If you are flying with children the best place to sit on a plane is wherever offers the maximum amount of space and a minimum amount of hassle.
There is no doubt about it, when flying with children, kids really need to sit with their parents and this is more important than where on the plane to reserve seats. However, after ensuring this, where you sit together can make a big difference in how enjoyable the flight will be.
You should ensure that the airline understands that you are booking both adults and children. Some airlines suggest that you let them know at the time of booking by calling reservations so that all seats are chosen together, even if you book online.
It is very important that children need to be with their parents on a flight, particularly young children, so find out what your airline requires before finalizing your tickets. After booking, if something needs to be changed, you should notify the airline as soon as possible.
Flying with children is stressful enough without the stress of seat choices, so working with your travel agent or airline will help reduce this stress.
There are some places that parents have a tendency to gravitate toward on a plane. These places are located in different areas of the plane for different reasons which are described below.
Where is the best place to sit on a plane with kids?
The best thing is to decide what will suit your family the best when flying with children. The following are places where many parents choose to sit and their reasons.
You will see that some of these are opposites of each other as each family has a different set of needs. You will find what works best for you.
Many parents consider these the best seats on a plane when flying with children. These seats offer the most additional room in any area on the aircraft. You can stretch out more, and your kids may have a little more freedom of movement. If you are breastfeeding, you will be able to remain more concealed if you want privacy.
Opposite aisle seats
If you and your partner can get seats across the aisle from each other, it can help mobility. If you are in the aisle and middle, one of you will have more trouble getting out if your child needs more care. If you each have an aisle seat, one parent can get up at a time without having to move around as much.
Their own seat
Paying for your child under two to have their own seat is an excellent option if you can afford it. Children under 2 are allowed to sit on parents’ laps rather than having to pay for a separate ticket and seat.
Sitting in separate seats means that you will be less crowded, and it may keep your baby/toddler from getting too restless.
Your seat on your lap
For some children, being a lap infant may be a better solution and it also means you will not normally need to pay for them if they are under 2 years old.
It can be quite wearing though to have an infant on your lap for many hours, particularly if the flight is full. I remember a 4 hour flight with my son when he was 18 months old that seemed like 10 hours!
TIP: If you are traveling with a partner and one child that you intend having on your lap, try to book your two seats as a window and and aisle with the middle seat still showing as being available. That way the middle seat is less likely to be booked as they are the least popular seats. If no-one books it then you will have more room and be able to let the child sit in the spare seat during the flight. If someone does book the middle seat they will be more than happy to swap with one of you so you will still be together.
Back of the plane
If the bulkhead is too expensive or not available, consider sitting in the back of the plane. This minimizes your chances of being in someone else’s way and means you will be close to the toilets which can be quite important when flying with children.
You may also be lucky and find another child at the back who may help entertain your child.
Not all flights have this option, but when it is available, go for it! Children will be much happier when they can lie flat.
Even if they are not available you can effectively do the same thing by using an inflatable leg rest that can be used level with the seat. In this way your child can lie flat and sleep properly.
The Flypal Inflatable Foot Rest is one of the few that can do this so it may be worth considering, particularly if you are going to be traveling on a long flight.
After all, there is nothing worse than a tired, grumpy child to not only get on your nerves but also other passengers too.
If possible, sit with everyone in your family together. However, this is not always possible. Here are a few scenarios.
- Families of 2-3 can usually stay together. If you end up split on a row, you may be able to switch with the person in the middle.
- Best plane seats for family of 4 – Families of 4 can often split with one parent taking one child and the other parent taking the other child.
- Best plane seats for family of 5 can be challenging. On very wide-bodied aircraft the central aisle often contains 5 seats so they might be ideal. If not, then one parent will normally need to sit with one and the other parent with two children, perhaps in the row behind.
- If your family is larger, try to figure out who is the most responsible and arrange seating so that each child is with or near a parent.
Best seats on a plane with a baby
On some aircraft the bulkhead seats have a bassinet for a baby so these are ideal if you can get one.
Some airlines offer bassinets for small children, particularly on long haul flights. If your airline does, you can request one of these sometimes before reaching the airport and it is worth doing as there may be other passengers flying with children so they may be in short supply. Some airlines only offer the ability to request a bassinet at the gate.
Where is the worst place for my child on a flight?
- Middle seats. While most things are relative, there are places you do not want to sit your child on a flight. You will not want to travel with your child in the middle seat if there is a stranger on one side of them. The child may be uncomfortable or may stretch into the stranger’s space.
- Alone. Try to never put your child in a situation where you are not sitting in their row. They may get scared or confused.
- Emergency seating. Most airlines will not allow children to sit in emergency rows. If this happens, notify the airline and see if they can rearrange seating since you will be with your child.
- The back. While the back of the plane may be suitable for some children, keep in mind, that it is louder back there. Children with noise aversions will be less likely to remain happy in the back.
- The front. The front of the plane often has travelers who are trying to avoid parents and children. Unless you are in the bulkhead, a row in the front of the plane may be less than ideal.
Should I choose my seats ahead of time?
This is a personal choice. Many people will say that you should certainly do this, but some airlines will say that you can just notify them that you are a family traveling together. You must do what you feel is best for you. Finding the best seat sometimes comes with added cost, so this is something you may consider. Choosing your seat should ensure that your family is seated together. This will prevent surprises at the gate.
How can I change seats?
Arrive early and talk to the airline if you booked your flight, and you were not seated in a location that isn’t ideal. Sometimes there is nothing they can do, but if they understand you are a family, they will often be able to rearrange some things to help you out.
Sometimes airlines have programs that will allow you to arrange for there to be empty seats nearby. These are not free, so be warned that this will be an extra expense.
Should we take upgrades?
Maybe, but probably not. If you are flying with children, particularly young children, who may fuss the whole flight, business and first-class passengers are not likely to take it well. This will most likely just cause you more stress. However, if the upgrade is to a bulkhead seat, yes. Take it. This can provide you with more space, which can keep you from being so uncomfortable.
Can an airline sit a child away from a parent?
Every airline has its own policies when it comes to trying to sit parents and children together. Most will try to ensure that your children over 2 years old sit next to a parent but there are no specific rules laid down by the FAA regarding flying with children that actually say this must be the case.
The best advice to ensure you sit next to your child is not to leave it to chance and actually book seats next to each other, even if this does involve extra expense.
If your flight does not allow pre-booked seats so that you choose your seats when you enter the aircraft then make sure you are at the front of the line at the gate. Do not be one of those parents that really annoy me that get on last with 2-3 children and then complain to the crew that they can’t sit together.
Airline family seating policies
These are links to the relevant family seating policies of some of the major airlines.
- Alaska Airlines
- American Airlines
- British Airways
- Delta Air Lines
- Frontier Airlines
- Hawaiian Airlines
- JetBlue Airways
- Southwest Airlines
- Spirit Airlines
- United Airlines
How else can I make my flight with children worry-free?
You can’t be worry-free when traveling with children, but here are some things you can do to make the most of your flight.
- Bring food – Children are often grumpier when they are hungry. No matter where you are on the plane, a hungry child is rarely pleasant. Bring snacks for your child. For very young children feeding them on take-off can minimize the pain in their ears.
- Bring entertainment – Entertainment for you and your child will go a long way. You can keep them happier if you have something for them to do. Even crayons and paper can sometimes soothe a bored child. Play games or do things together.
- Bring patience – This one is harder, but it is probably the most essential. Being stressed out will not make for a pleasant flight. Children also know when their parents are struggling. This often makes them more anxious. It will not last forever. Take a deep breath and keep going.
- Bring Supplies – Babies will need things during the flight. Take a survey of the things you use on a typical day. See which things can be used on an airplane. Some things will not be feasible, but you will need diapers, wipes, clothes, pacifiers, and other comfort items.
- Accept help – If you are struggling and you need a flight attendant to help, ask them. If a stranger offers help, trust your gut instinct. Let the grandmother give you tips for soothing a fussy baby.
- Split up – Split up kids who may be more likely to fight during a flight. No one wants to watch children fight on a flight. If you can, put a parent between the children. If you cannot separate them, try to give them different things to do and have a system for trading. Minimize the conflict as much as possible.
Is there anything else I need to know about seating?
You may not get the ideal seating that you want, but you will survive so don’t fret about it too much.
If you are flying domestically, the flight won’t normally be that long so whatever the situation you will not have to put up with it for too long.
If you are flying internationally, make sure that in addition to your seats, you know the policies you will need to follow when disembarking and for return flights.
You will do fine. You just need to give yourself time and space.
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I have been traveling around the world by air since the early 70s and living overseas too. I worked for British Airways for a number of years and I am also a private pilot. About Me