Is there anything worse than being crammed in the middle seat in the middle of the plane for upwards of three hours? Ugh. Here are a few tips to help you get a good seat the next time you fly.

Spring Break is just around the corner and with Central Minnesota firmly in the grip of the polar vortex and no relief in sight, more and more of my friends and family are packing their bags for warmer climates. Wish I were one of them, but then who would dispense this worldly advice?

Ask Nicely

If you book your ticket online and there’s no option to pick your seat, call the airline as soon as you book and nicely explain your issue and politely ask if you can pick a seat. If they say no, wait until you get to the airport and ask again. Those without seat assignments are most likely to get booted, so try, try again and keep trying. Glen and I were booked in seats across the aisle from each other once, so I asked the gate agent if she could help me out, she said, “I’ll see what I can do” which usually means “no”, but in this instance, she totally hooked us up. If the gate agent won’t let you ask, it also doesn’t hurt to ask a flight attendant to move you once the door is closed. I did this to get away from a yippy dog on board and ended up with rock star seating. Best. Flight. Ever. There’s also a website called Expert Flyer that can let you know the instant a good seat opens up so you can grab it for yourself.

Phone a Friend

If you have a friend or relative who gets frequent flier miles or you know they’re a member of the airline’s loyalty club, ask if you can buy some of their points to get a better seat. If they’re unwilling to sell you their points, at least try and get the elite customer service number to see if they can help you. Many times, even if the elite passenger isn’t flying with the person calling, the airline will assign a seat for no charge.

Early Bird Gets the Seat

Exactly 24 hours before your flight takes off, the airlines open up online check in. Set an alarm if you have to, because airlines release seats as soon as online check in starts. The seats are on hold for elite passengers and those who want to pay for the better seats, so grab those seats as soon as you can.

Cough it Up

If you try all of the above without any luck, the last resort is just coughing up the money for a better seat. The cost will depend on the airline, but expect to pay anywhere from $5 on US Airways, all the way up to $159 for Virgin America or $499 on Southwest.