If you're organizing a vacation, there are a lot of little details to juggle. It might feel like just buying a plane ticket for the right time, right place, and right price is good enough. But if the enjoyability of the flight can make or break your vacation, take the time to plan out every detail. Be careful when you're reserving your seat. Here are some tips for finding just the right seat on the plane, no matter what your travel plans are.
Are You Looking for an Uninterrupted Nap? Grab the Right Window Seat
Window seats give you a bit more space. You also won't have to get up to let anyone past you. So you can just board, put on your seat belt, and nod off.
This tip might be obvious, but it's still important to strategize. Whether you can reserve your seat online or it's first-on-the-plane, first-served, the window seats and the aisle seats go first. Ask your travel agent or browse your online options to make sure you get that spacey seat.
Not all window seats are created equal. Avoid the window seats at both the front of the plane and the rear of the plane, especially if you're a light sleeper. On either end, your nap could be disturbed by foot traffic to the restroom, flushing noises, or flight attendants organizing their carts. Aim for the front (but not the very front) of the plane or a seat over the wings that isn't in the emergency exit aisle. These spots offer the smoothest ride, so you're less likely to be jerked awake by turbulence.
Alternatively, reserve a spot behind a bulkhead. Why? Sitting behind a wall or a curtain that separates the different sections of the plane means no one will recline into your space.
If You're Tall, Reserve a Seat in the Emergency Exit Aisle
Dealing with the lack of legroom on a long flight is hard for everyone. But it's even harder if you have long legs. One of the best seats for a bit more space is in the emergency exit aisle. On most planes, the second exit row has the most legroom. Not only is there a bigger gap in front of the seats so people can get out during an emergency, but there's also usually more space to the side if you're right against the hatch. This means you can bend your legs to the side if even an over-sized gap isn't enough.
Some ticket and airline services will give you information about the "seat pitch," or the measure of the space between one seat and the seat in front of it or behind it. This information can help you find the seat with the knee clearance you need. Even if you aren't tall, the extra legroom can help you avoid some of the discomforts of cramped flying. Just remember that some airlines charge a premium for these seats.
When You're Traveling with Kids, Reserve Seats in the Back of the Plane
Organizing travel with children is always an extra challenge. But there are lots of strategies you can use to find seats that make the journey as easy as possible. First, check to see if your plane has bulkheads, or dividers between different sections. If that's the case, take the seats directly behind it. This eliminates the risk of your travel companions accidentally kicking the seat in front of them. It's also a great spot for napping, just in case you can persuade young travelers to doze for a bit.
If bulkheads aren't an option, take the seats as close to the back as possible. You'll be right near the restroom, which can be a huge convenience if you're traveling without another adult to help you ferry children back and forth. The back of the plane is also the least-preferred part of the plane for passengers who want to sleep or who are afraid of flying, so you'll get fewer annoyed looks. It'll also be easier to reserve all of your seats in a group instead of scattered across the plane, even if you're planning a last-minute trip.
Lots to Do? Head to a Middle Seat
No one likes the middle seats. With inconveniences like feeling crushed, having to get up, and having to bother the person next to you when you want to stand up, it's no wonder the aisle and window seats always fill up first. But sometimes you can turn this expectation on its head to score exactly the amenities you want.
So what exactly are the benefits for travelers with a long to-do list?
First, you might get more A/C power. In most plane designs, you can find an outlet under the middle seat's chair leg closest to the aisle.
Second, middle seats in coach tend to get both armrests. At the very least, you get to decide whether you get the front or the back of the armrests. This is more of a courtesy than a hard rule. But most travelers, acknowledging that the middle seat is the worst seat, will let you use both armrests so you can have an inch or two more of space. If you brought a lot of work to do on the plane, those thin strips of elbow room make all the difference.
Since middle seats don't get booked until there aren't any other options, being open to a middle seat gives you a lot of wiggle room. You can procrastinate a bit on buying your ticket, try to negotiate for a cheaper ticket, and choose from a wider range of planes, destinations, and leave times.