I’m not that keen on road trips so that means that most of my journeys entail a trip to the airport whether it’s San Francisco, California or San Francisco di Assisi in Italy. So for me, before I undertake any journey there are a plethora of decisions to make but they can basically be broken down into two distinct categories: Strategic and tactical. Strategic decision such include where and when to go, trip duration, etc. and I’ll cover those in a different post. But here, I want to cover to two most basic tactical decisions you’ll have to make when flying…window or aisle seat, and should I check luggage or carry on. The short answer to both questions comes down to a really short answer. It depends.
Window vs. Aisle
Most of us book flights online these days and in most cases you’re given the opportunity to choose your seat at the time of booking. I love this option since you’re not in suspense all the way up until you check in at the airport and ultimately get assigned a middle seat. So which one to choose?
There’s no right answer to this question. Studies show that women will typically choose a window seat while men will typically choose an aisle seat. It seems women feel safer with the additional sense of privacy the window seat affords and men, who tend to be taller, enjoy the ability to stretch their legs out in the aisle occasionally. But for me, I typically consider two basic questions: Am I flying Business/First and is there anything to see.
In Business/First the window vs. aisle dilemma isn’t as stressful as it is in economy. However on some airlines you’ll get extra handy storage along the bulkhead in a window seat. However you’ll have to do gymnastics over your sleeping seatmate if you have to go to the bathroom in most cases.
In economy class there are other factors to consider though. If you’re tall or prone to claustrophobia the aisle seat may be a better option for you. If you have a connecting flight with very little time the aisle may also get you off the plane a few precious seconds earlier. If you think you’re going to need frequent access to the overhead bin, be nice to your seatmates and choose the aisle. And, of course, if you pee a lot…’nuff said.
Checked vs. Carry-on Luggage
I actually find this decision harder to make than seat selection and have gone from strongly in the carry-on camp to sort of in the check luggage camp. But once again there are several factors to consider. Once again the cabin you’ll be flying in should weigh heavily on your decision.
The reason I’ve moved camps has a lot to do with the changing airline industry. With fees being added for checked luggage, air carriers now awarding their frequent flyers with priority boarding, and seat spacing more suited to sardines, overhead space can be VERY scarce. I find nothing more frustrating that lugging my roll-aboard on the plane, not finding a place to stow it, and ultimately lugging it back up the aisle (against the flow of boarding passengers with their roll-aboards) to have the darn thing checked anyway. Another argument for checking is the varying regulations on cabin luggage and what can and cannot be taken through security. This is inconsistent from airline to airline and, of course, varies by country.
So unless I’m carrying a bag full of diamonds, the bag checking fee is not to hefty, or if I’m not flying into LAX (which has the slowest bag retrieval I’ve encountered anywhere in the world), I’ll typically check my bag even if it’s carry-on size.