I’d overwhelmingly go with the ability to take another trip.
I’m split. There are definitely upsides to flying business class with kids, foremost of which is arriving rested. I’m sure that makes flying business class with kids worth it for many. But the cost of the tickets plus the fact that your kids may not appreciate the perks of flying a premium class of service is a big consideration. I do have to say…after flying Cathay Pacific premium economy, this may be the perfect balance of cost versus comfort. If only there were better ways to book some of these products with miles!
How about you…do you find flying business class with kids worth it?
I didn’t start collecting miles until my kids were adults, so I show them how to collect their own miles! We are in our late 60’s and really enjoy business class. The older we get, the harder it’s been to adjust to international time zones. As time goes on, It will get harder and cost more miles for business class, so I’m torn about using more miles now while I can or saving for more trips!?
It’s a hard balance. If you earn a lot and consistently have plenty, I say splurge. If you’re constantly scrimping, I’d stick to economy.
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I did not travel internationally with kids until middle school. Although when I was younger, I usually traveled international economy for work myself, by that point, my bones were too old and creaky to have any interest in flying economy. So being fairly knowledgeable about points and upgrades, I tend to buy my own ticket and get theirs in business with miles. Now, when they fly internationally on their own, they fly economy, but when with me, I am simply not interested in putting them in the back. I know some people who do not do that, saying they don’t… Read more »
How you as a parent approach the situation (and life!) is what fosters or counters the “spoiled” attitude in kids. When we fly, I am sure to tell them that this is only possible due to what I’m able to do with miles and points. Glad your kids have enjoyed it, and that they have become savvy themselves!
You seem the type to try to squeeze every possible bit out of a trip. I did the same at your age, so it’s not a criticism, just an observation. The thing is, the bigger the group, the tougher that becomes, particularly with kids. You note this above, but my solution is to try to build in an arrival day where you scout the area a bit, get your bearings, and eat some food. The next day you can do more since everyone has slept in a bed and is (hopefully) better rested, while you all have a better sense… Read more »
Lately, that has been the case. But even when we traveled last year to Paris, Day 1 wasn’t really planned. We played it by ear (and energy).
Taiwan we were able to hit the ground running due to flying business. It was well worth it.
To me it really depends on the route. Whenever we fly to South America, I definitely always try to get business class since the timezones are the same or similar enough that we don’t get jetlag after the redeye flight. However, for transpacific or transatlantic flights, we always have a bad case of jetlag upon arrival regardless of the cabin we sit in (yes even if we were able to sleep.) If we’re travelling during peak season, I’d fly in business class no question. If it’s during low season, economy is fine since the likelihood of getting an empty row… Read more »
Jet-lag to Europe is rough. Asia is better, at least for us coming from the West Coast. And I do agree with the “poor man’s J” strategy of off-peak travel. Scored that a couple times.
One big disadvantage of business class is that it is geared to the solo traveler. There is no family seating. Even couples seating is not very good.
Very true. Some products offer great couples seating (Iberia, Asiana, British Airways, to name a few), but most don’t. However, given that we sleep most of the time if flying business, three seats in a row on one side of the plane (e.g. 17A, 18A, 19A on our CX flight) works well.
In my experience it’s definitely worth it as long as the kid(s) gets some sleep. A tired and potentially cranky child is hard to deal with if the parent(s) are in the same state … Once our kid got a bit older we’ve also experienced the issue of preferring to watch movies rather than sleep but at least one of the parents got to sleep so it was much easier to deal with the tired child. However, I do question the value of flying in business class for myself. I’m tall and athletic so I have a hard time getting… Read more »
It is an interesting predicament as they do get older. My 8yo has done better than my 12yo.
I can agree with all the extra aspects of flying business not being worth a lot. The biggest thing for me is having a bed.
I have had my son age 12 on over 25 different business and 1st class products throughout the world. He has been to over 35 different countries and appreciated every single minute of it. Probably the greatest thing I’ll ever do in my life. I would rather spend the miles having him sit in business class than myself any day.
Sounds amazing! My most recent trip with my 8-year-old was his most appreciative of what we are able to do. I hope the trend continues that way.