Booking Continental BusinessFirst Award Tickets with a Toddler

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Yup, that’s what I am doing.  If I am lucky, in the very near future I will have booked some award seats at the front of the plane for my husband, myself, and our toddler.  Is it a little bit outside the bounds of how we normally travel?  Yup.  Am I super excited about it anyway?  Yup.  So here’s the story, you may remember that we will be taking a very exciting “Christmas in New York City” trip next winter.  I hesitate to say it is a “trip of a lifetime”, because I hope we do it more than once, but it is that exciting for us.  My mom and dad will also be going, so it should be really awesome to have the five of us in NYC to see the city in all its Christmas glory.  To make the trip even more special, I am planning to book my family of three seats in Continental’s Lie Flat BusinessFirst seats for the flight from Houston to Newark.  My parents will be flying on different dates than we will, and I think my dad would rather walk to New York than sit in first class.  He’s just not that kind of fella…though I would love to see him do it at least once.   So Dad, if you want to give it a shot, just let me know.  😉

Booking one leg of the trip with the three of us in domestic first will cost 37,500 more miles than it would have to have us in economy for both legs of the journey.  That means that the trip will cost 112,500 miles instead of just 75,000 miles.   I am pretty protective of my Continental/United miles, so we normally don’t have the luxury of using twice as many miles on a flight to sit at the front.  In fact, it is for that reason we are only going to be sitting in the “good seats” on the outbound leg, and will return to the back of the plane on the return flight.  In case any families out there are wondering why we would spend extra miles to do this, and why we would choose the outbound flight, here is a glimpse into the thought process.

  • We are hoping to sit in the BusinessFirst seats on the outbound portion of the trip, because C’s schedule and mood are often way more predictable on the front end of the trip than the back end.  So, I am not near as concerned about her being “polite” on that leg of the trip.  That being said, we expect her to be polite regardless of where she is sitting on the airplane, but I really want us all to enjoy sitting up front, so we are planning to do it when she has the best chance of being happy and well rested.  😉
  • Little C will just about be three-years-old when this flight happens, so considering how well she is already doing on flights, I think it will be neat for her to have a big seat with built-in In Flight Entertainment all to herself.
  • While we are able to occasionally “buy-up” to domestic first on discounted offers or something similar, sitting up front is still very much a novelty for us.  It’s still kind of special.  So, adding it to this special trip gives us something extra to look forward to for almost a full year.  That alone is worth an additional 37.5K miles for us.
  • Because of credit card sign-up bonuses (and other promos), we have brought in hundreds of thousands of miles this year alone, so 37,500 really is just a small fraction of what we earned this year anyway.
  • My husband is a tall guy, so this will be way more comfortable for him that our regular coach seats.  He is rarely as excited about traveling as I am, but he does get very excited about upgrades, suites, etc… so this will be a great way for him to really look forward to the flight.  It will also allow him to get to NYC without having back and leg cramps!
  • Since we live in the middle of the country, flights to NYC are just about the longest domestic flights we take.   So the fact that the flight is almost four hours long means we will have some relatively decent time in the lie-flat seats.
  • I just really want to try out the Flat Bed seats.  I know that Continental’s BusinessFirst Flat Bed seats are not always given the best reviews, but as a Continental girl, I really want to try them for myself.  Sure, I could do it on a flight where it is just me and spend fewer miles as a result, but that wouldn’t be near as fun of a family adventure.

As a side note, there seems to be some “especially good” reward availability going on right now on Continental.  I saw this myself a few days ago, but hadn’t had time to go back and investigate further.  It is not showing for me as good as it did a few days ago, but I also do not have an elite account, so that could play into things.  I would strongly recommend wandering over to Dan’s Deals for more information on the “especially good” Continental reward availability, if you are so inclined.

I know that spending 37,500 extra miles to sit in a Continental lie flat seat with a toddler for a four hour flight probably doesn’t sound like the best plan for everyone, but my family is extremely excited about the idea, and that is what matters the most.

Do you ever book certain “special” flights in First or Business class and the rest in coach?  Have you booked your toddler  a seat up front?  How did that go?  Did you feel you got a good value for your miles or dollars for the experience?  Are they massively confused when they have to then sit in a “regular” seat on the next flight?  I know that will happen to us – we will explain it as having to “take turns” with others sitting in the good seats!

Keep your fingers crossed that we are able to find some availability that works for us!  I will let you know how the booking process works out soon.

The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.


  1. When I flew in first this weekend on US Airways, there was a family of three with a young girl (I think she was past toddler age, but only by a year or two), and they were perfectly fine…and this was on a 2.5 hour flight.

    I don’t have kids, but I’d say 37500 miles is practically nothing for getting to fly up front with your family 🙂 I think you’ll definitely enjoy it!

    When I booked tickets for my mom on a cross country flight, I was totally willing to bump one leg to first class for a mere 12500 miles, especially for how many CO/UA and *A miles that we have all generated this year (think US Air Grand slam 🙂

  2. Hello mommy points,

    I am a points and deals afficiando myself and thought to share a great tip with you since you are planning to book business class tickets for your family by using greater number of miles.

    We, my DH(dear husband) and I discovered an exciting thing when we were trying to redeem american airlines miles for a family trip. if your trip has two legs i.e a stopover airport in between your start and end destinations, you can book for economy coach travel on one leg and business travel seats on the other leg of the flight by paying just the miles required for economy travel!

    try for your family incase you have enough american airline miles. May work for other airlines – try your luck

    If you like this tip, do follow my newly minted blog

  3. Just took CO14 home from HNL last night with my family of 4. This is still CO’s old BusinessFirst configuration…but it was comfortable enough.

    While we invariably get a few looks sitting in front with kids when we are first sitting down, that doesn’t phase me.

    Some FAs really embrace having kids in the forward cabin, others less so. We had both extremes on our flight.

  4. Good luck!!!! The anticipation of a great trip gives me so much pleasure so I really see where you’re coming from here. 3 years old also seems like a great age to soak up Christmas in NYC!

  5. Well, I for one am very excited for you and your family! But admittedly, before I finished reading your entire post, I had four thoughts: 1) Why are you using a premium award on such a short flight; 2) Why not save your hard-earned miles and wait to buy-up to BF, especially since you can usually get it for around $299 (if availability still exists, of course); 3) Wow, a year is a long time to wait, and; 4) I hope that they don’t pull an aircraft switch / seating config change on you.

    After finishing your entire post, I understand your logic for #s 1 & 2 (especially if traveling around the holidays, when prices are higher). Re: #3, personally, I can only wait that long for an international premium class segment, but again, that’s me. #4 is the one I would worry most about if I were you, especially since as a non-elite, there are fees to redeposit miles – though I am sure you would sweet-talk your way into a comp redeposit 🙂

    I certainly hope that you get your mileage worth, and that the three of you have fun looking forward to your “going-in-style” holiday adventure to NYC in 2012!

  6. We have a trip booked this February for SFO-HKG on CX F and on the way back we’re doing coach. We’ll let you know how that goes….
    Our son is just a few months younger than Little C but travels well. We did LAX-HKG in May this year and it was a bit torturous in terms of space, but overall he still did really well on the plane. We had nearby passengers thank us for how quiet he was on both planes.
    I would not plan a trip up front if I knew we had a not so well behaved toddler. We actually would have taken business but there was no availability for the dates we needed and it was not that much more to do F in the grand scheme of things. I am a little worried since he is hitting his more active and inquisitive stage but hoping for the best. At least I know that with CX’s entertainment, he will be well occupied and fed!

  7. I just took an LAX-SYD on an Qantas A380-800 in business class lie flat. It’s well worth the miles. Food wasn’t good but we got to sleep and ready to go when we landed.

  8. I booked a flight in first to hong kong with my toddler for next year. it wasn’t that much more miles and it was the only way to get award seats for my family on the same flight. I am a little nervous but also excited.

  9. “…my family is extremely excited about the idea, and that is what matters the most.”
    And the best part is – you can be excited for months now! Sometimes the anticipation is just as good as the travel itself 🙂

  10. I think that’s great. Remember, the best use of miles is to do what makes you and your loved ones happy. This sounds like a fun trip and it will be a great way to cap off another year.

  11. Am looking forward to our ski trip in January all four of us (kids are 7 and 9 now) going to Whistler using the CX JFK-YVR service in business class. It’s actually a 5 hour flight and having the extra comfort is really worthwhile.

    Last summer we all flew to Seychelles and Mauritius on combo of Air France and Air Seychelles. Again all up front. I had to shush my own kids as they were getting a bit excited at one point but heck a lot better for all of us than sitting in coach. Actually we’d never do it in coach, so for me the opportunity to go upfront on these kind of trips opens up new parts of the world to my whole family

  12. Good for you! We’ve taken our 2 kids (now 4 and 2) SFO-LHR in business each of the last 2 years and had great trips, albeit as NYBanker said with a few looks to ignore as we sat down. As well prepared as you are for flights with C, I imagine you’ll have a blast.

  13. Flying SAN-PHX-ATL tmw in US F with toddler (21 months) – used miles (90k) as could not get Y award seats. Our son is at that age where he’s just so unpredictable, but armed with our personal DVD player and his favourite books, we’re quietly optimistic it will all go OK. I expect some strange looks from fellow pax though (although my wife always announces to nearby pax “apologies in advance!”).

    I’m extremely sensitive to other pax when we fly with our son, and spend a lot of time on my feet beating a path back & forth – but I’d prefer that than disrupt fellow pax.

  14. So worth it!! Smart Mommy!! Ihave been traveling w/ kids for 21 years. My first flight with kids was 43 hours of ups and downs (lots of connections) flying home from Eastern Europe with a newly adopted 3 month old during “do not fly” advisories duriong the Gulf War..crazy…but we needed to get home…sick baby. Over the years I’ve never regretted the times we upgraded! Have fun and close your eyes to anyone who is cranky about kids in the front.

  15. re:buy-up” to domestic first on discounted offers or something similar
    could you explain this for us newbies- how do you “buy up” and are u talking about points or cash?

  16. Just do it!
    Now I have to start planning your trip here. Good pizza place. Check. Great bakery. Check. I have some homework to do.


  17. Ever since we did a First Class international flight with our then 4yo, she always asks “why do we have to sit in the back of the plane” when we fly coach. The kids loved First Class, especially the parade of snacks and drinks. The extra room helped us juggle all the electronics and books we use to keep them entertained, and are much more likely to have working outlets for longer flights. Close proximity to the lav was great. So is not having to pay for checked luggage, which offsets some of the additional expense.

    I make a point of dressing my kids extra-cute for their flights…people treat them nicer, which in turn makes them act a bit better I’ve found.

    As for other pax, I’ve found they are very understanding as long as my kids are polite and well behaved. Interestingly, the guy across the aisle from us last flight was looking at a porn magazine, which struck me as much more rude than my 4yo kicking the seat in front of her twice during the 4 hour trip.

  18. @Jerry, you are right with the number of miles many of us earned in 2011, 37,500 is just a drop in the bucket.

    @Mommy Deals and Miles, I have heard of something similar happening with upgrades that have an international component and if that leg doesn’t clear the other domestic leg upgrades are “free”. If they international upgrades do clear than the person is charged for the upgrade. Is that what you mean? Thanks!

    @NYBanker, hope your family had a fun time on your trip! Thanks for sharing.

    @Kris, I really do love the anticipation – even if it lasts for 11 months. 😉

    @Michael R, glad I was able to answer some of your questions before the end of the post. Ha ha. I think writing this post actually reminded me of some of our conversations. I concur with your concern about aircraft swaps – I will keep an eye on it. Of course, up to 21 days out even non-elites can change flights for free on CO (assuming that origin and destination remain the same).

    @M, that is great you have such a good traveling toddler. They really do exist!

    @MichaelP, being rested and ready to go when you land does make it worth it.

    @bluto, that does sound exciting! Can’t wait to hear about it.

    @New Girl in the Air, I totally agree.

    @infamousdx, so true. If it makes the family happy, that is all that matters.

    @Phil, that CX JFK-YVR trip sounds great. I would use that myself if I still lived in NYC!

    @gpapadop, you mean this is how miles and points monsters get created, right? Now she will have to learn how to earn the miles to get that seat again. 😉

    @AlohaDaveKennedy, ha ha. I think that isn’t too far off from his thinking.

    @Adam S, bring on the grumpy looks. 😉

    @InACents, so true!

    @KennyG, I can’t wait for SantaLand at Macy’s! I might be even more excited than my daughter will be. Ha ha.

    @Simon, sounds like you have a good game plan. I’m pretty sensitive about those around me as well, so I know where you are coming from.

    @Kathy, quite a journey you had 21 years ago!! Wow!

    @Karen, great question. In this case I was talking about cash, but I will do a post on that within the next week. Essentially it is a “cheap” upgrade option that is sometimes offered within 24 hours if there are still seats available.

    @Dan, aw, how nice! I lived in NYC during grad school for a couple of years, but I really was so busy doing the whole “grad school thing” (on a grad school budget) that there is still so much for me to learn about NYC. Bring on the recommendations!

    @Christine, OMG about the porno. I do the dress up cute thing most of the time for C as well. It really does help. I’m sure she will say the same thing as your four year old when we are in coach. I think it is actually a decent lesson that you can’t always sit in first. Ha ha.

  19. We specifically booked a flight with AC’s international J product for our recent cross country trip (2,700 Miles) for our first trip with Ben. Once we took off we put the seat down flat and he slept at tone end while I sat and read at the other end. When he was awake, it worked great as a playmat with a couple toys dangled above him.

    Overall, it was a brilliant way to travel with a 9 week old, and I’d definitely go out of my way to book a similar seat again.

  20. Mommy Points,
    We have recently travelled from Sydney to Montreal, business class with kids aged 6,5 and 3. They loved it and after two days, four flights, an over nighter, delays, running to catch a flight etc no meltdowns! I am one of those parents who believe that travel and exploring the world is one of the greatest gifts along with good manners you can give your children.
    Preparation is always the key both with what you bring with you and how you prepare the kids! At three C will be able to manage a little wheelie bag, although you will have to give over any ideas of stylish cabin baggage to something covered in barbie, Dora, Thomas or Ben 10. We’ve found they seem to be happy to walk if they have control of the bag.
    Ours love the whole security and immigration process and it is great to see it from their eyes. Hey these people are nice to me, I have my own tv that I don’t have to share ( miss 3 watched the surfs four times!), they bring me food, mum let’s me have soft drinks, there is a window in the toilet……….
    Enjoy your planning, that’s part of the excitement. We, okay I would love to spent Christmas in Europe this year for my 40th, so let’s see what we can do on points.

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