As someone who’s traveled on every mode of transportation, but most extensively via air travel, I like to think I know a thing or two about flying and how to make the process as enjoyable as possible.

Even if you hate to fly, there is a seat on the plane that will minimize your anxiety and discomfort and maximize relaxation during the flight. You just have to know which, and how to grab it! Even if first class isn’t an option, the proper seat and location are vital to ensuring that your airline trip flies by (pun intended)

Tip #1: Chosen Few: Opt for Priority Boarding

If it’s not outrageously more expensive (and it’s usually pretty reasonable), then it is totally worth to be among the select few who are allowed first aboard the plane. The plethora of seats available to offers a wide range of options, and increases your chances of locating your perfect perch. Even when traveling alone, a proper seat is the single most important element to in-flight comfort. This also gives you preference when selecting bin space that lets you keep your bag in within your sight at all times.

Exception: If your seat is already assigned before you board. In that case, you get what you get, and there’s really nothing you can do except cross your fingers for a good spot.

Tip #2: Location, Location: Sit Near The Front (But Not the First Row!)

Avoid emergency exit seats. You never know what the rules will be, and it’s usually best to be in front of the emergency exit. There are several studies that analyze the safety of each location on the plane, but most conclude that the exact middle is usually where most the danger lies. I try to go for a row or two in front of the emergency exit- that way, you’re close enough to it if something happens, but you have none of the responsibility of prying the doors open and you don’t have to listen to the instructions twelve times.

Also, practicality: If the primary exit after landing is located in the front, it only makes sense to be among the first to de-plane. Be careful though to not put luggage in overhead bins behind you, as you would have to wait for everyone behind you to de-plane before you can backtrack to get your bag. The sooner you’re off the plane, the sooner you’re away from that stale airplane smell and off to your fabulous destination.

The first row, however, is usually overrun with airline personnel and the leg room is severely diminished.

Tip #3: Three’s A Crowd: The Full Row Rule

This way, you know who will be behind you. The quickest way to dampen a traveller’s spirits is to sit them in front of a screaming or kicking child. If you sit in front of a row full of nice, quiet looking adults, then you eliminate the risk of having feet lodged in your back for the duration of the flight. Try to also find a row that already has people sitting in the row directly in front of it. A screaming baby in front of you is almost just as bad as having it behind you.

Also, if you know the flight is full, try to find a seat that already has another person sitting in it. Once you find your window or aisle preference, grab it. If you sit next to an empty seat, you’ll only have a few minutes to bask in your extra space until an extremely large man comes and squishes himself next to you and hogs your armrest. Try to sit next to someone small and pleasant looking.

Exception: This rule needs amending if it looks as though there will be empty seats on the plane, in which case you obviously want to be next to one of those to be next to you!

Tip #4: Test Drive: Double Check!

Once you’ve located your perfect location, make sure you’re getting your money’s worth from your flight amenities. Make sure your seat reclines, your tray table stays closed, and your overhead light and air vents are working. If your flight has a personal TV or headphone plug, make sure those are working perfectly. Try to assess that everything about your seat is up to par before everyone else boards, so you can pop put and find another prime spot before the flight is full and you’re stuck in the dark in a seat that doesn’t recline.

Tip #5: To Window or To Aisle?

Be honest with yourself: is it more likely that you will want to sleep or need to use the bathroom on this flight?

If you’re a sleeper or in need of a headrest for iPod listening, then opt for a window seat. This is also nice if you happen to be seated next to a too-chatty neighbor, in which case you can stare out at the pretty clouds floating by.

If you plan on drinking lots of fluids (always a good idea on long flights to stay hydrated) then settle yourself in the best aisle seat you can find. Just be prepared to have your knees and elbows bumped by the carts and flight attendants. You also have to be ready to stand up and let other in your row out to use the restroom. But for those tall, leggy people, aisle seats offer a bit more room to sprawl and stretch.

So next time when you board the plane and are frantically looking at available bin space and trying to select your little home for the duration of your journey, just keep these rules in mind and prioritize your preferences. There is a perfect seat there calling your name- you just have to find it!!

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