Window or Aisle? Experts Sound Off on Popular Travel Debates
The team here at Classic Journeys is passionate about travel. Perhaps at times resolutely passionate – particularly when it applies to our strongly-held opinions and preferences when traveling.
After racking up thousands of airline miles collectively each year, who can blame us? It has taken many flights, unexpected surprises and trips that went off without a hitch to perfect our travel routines, and now that we have them down pat, we rarely stray.
So, we asked our team of experts to sound off on travel’s most divisive topics, from planning for your trip to travel logistics to how to best enjoy your time. Gather around our water cooler as we share and tell us: what does your travel routine look like?
Window or Aisle Seat?
Aisle: Always an aisle seat. There’s nothing I hate more than waking up an entire row of harried air travelers to crawl across seats every time I need to use the restroom – which is often because it’s important to stay hydrated when flying. Plus, if I just want to stand up for a minute to stretch or get the blood flowing back to my toes, I have the freedom to do so without any angry glares.
Window: On long-haul flights – definitely the window seat. I like having a little bit of extra space to nestle my pillow against the plane. Plus, I live for that moment of thrill when you open your window shade as you’re arriving at your destination and get the best view – it’s the official start to a trip, in my mind.
Best of Both Worlds: Aisle seat or emergency exit row for any short flight. Window seat for long-hauls and flights with cool views like mountain ranges, deserts, etc. Either way, I never sit within 5 rows of a bathroom or choose a seat that doesn’t recline if I can help it.
Relegated to the Middle: When you’re married, you discover that one of you gets defaulted to the middle seat…so I lost that battle a long time ago. Though a great tip when traveling in pairs is to purposely book an aisle and a window seat because a solo traveler is less likely to pick the spot between you unless it’s their absolute last resort. So if the plane isn’t full, you can get the row to yourselves! (Or if someone does sit between you, then you can make their day by offering either the aisle or middle seat so you can sit together.)
Checked Bag or Carry On Only?
Pack Light: Make your life so much easier and travel carry on only. No waiting for luggage to arrive on the carousel with that fear of whether the bag will be there or now. And you can zip out of the airport, especially if you pair your carry on commitment with TSA Global Entry. And, if my wife can pack for a week in the Italian countryside and a week in London in a carry on and look fabulous the whole time, you can too.
Pack What You Want: We just got AWAY luggage that we’re really excited about. I carry on when I can. However, if it’s a long trip and there’s weather and/or lots of clothing requirements, I do not feel bad about checking. I’m not an over-packer by any stretch, I am very efficient, but sometimes I want what I want and if it doesn’t fit I check.
On Families: When traveling with family we tend to check one bag and do 1 or 2 carry on bags. With a child, we tend to have more things to bring (of course only the necessities). We also like to shop and bring home items – maybe a bottle of liquids that I cannot bring on the plane.
To Souvenir Shop or Not?
Anti-Tchotchke: I used to always want to buy at least one thing from every place I visited. But soon my house was filled with random items – most notably little Buddha statues – who knows why. Rather than buying something just to buy it, I think if a piece of art really sticks out to you – go ahead. But leave the dime a dozen tchotchkes at the market.
Mostly No (Except for a Didgeridoo): A 4.5 ft didgeridoo was probably my most ambitious purchase while abroad (shipping and handling $$$). I love bargaining but only if it’s something worth the money/time/space. If it’s not something truly special or unique from the region, you can do without it. You can buy a magnet, mug or a “someone who loves me went to Panama and all I got was this t-shirt!” t-shirt anywhere.
Pro-Mementos: I love bringing home mementos of my travels. But that’s not to say that I bring home something from every trip, nor that I particularly set out on shopping excursions to find one. Some of my favorite souvenirs include an olive wood platter and handmade kaftan from Greece, a tiny bronze elephant statue from Bali, and black saltwater pearls from Fiji. Sometimes souvenirs aren’t bought – like the rope and bead bracelet a monk gave me at a temple in Indonesia or the packet of rice harvested by the hotel we stayed at in Cambodia which was given as a parting gift.
Last-minute Flights or Book in Advance?
Pro Planner: In advance! Otherwise, flights become super pricey and hotel rates skyrocket, or become unavailable! Stress-free travel is the way to go and this is an important step in making sure that happens.
Plan Ahead: I am a planner, so I need to book in advance. I physically cannot do anything last minute or I freak out.
No Debate Here: I’m a planner and would prefer to buy my tickets as soon as possible, but there are occasionally those last-minute specials. I’ve still not cracked the airplane pricing code. Anyone that has, you give me a call!
To Recline Your Seat or Not?
Tall Traveler: Booking a non-reclinable seat?! Never. As a tall-ish human, every inch of recline helps. However, being courteous to your fellow travelers is a must when doing so. I always make sure to have the seat straight during meals and try to see what that person is doing before I opt to go lower. If they’re tall like me, I’ll try to only go half the way. However, moving from a recline to a straight position with a pillow on my lower back allows my back to stretch throughout the flight.
Sometimes: I often forget to recline. Once I remember I do, especially if I’m going to try to sleep.
Be Polite: Recline – but politely. For example, if I notice the person behind me is tall, I will only do it partially. Either way, I’m still uncomfortable sitting for a long time, so I might as well try to be nice about it when possible.
Paper Book or Electronic?
Space Saver: After carrying around Shantaram (By Gregory David Roberts) for a month in Indonesia – I’m going to go with an electronic book. I think that book was the sole reason my luggage was overweight. Good read, but 936 pages of HEAVY.
Real Deal: There’s nothing like the smell and feel of a real book and the satisfaction of seeing how much progress you’ve made! Plus, I spend so much time staring at a screen in my professional and personal life already, that it’s a good break from that blue light.
Ode to the Tangible: I still love actual books – and always will. Give me a paperback and you’ll get it back with a cracked spine, sand hidden in between pages and passages underlined – in other words, well-loved and well-read. My husband agrees – he even dragged around the 1,079-page Infinite Jest (By David Foster Wallace) across Southeast Asia and read it cover to cover (Side debate: is a vacation the one and only time one can actually accomplish reading Infinite Jest in its entirety? Probably).
It’s All About Options: E-book. Unless it’s a puzzle book like crossword, word search, sudoku, etc. then I definitely need a paper copy. I like to have options at my fingertips, as I’m usually spread out across several books at once (sci-fi, comedy, drama, etc.)
DSLR Camera or Phone Travel Pics?
iPhone for Life: As the adage goes, the best camera is the one you have with you. In that spirit, my iPhone 11 Pro is always with me, right in my pocket. And with the advancements in lenses and technology, there is much less compromise in the quality of the shots you get. Finally, one word: portrait mode.
Safari Excluded: As someone who doesn’t call themselves a professional photographer, the iPhone / smartphone camera will do my experience justice, especially with how sharp they are on the newest models. If I’m going to an experience where a nicer camera really does make a difference (i.e. a safari in Africa), then the big camera does come along.
It Depends: I’ve taken my DSLR and used it every day on trips to remote Fijian islands…and dragged it on other trips to Cambodia and Mexico and didn’t use it once. So, for me, it depends. Many trips my iPhone suits fine, but I agree with Michelle – when I finally go on a South African safari, you bet I’ll have my good camera, and probably a brand new zoom lens too.
Fly Direct or Connect?
Direct Only: Always nonstop – I’ll pay more to get there quicker and avoid the hassle of potential delays and more airport food (unless its ATL so I can make a stop at One Flew South – ranked consistently as one of the best airport restaurants in the world.
Value Flier: I am always trying to catch a deal, so my first objective is cost. Just as long as the layover is not over 3 hours, I am ok.
Nonstop, No Contest: My Google flight searches are 100% nonstop only. I will ALWAYS prioritize my time and stress level over a flight deal. Plus, most flight deals these days aren’t really worth it – they usually equate to basic economy, which should just not be a thing (are you listening, American Airlines?).
Seeking Flight Deals: Connect…but only because of financial obligations (and because I obviously like to take my time getting places…I’m going to walk 2,650 miles on purpose over the span of 5 months on the Pacific Crest Trail soon!). Travel time is inevitable either way, so I’d rather save the money on a flight with connections so I can spend more on my experience in my destination.