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Here’s how you can make flying with the family hassle-free. Mostly.

Andrea Romano
July 24, 2017

One of the biggest hiccups when planning a family vacation happens when you finally get on the flight.

You get through the massive security line, arrive at your gate, finally look at your tickets and that's when you realize: You and your kids aren’t even sitting together.

Related: Budgeting for Vacation Never Works — Here's What You Should Do Instead

Depending on how old and independent a child is, it can be a parent’s worst nightmare. Unfortunately, these days, airlines are asking travelers to fork over a pretty penny for the right to sit next to their loved ones. But there are actually plenty of ways to ensure you stay together, so we've rounded up everything you need to know. You might even save yourself some fees at the same time.

1. Book early.

A little planning goes a long way. This may seem like the obvious, but it really does help.

Not only does booking several months in advance save you money in ticket prices, it ensures that you get a choice of seat and avoid a flight that’s already overbooked. Double check your seat assignments when you get your flight confirmation.

2. If you’re a parent, enter your child’s age when booking.

If a child is 12 or younger, the computer system with automatically attempt to pair an accompanying adult in an adjacent seat the day before departure, one airline representative told Business Insider. You may have to pay a small fee, but this way your kid will stay by your side.

3. Check in early online.

Exactly 24 hours early.

Most airlines have online check-in 24 hours before departure, which means you should pick or confirm your seats as soon as it opens. If your seats aren't already together, you'll have the best chance of getting available seats that are.

4. Check. Then double check.

Once you’ve booked and checked in online, make sure you check your seating arrangement once you get to the airport and check your bags. Then again when you get to the gate agent.

Seating arrangements can always change without notice in events of emergency or a change in the flight. If it happens to you, remember to be polite to the airline employees.

5. Call the airline.

If you can’t get your seats booked together online, call the airline with your reservation and explain your situation to them over the phone. Be sure to mention your child’s age, or whatever your circumstances may be. Once your new seats are assigned, double check them online and when you get to the airport.

6. Get to the airport early.

Not only will you beat the crowds at bag check and security, you’ll also be first in line at the gate, where you can speak to the gate agent directly about seating. Always be polite and courteous to the gate agent — they’re your new best friend.

7. Change your plan.

If your plans permit, try booking with another airline or taking a different flight. Less crowded flights may permit better seating for you and your family. This could involve a few more hours in the airport or a night in a nearby hotel, but at least you don’t have to sit 20 rows apart on the flight.

8. Bribe someone (or just ask).

Other passengers can be pretty amenable to families who just want to get through the flight in peace. You’re all in this together after all. You might be surprised that offering a few snacks or a drink or even nothing at all can convince another passenger to switch seats with you so you can sit with your child. They get it, booking a flight can be rough.

9. Try for aisle seats that are close together.

If you really can’t manage an adjacent seat, try to get an aisle seat that’s nearby. This way, you can keep an eye on your little one while still obeying the rules of the airline — and not disturbing anyone around you.

10. Just pay up.

Yes, some airlines will charge you to sit together. It’s an unfortunate reality of the travel business. If all else fails, you might have to open up your wallet so you can have a peaceful flight without any speed bumps. Figuratively speaking.

11. Call your congressperson.

Oddly enough, you can influence legislation to help the consumer and convince airlines to change their policies.

New York Congressman Jerry Nadler introduced a bill, the “Families Flying Together Act,” to require airlines to accommodate families with small children, Airfare Watchdog reported. The bill hasn't taken off, but if people are willing to call, write or storm social media to get people to listen, anything is possible.

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