As I get ready to do another round of international flying with my husband and baby son, I was wondering what seats other parents usually choose on the airplane with babies: (1) Window or aisle? (2) Bulkhead row or regular row? (3) Front of the plane or back of the plane? I surveyed over 20 real traveling moms of babies and toddlers and here’s how the majority voted:
The window seat, the bulkhead row, and the back of the plane are the best places to sit when flying with babies or toddlers, according to the 20+ mothers in this study. These areas offer the most privacy, space, and safety for families traveling with little ones on an airplane.
Of course, there is plenty of room for debate based on personal preferences. All areas on an airplane have their pros and cons — which are listed below to help you make the best seat selection choice for you and your family.
Whether you are taking on board a lap infant (babies fly free or very cheap until the age of 2) or carrying on your car seat, this article will help you choose the best seats for flying with your baby/toddler.
Where to Sit on the Plane with a Baby: Window or Aisle?
The window seat is the preferred place to sit with a lap baby on the plane, according to over 20 traveling mothers surveyed for this study. The window seat offers interesting distractions for the baby, privacy for breastfeeding mothers, and shields the baby from passing food and beverage carts.
But it really does come down to personal preference. We’ll look at the pros and cons mentioned by the mothers in this survey in the table below.
|Window Seat (+Middle)
|– The window can serve as a fun distraction for baby.
– If you’re breastfeeding, the window offers more privacy.
– Some airlines that allow footrest extensions (makeshift bed for toddlers) insist that it only be in the window seat so that it doesn’t block anyone’s exiting abilities.
– You can lean against the window if baby is sleeping on you.
– You can use the side wall pocket to shove blankets and toys.
|– If someone is sitting in the aisle seat, you’ll have to ask them to get up, probably several times throughout your flight (to change the baby, use the bathroom, walk the baby up and down the aisles…).
|Aisle Seat (+Middle)
|– Easier to get in and out whenever you want without asking someone to move.
– Baby can easily see lots of people in the aisles as a distraction.
– May be easier (roomier) for a quicky diaper change in an emergency.
– You generally have an easier time leaping up in any emergency (be it baby puke, diaper explosion, you name it).
|– Have to make sure baby doesn’t get hit by the beverage cart or have an accident with hot beverages being spilled.
– Inconvenience of someone asking you to move while baby is sleeping or content.
Let’s all take a minute to acknowledge that the middle seat is not even an option. The middle seat is hands down the worst and doesn’t even get a chance to compete in this dual!
On one of my solo flights with my son, who was 8 months old at the time, I was originally sat in the middle seat with him — and it was awful! But I only had to hate my life for about 10 minutes before a flight attendant took pity on me (with a squirmy baby on my lap, squished between two strangers) and offered me an available aisle seat further up the plane. Phew!
I did include the middle seat in the chart in parenthesis because the survey question was posed to the moms in this way: Which seats on the plane would you prefer as a family of 3 (mom, dad + lap baby with NO car seat): window and middle, or aisle and middle?
You may have some airlines tell you specific rules or instructions that are different from other companies. One mom in this survey told me that American Airlines would only allow lap infants to sit in the aisle seat because it’s the only seat with two oxygen masks. So as always with travel, it’s good to go into seat selection with a bit of flexibility.
This mom mentioned the hot beverage issue, which I wasn’t worried about before but now it’s definitely on my mind, especially with a very “grabby” young toddler:
Window and middle hands down! You have something to lean on, something to look out of, don’t have to worry about the baby finding something interesting they want to reach for just as the beverage cart is going by, don’t have to worry about an accident of hot coffee being spilled, etc. Not a single part of me feels like it is inconvenient to ask the person in the aisle seat to move if you need to get out to change the baby or anything. It would be more inconvenient to be in the aisle and have someone asking you to get out with the baby so they can get up.– One traveling mom when asked: Window or Aisle?
PRO-TIP: Hopefully you’ll get lucky and just have the row to yourselves, regardless of the seats you choose. I don’t know if this is ethical but I’ve done the trick before of choosing seats A and C in hopes that no one would want to pick the middle seat — and it’s worked (!) for getting the whole row just for us. If someone did book it, they would gladly give up the middle seat and feel good about helping a family sit together — win-win.
Another mom had this to say, so be sure and check with your airline before getting your hopes up either way:
We’re travelling the same (mum dad and baby as a lap child) from the UK. I wanted to book aisle and middle so it would be easier to get out but the company wouldn’t let us (so there wasn’t a stranger boxed in).
So we had to choose window and middle.
Where to Sit on the Plane with a Baby: Regular Row or Bulkhead Row?
The bulkhead row, as opposed to a regular plane row, is the preferred area to sit with a lap baby on the plane, according to over 20 traveling mothers surveyed for this study. The bulkhead row is more spacious, can be fitted with a baby bassinet, and ensures that no one can recline back into you.
There is an advantage or two to sitting in a regular row, however, which are listed in the table below! Be sure to read through them before you make up your mind.
What is the bulkhead row on the airplane?
The bulkhead row is the more spacious row of seats located just behind the separator on most planes. It’s the very first row, behind the cockpit or at the start of economy seating.
|– You have normal below-seat storage space in front of you.
– You have a normal tray table and in-flight entertainment screens.
– You have the option of sitting in the back of the plane, which has many advantages such as fewer people to disturb and more space for baby to be walked around
|– Less space than a bulkhead row.
– No bassinet.
|– Can request a bassinet on some (long haul and international) flights and rest your arms while baby is sleeping.
– No one in front of you to recline back into your limited space with a lap baby.
– You generally have a bit more space and leg room. This means more crawling around space for baby.
– There’s no one in front of you to worry about disturbing or kicking.
– Closer to flight attendants (assistance) and bathrooms.
|– No storage space in front of you. You’ll have to store your carry-ons (diaper bag included) until you’re in the air and the seatbelt sign is turned off.
-Tray tables are usually fold away (in your arm rest).
-In-flight entertainment screens may be none-existent. You may have one shared screen on the wall.
Where to Sit on an Airplane with a Baby: Front or Back of the Plane?
The back of the airplane is the preferred area to sit with a lap baby on the plane, according to over 20 traveling mothers surveyed for this study. The back usually has space to walk a baby around, is less full (meaning potential empty seats), and has fewer people watching you calm your crying baby.
The real important factor here is how close you are to the bathrooms. Generally, both the front and the back of the plane will have easier access to bathrooms than the middle of the plane. Just remember: Say no to middle seats and no to the middle of the plane!
Other factors are more subtle and explained in the table below:
|Front of the Plane
|– Can get off the plane faster.
|– More people to stare daggers at you while you’re trying to calm your crying baby.
|Back of the Plane
|– If a flight isn’t full, the open seats are usually in the back because fewer passengers elect to sit there.
– Fewer people (usually) to hear the baby crying.
– May be more space in the back for baby to walk around (depending on the plane).
– Fewer people on the plane and fewer people facing you means that you may feel calmer (not like you have an audience watching you) while your baby is crying.
|– Last to get off the airplane.
– May be one of the last to board, although many airlines have priority boarding for people traveling with children.
Where to sit on the airplane with a car seat
Most airlines will require you to set up your car seat in the window seat. Putting it in the aisle seat is considered a hazard for other passengers exiting the airplane in an emergency.
Where to sit on an airplane with 2+ babies/toddlers
Most airlines will require you to sit one-parent one-child with both of you in window seats. Someone told me this in the survey, but I’m not exactly sure why it has to be window seats. Please, if you’re a flight attendant or work for the airlines and know the answer to this, enlighten me!
Split Up to Board the Plane (divide and conquer)
Some mothers said that the front of the plane was the best place to sit because it means you can leave the plane first, which is fair. But as far as boarding the plane goes — the best method is to split up.
If you’re traveling as two, one parent takes advantage of early boarding (early boarding with children is almost universal) — goes on the plane and sets up the area, puts bags away. The other parents stays behind at the gate with the baby and tires them out! Does a last minute diaper change… and boards at the last minute so the baby doesn’t get fussy waiting there in the seat.
Remember that wherever you end up sitting, you will do fine. People are generally very sympathetic and helpful to parents who are traveling with their littles ones.