Galley Gossip: A question about traveling with kids and scoring an extra seat

Dear Heather,

I’ve written to you before and now I have another question. So I’ve told you that we’re traveling w/ our one-year old next month. No car seat, etc. Are there any sneaky ways to insure that we could get an ’empty’ seat for her???? I think currently we have it booked so my husband gets the window seat and I get the aisle. We thought that might work as nobody would want to sit in the middle of us. But, I’m sure they’ll have to put a single traveler in the middle. We’re leaving on the 26th of December w/ American Airlines. I’m sure it will be busy, but what do you think?

Thanks so much!

Dear Marlo,

I remember your question, as my answer did get quite a rise out of many Gadling readers, especially those who do what I do for a living. Flight attendants everywhere scolded me for telling you that it was okay to travel without the car seat, even though I did point out that it was much safer to book the extra seat and take the car seat along with you. For those of you who missed that one, here’s a link to Galley Gossip: a question about traveling with car seats and strollers. If you’ll be traveling with kids during the Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday season, make sure to check it out, along with Galley Gossip: The best invention for kids on the airplane – CARES,

As for scoring a middle seat, Marlo, I think you did all that you can do, as that’s exactly what I would have told you to do – book the aisle and window and leave the middle seat open. Remember, you are traveling during one of the busiest holidays of the year, so if the flight is not full, it’s probably getting there. I have yet to work an empty flight this year. Since the back of the airplane is a lot less desirable than the front (and also bumpier if there’s turbulence) you could move your seats to the rear of the aircraft, cross your fingers, and pray no one wants to sit that close to the toilet. It’s your best bet. I’d also like to point out that there are going to be mostly other families traveling during the holiday season, so that single traveler sitting between you and your husband is probably not a single traveler at all, but a traveler displaced from their family, a traveler who is praying he or she can get you to move to another seat! So be patient. Be kind. And remember, holiday travel is never fun. Unless you can just relax and go with the flow.

Your question brought back a memory from long ago, so there’s one more thing I’d like to mention. If you do decide to book the aisle and window seats, leaving the middle seat open in an attempt to score the extra room, remember that middle seat passengers are people too. Please, do not talk over the unfortunate person who ends up getting stuck between the two of you. And please, do not pass things over the person, particularly food, even if you think that person is sleeping. Twice I’ve awoken to loud voices, crumbs in my lap, and my magazine gone after getting stuck between two people traveling together. For more information on what you should and should not do concerning the middle seat, check out my other post, Middle Seat Etiquette.

Happy Travels

Heather Poole

Have a tip when traveling with kids? Post a comment below. I’d love to hear from you.


Photo courtesy of matth