Tips for Picking Your Seat on a Plane

If you’ve been following our blog for a while, you know that we travel a lot. We are only a month and a half into 2018 and we’ve already been to Jackson, MontrealChicago, and New Orleans. Next up, Laura is headed to Barcelona and Stella will be headed up to San Francisco. Needless to say, we have become pros at making the experiences as comfortable as possible.

Here’s my roundup of the pros and cons for every seat in the plane.


Where to Sit Within the Aisle

My biggest preference when it comes to sitting on the plane is which seat within the aisle. There are of course tons of factors you can’t control but I love to do what I can to get the best seat in the house.


This is usually my seat of choice on the plane because I never get tired of the view as you fly in and out of the cities. Window seat choice is best for people that travel light (it’s inconvenient to access overhead bins) and those who love to see the sights.



This is typically everyone’s least favorite seat on the plane and rightly so, it’s a bit cramped and you’re at the mercy of others for natural light (window seat) and getting out to stretch your legs (aisle seat). That being said, I don’t mind the middle seat when I am traveling with others and we want to chat or share entertainment. It’s also a surefire way to make someone’s day if you switch seats with them and take their middle seat to sit with your friend.


This is a great seat for people that like to get up and move during the journey (people with small bladders or who are traveling with babies). I think it is really important to get up at least once on long cross-country flights to keep the blood moving so even if you are at the window, don’t forget to get up! You can also do little stretches in your seat – neck rolls, wrist stretches and switching around your foot placement will help!

Aisle seats are also really good for tall people with long legs, there is just more room!


Front of the Plane vs. Back of the Plane

Something else I’ve learned, it also really matters which aisle you are in. You’ll have to weigh the pros and cons a bit but depending on your preferences, this may be even more important than Middle, Window or Aisle!

Front of Plane

I love to sit as close as I can to the front of the plane. It’s shocking how long it takes people to single file out of their seats and so this is extra important if you have a tight connection or tiny bladder. For better or worse you can also get a peek at what they are serving in First/Business class and dream for the future.

Middle of the Plane

I usually only choose to sit in the middle of the plane if the rest of the plane seems to have only middle seats available. If you choose to sit in the middle of the plane and care about the view, be sure to pay attention to where the wings are. You might end up getting your view blocked a bit if you are not careful.


Exit Row

The exit row is a hidden gem in the middle of the plane. Three words, EXTRA LEG ROOM. Sometimes airlines up-charge you for these seats, but if you can snag one cost-free, do it! The flight attendant will come over and give you a few instructions in case of an emergency, so of course be ready to help if needed.

Back of Plane

Call me crazy, but I actually like to sit in the back of the plane. On flights that are not totally full, you have a much better chance of getting a row to your self or at least an empty seat next to you.


International Planes

International flights are a slightly different ballgame. Though most of what I’ve outlined above still stands there are a few tips and tricks that are super important to keep in mind.

Some international planes have three sections and two aisles. Take advantage of that extra section! The middle section of the plane can also be a great choice for international flights because you have a better likelihood of getting a seat next to you free if the flight is not full. I like to choose the aisle seat in the middle section with the hopes that I’ll have part of the row to myself.


Don’t forget about the upper deck! Sometimes when you are choosing your seat on a huge international plane, you don’t even realize there is a second tab with another deck of seats. Welcome to level 2. The upper deck is usually filled with first and business class seating but there is often economy seats too. Aside from the cool factor of going upstairs on a plane, you also get the benefit of most people not realizing it’s there. This means there is a better chance of getting a row to yourself!

Even if you are traveling domestically, check to see where your flight is coming from. My husband and I got bumped up to first class once and didn’t realize till we’d gotten to the airport that though our flight was from Houston to LA, the plane had come from Rio. We ended up in the incredibly nice lay-flat seats of international first class!!

Traveling with Friends

Pro-tip, for red-eye flights, I like to have both my husband and me sit in aisle seats across from each other. Chances are we are both going to try to sleep anyway so we might as well be more comfortable. We’ll still be able to chat as we’d like, but I care more about being comfortable than chatting on a nighttime flight.

If you are traveling during a slow time of year, try booking the aisle and window seat in the same row and sit toward the back of the plane. Chances are no one will choose to sit in that middle seat between you and you’ll get the row to yourself. Worst case scenario, someone will choose that seat. Chances are, they’ll be more than happy to switch with one of you!

I don’t have kids yet, so I’ve never traveled with a baby. Maybe one day I’ll write a post about traveling with kids! In the meantime, check out these posts: (1), (2), (3).


How to Get Your Preferred Seat

Finally, once you’ve figured out where you want to sit, how on earth do you make it happen!? Airlines seem to be making it harder and harder to select your seat, or at least they’ve figured out ways to discount the fares for people that don’t care and up-charge those that do. Here are a few tips for securing that preferred seat!

Look at the map when you book. The best case scenario is if you are flying on an airline that lets you pick your seat when you buy the ticket. Take a look at the map and weigh the pros and cons of each seat. But don’t stop there! Keep checking and you might be rewarded! Set a reminder and go look at the map again closer to your flight. They may have opened up more seats or other passengers may have moved around. Take a look again and you may be surprised by what you find. I’ve changed my seat via the United app up until I arrived at my gate and ended up moving to economy plus without getting charged an extra fee. On the next leg of the trip, I wasn’t quite as lucky but did move up from the back of the plane to the front few rows of economy seating.

If you book on a third party site, log into the airline’s webpage too and see if there are more options. A lot of times you can’t choose your seat on a third party site.

Call the airline. I know it seems crazy in this day and age to pick up the phone when everything is online, but sometimes talking to a human can go farther than you’d expect. If all the seat choices look awful, give the airline a call and see if there is something they can do on the back end. You can also ask questions at the ticket counter when you drop your bag and/or gate counter when you board.

Check in early. With airlines like Southwest, it is so important to check in early! They determine your seat order by when you check in so if you wait too long, you’ll end up being one of the last people on the plane with limited seat choices. Some airlines also

Use Seat Guru to look at the plane map. Seat Guru, is a great tool for looking at maps. They outline the best and worst seats and are great for determining what kind of seats you might be sitting in.

Don’t bank on the planes all being the same. Airlines have control over the interior design and layout. You might have two different flights on a 737 plane in the same row but different seat placements because it is a different airline. Some airlines put rows closer together than others. Row 22 might be over the wing on one plane but it may have a clear view on another.


Be sure to also check out our posts about Getting a Great Flight Deal and Favorite Things to Travel With!

Do you have a favorite seat on the plane? Let us know in the comments!

One comment

  1. The middle seat really is the worst!! And I like being at the back of the plane too. The first time I travelled at the back of a plane was totally random, but when I realized I was going to have an entire row for myself for 10hours straight, I was the happiest girl in the world! Hahah I’m always choosing these seats since then!

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