If you still can’t reach eden after checking your seat online and rifling through the seatmap, fear not, there is still time. Many airlines release bulkhead and exit row seats 24 hours before departure (that is, once the checkin window opens). Try checking in for your flight at the 24 hour window; regardless of whether or not you’re checking luggage or have means to print your boarding pass at that time (you can still check in and pick your seat at that time). Once you get to the airport you can always reprint your boarding pass or check your luggage.
Alternatively, the same airlines also release bulkhead and exit row seats to their elite members during normal ticketing. So if you’re able to achieve one of the elite tiered statuses that the airline creates, you’ll also have access to these seats. Frankly, that’s one of the best perks of obtaining “status”, as the frequent flyers call it: knowing exactly where you’re sitting on what plane on what itinerary, nine months in advance. It takes a lot of the stress out of flying when you know you’re going to be sitting in 23A on AF 332 JFK-CDG next February. It’s a great seat. Trust me.
The key is to get online, check early and be aggressive in finding your seat. Remember that half of the other people on the plane are playing with their seats as well, so availability will change frequently up to departure time. Be proactive in your quest for a better seat now and you’ll thank yourself when the time comes to fly.