No, I've been nervous lots of times.
July 3, 2014 8:24 AM   Subscribe

In a month I will be flying transatlantic solo with a baby on my lap. I can't decide which is better: a window seat or an aisle seat?

Baby McCatburglar and I are taking a 9.5 hour flight this summer. He does not have his own seat. He will be almost a year old, and though I don't think he will be walking by then, he is crawling and cruising and very, very active. WOE IS ME.

I've already gone online and reserved an aisle seat with the airline (USAirways). But now that I'm thinking about it a bit more, I'm not sure if I should switch to a window seat instead. On the one hand, an aisle seat allows us to get up and move around as much as we want without disturbing our neighbor, and is not quite as confined. On the other hand, it gives me nothing to lean up against when we're napping, and if I set Baby McC down to play between my feet it will be easier to corral him on one side rather than both. I'm also going to have to breastfeed several times, and I'm afraid that sitting in the aisle seat will be very distracting (he's a very distractable baby). He will also have to take a nap or two in my arms, and I think be difficult to keep his head/feet from getting knocked about by passersby.

So, which seat is Best Seat? (Clearly the bulkhead is best, but those were already all taken.)

Bonus: any other tips/advice about taking such a long flight with a wiggly baby are much appreciated, though I have already read all the previouslies.
posted by lollymccatburglar to Travel & Transportation (22 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Aisle seat. No question. You're going to need to get up and walk the baby around.

(my two year old has been on 14 flights, this is by far the best set up)
posted by Oktober at 8:36 AM on July 3, 2014 [13 favorites]

I would go for the aisle seat just like you did. When baby has a diaper blowout or just needs to be walked around because he's bored, do you really want to have to deal with getting someone else out of their seat to enable that, every single time?

Also please don't put your baby down on the floor between your feet, that's a filthy spot.

In my experience flight attendants are happy to help hold a baby while you get up and use the bathroom etc, by the way.

You'll be fine. I have fond memories of the time I took my 6 month old with me on a transatlantic flight. Enjoy.
posted by fingersandtoes at 8:37 AM on July 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

Yeah, totally aisle seat.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 8:45 AM on July 3, 2014

If he's in diapers? Aisle seat. No question. Also; check that the airline has fold-out changers in the bathrooms. The one I took my baby on didn't. I managed to balance him on the lid of the toilet, but it was precarious to say the least.
posted by emjaybee at 8:46 AM on July 3, 2014

I'd definitely go with the aisle seat, that's what we did with our tiny flyer and it worked out well. She was (unsteadily) walking and had a grand time going up and down the aisle smiling at people. There were actually two grandmotherly types on our flight that asked if they could play peek a boo with her for awhile so that was very nice, they had a very fun hour and then she was exhausted, hopefully you will be so lucky! Good luck!
posted by julie_of_the_jungle at 8:47 AM on July 3, 2014

Also, we were still breastfeeding at the time and most everyone was polite enough to avert their eyes when TinyJungle got distracted while eating and if they didn't, meh.
posted by julie_of_the_jungle at 8:48 AM on July 3, 2014

Aisle seat for all the reasons noted, it also increases your odds of another travelling mother or grandma seeing you and offering to help or a distraction.
posted by wwax at 8:50 AM on July 3, 2014

Aisle, but the key to this whole thing going smoothly besides what mood baby is in, is the person sitting next to you. If that person is reasonable they will be a help.
posted by 724A at 8:51 AM on July 3, 2014

nthing aisle seat. This is westbound, yes? Everyone's going to be on daytime hours and less crotchety to begin with. Night flights eastbound are a bit harder because passengers are generally struggling to get sleep while the plane's racing into tomorrow, but still aisle seat.
posted by holgate at 8:55 AM on July 3, 2014

Aisle. Imagine trying to get out of the window seat, past the people sitting next to you, while holding the little guy. (P.S. love the title.)
posted by The corpse in the library at 9:01 AM on July 3, 2014

9thing aisle seat, but also coming in to warn you that he may not nap or eat as you expect no matter what you do. One of my kids rocked an eyemask sometimes, the other would not. And splurge on a neck pillow for yourself. Assuming baby does sleep it will really help you feel saner at Point B.

Regarding head and legs dangling into the aisle, it will happen. Most people are fine about it, but be careful on baby's behalf for the drinks and meal carts - those hurt.
posted by cocoagirl at 9:03 AM on July 3, 2014

The only factor you have control over is the choice of aisle seat. You just have to hope and pray now for a turbulence-free flight (lots of opportunity to crawl up and down the aisles), amenable seatmates (won't huff at you for every squawk, might even hold the baby) and maybe even a napping child (good luck!)

You probably won't get any sleep yourself. Don't count on it, at least.

Also, buy a bottle of water in the airport for yourself and ask the attendants to fill it rather than give you open cups of water.
posted by Liesl at 9:21 AM on July 3, 2014

Best answer: Aisle seat! OMG Aisle seat! You will want to get up and down and he'll probably want to walk around, and you'll need to do diaper changes. It's a giant pain to get in and out of the window seat and not worth any minor benefits.

And consider bringing your boppy pillow - not just for nursing, though it might be helpful, but because holding a sleeping baby can be very hot and tiring. If you have the boppy, you can kind of nestle it around you and put him on top. That way it's taking most of the weight and you're just sort of cradling him there so he doesn't fall off.

If you have a soft baby carrier and frequently use it already, it can also be a useful thing to have, though they sometimes don't allow you to wear the baby during take-off and landing.

Bring snacks. Charged ipad with new and old favorite games or little videos. Nothing crazy, but screen time is a godsend. A new book and a favorite book.

And call the airlines. They don't always book the bulkheads over the regular online interface. Some international flights have the pull-down cot on the bulkhead wall, and they reserve those seats for travelers with infants.
posted by barnone at 9:43 AM on July 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

Another HECK YES to the aisle seat. I also found an Ergo baby carrier super-useful. When they were small, each of my children would sleep and nurse in there. It also kept them confined when wriggly, which helped them fall asleep. It's also way less bulky at the airport than a stroller.
posted by CruiseSavvy at 9:53 AM on July 3, 2014

Response by poster: Looks like it's unanimous! Great, I'll keep the seat we have.

Re: bulkhead seats, I did call the airline, but they told me that I can't request one until we check in at the gate. So I guess I'll ask there, but won't know ahead of time.
posted by lollymccatburglar at 10:01 AM on July 3, 2014

Try for a bulkhead whether window, aisle or center. The bulkhead gives you room to put stuff down, stretch your legs out and stand your kid on the floor. Bulkheads put you with other kids and parents which automatically means greater tolerance. Try to get to the airport a bit early so you can speak to the airline about the seat you want.
posted by firstdrop at 10:05 AM on July 3, 2014

I was going to say the same thing as above - I think you want the bulkhead seat if at all possible. Bulkhead aisle is probably best, but even a bulkhead middle seat is better than somewhere in the middle of the cabin.

Regular flyers don't like it because you don't get to store something under the seat in front of you, and that may be a bit of a problem - you'll need to make do without anything at your feet for take-off and landing. But otherwise, there's more room to stretch out, less of a problem with seatback kicking, and no danger of a seat reclining on to baby's head.

Infants with bassinets get priority in the bulkhead, as you found out, but they should be able to seat you there if you check in early and ask nicely. "I don't want Baby McCatburglar disturbing others by kicking their seats" should be sufficient.
posted by RedOrGreen at 10:24 AM on July 3, 2014

We flew a lot in my son's first year and it really helped to just have a positive attitude about it. Ignore anyone who looks grumpy when you get on board and focus on the people who get excited to see a cute baby. There will probably be a couple of people who are thrilled to interact with him- let them give you a break for as long as they're willing.
posted by betsybetsy at 10:44 AM on July 3, 2014

I flew with baby twice, although for no more than 3 hrs and 6 hrs, respectively. One tip I have is to nurse through take off - this is where their little ears hurt (just like ours but supposedly even more) and sucking really helps. Another tip is to bring an airy blanket so his face is covered but he can still breathe when he wants to nap.

To give you some reassurance, I had zero issues with my little one during either flight, even though generally he was the farthest thing from laid back or quiet. He was totally zonked out by all the nursing and the constant vibration of the plane. In fact, now that I think about it, he was more peaceful he's ever been as a baby. Here's hoping you are in for a pleasant surprise :)
posted by rada at 10:52 AM on July 3, 2014

For a transatlantic flight, please consider purchasing a seat for the baby and utilizing a car seat on the plane. Turbulence is unkind to little ones and the FAA even recommends it.
posted by zizzle at 2:07 PM on July 3, 2014

A note: I know you mentioned it in passing, but it bears repeating - be careful in an aisle seat if the baby falls asleep. The baby's head might be sticking out just a tiny bit too far into the aisle and it will get slammed by the drink cart as it goes by. This almost happened to my baby in a similar situation.
posted by tacodave at 3:58 PM on July 3, 2014

We just got back from a three week vacation to England and Portugal with our one year old (seven flights all together!). Here's hoping you'll get the bulkhead--the bassinets are pretty worthless, but the fold-down flat surface it sits on was invaluable (essentially a giant version of the normal tray), and there is soooo much extra leg room.

Also seconding the use of a soft carrier. I cannot imagine holding a 23 pound baby for 10 hours, plus you can actually use your hands (yay carriers!). Our flight attendants were amazing and let me use the lap belt extender thinger (the belt you use for lap carry infants) in conjunction with the carrier. I just fed it through (between our bodies) and around his back, on the outside of the carrier. The belt held the baby just as it would even without the carrier. This is probably highly dependent on the flight attendant, but it's worth a shot. It honestly felt way more secure and safer that just the lap belt extender.

This tip might be controversial, but: baby got sick (a cold) at the airport pretty much as we boarded our flight from Chicago to London. It was not fun. He was crying and feverish. It was a red eye, but the cabin lights stayed bright for the first 3 hours of the flight. The baby needed dark and rocking to settle after I gave him tylenol for his fever. I posted up in one of the lavatories--slid the lock over enough for it to lock and look occupied from the outside, but not enough to trigger the bright lights inside. I was able to bounce/sing him to sleep (in the carrier) in a dark, no distractions area. I felt bad for occupying the toilet for 15+ minutes, but I figured that was better than him endlessly screaming. Anyway. Sliding lock trick in the case you are desperately needing a quiet, dark place.

Does your baby like to walk while you hold his hands? Ours wasn't walking on his own yet, but loved to walk if you held his hands. We did many-a-trip up and down the aisles. Passengers would always wave and "chat" with him. Maybe even a little tickle or other game. My baby is pretty social so he lurrrrrved that. And it definitely breaks up the monotony and expends some energy.

And all the other typical advice: iPad with games and ebooks, new toys, spare clothes for YOU as well as baby, plastic bags (for soiled clothes), baby medicine. Also, we swapped our normal messenger-style diaper bag for a backpack. This came in super handy for diaper changes in the tiny bathrooms. Also, we used the hell out of these food/snack dispensers: big small

Also, even during the sick flight with a screaming baby who surely annoyed people, every interaction I had with other passengers was so positive. Everyone was nice, accommodating, and totally understanding. I was pleasantly surprised and relieved.

Good luck! It'll be fine. :)
posted by bienbiensuper at 12:32 AM on July 6, 2014

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