Flying with your children can feel like a daunting experience for any parent, especially when it comes to choosing the right seats on the plane. Your choice can mean the difference between a peaceful, enjoyable flight or a nightmare that leaves you and your kids frazzled and stressed at the very start of vacation. Let’s explore some common mistakes parents make when selecting seats for their kids and what you can do to avoid following in their footsteps.
Mistake #1: Not checking seat availability early enough
One of the biggest mistakes any traveler can make is waiting too long to book their flights. Airlines usually release their seat inventory up to 11 months in advance, which means people have been choosing their seat long before you even considered your destination. Booking fast and early is especially important for families who want to sit together; as seats fill up it becomes harder and harder to keep the family together and you may end up scattered throughout the airplane.
Mistake #2: Not considering the age and needs of your children
If you're traveling with infants or toddlers, you may want to opt for seats in the bulkhead row which offer more legroom. Young kids will want to stare out the window the entire flight or older kids might just want the window so they have a secure place to nap. Others may have a smaller bladder, and when they’ve gotta go, they’ve gotta go; it would be wise for you or them to take the aisle seat so they can make a break for it. If you have the whole row booked for your family, you will at least have the luxury of giving everyone a chance to get up, rotate seats, and give everyone a chance at the window or aisle seat (because no one really wants the middle).
Mistake #3: Not taking advantage of online check-in
Most airlines allow you to check-in online up to 24 hours before your flight. This not only saves you from having to wait in a long check-in line but for some airlines, this is your first opportunity to pick your seats. Either check as soon as your flight is 24 hours away (using your confirmation code on the airline’s website) or wait until you see the email come through notifying you. This is especially important if you're traveling with young children, as waiting in long lines at the airport can be stressful for everyone involved as check-in is usually the slowest line of the day. Keep in mind you might still need to wait in the check-in line if you intend to check your bags, but carry-ons can roll right through..
Mistake #4: Choosing seats too far apart
While it may be tempting to choose seats wherever they are available, you do play with some risks. If you’re hoping to trade seats with a stranger, you are entirely at their whim to move, as they paid for that seat and aren’t likely to trade a bulkhead aisle seat with a middle seat at the back of the plane. Offer something better than what they have, like an aisle seat closer to the front of the plane for their middle seat at the back, etc. With kids that are old enough to sit safely and comfortably on their own, selecting seats right next to each other becomes less of a requirement the older they get, conversely, you may just have to take a different flight or pay more to get you and your toddler seated next to each other on a busy route.
Mistake #5: Not considering the layout of the airplane
The layout of the airplane can make a big difference when it comes to choosing seats for your family. Some airplanes have a 2-4-2 seating configuration with two aisles, while most have a 3-3 or 2-2 configuration with just one. If you're traveling with a family of five, for example, you will need to consider who is sitting with one parent and which two are sitting with the other.
Mistake #6: Not taking advantage of early boarding
Many airlines offer early boarding for families with young children. This gives you extra time to settle in and get comfortable before the rest of the passengers board. It's also helpful if everyone has carry-on luggage or you brought a stroller or seat that needs to be gate-checked before you board..
Choosing the right seats on an airplane when traveling with kids can make a significant difference in the overall experience. By avoiding these common mistakes and considering your family's needs and preferences, you can ensure a stress-free and enjoyable flight for everyone involved. Remember to book early, consider the age of your children, take advantage of online check-in, choose seats that are close together, consider the airplane layout, and take advantage of early boarding. With these tips in mind, you're sure to have a successful family vacation that you'll all remember fondly for years to come.