Obviously, we would all like to cater to our inner Beyoncé and fly first class at all times. But when we do find ourselves in coach (womp womp), the key is to create as transformative an experience as is possible in the cabin. Try embracing tricks like these from travel experts and frequent flyers to make the trip a lot more pleasant:
1. Choose the right seat.
“One trick to make a bulkhead or exit row seat feel like first class is to take your carry-on bag and turn it into a leg rest, after takeoff, of course,” says travel expert John DiScala of JohnnyJet.com, who demonstrates the move here:
2. Eat and pack ahead.
“Coach food is awful, whether bought or free, and it will make you sad when you eat it. Also it will make you bloated, while also (mysteriously) still not entirely full. Eat something in the airport — preferably at a sit-down restaurant. Yes, it's overpriced, but so is a grab-and-go sandwich. Have a decent lunch salad or steak frites, a glass of wine, and sleep through the gross in-air meal service entirely,” says Lena Katz, a producer and writer who's flown nearly once a month for the past 10 years.
And if you have a long enough flight that you will need to eat again on board, absolutely come prepared. “Definitely bring your own food and drink. A little gourmet sushi goes a long way and there are travel-friendly craft cocktail kits designed especially to be carried on. Drink enough of those and you sleep like a baby even in coach!” says Lonely Planet author and travel expert Kevin Raub.
3. Take care of your skin.
A much-loved part of traveling first class is the amenities kit you get on long-haul flights. However, there’s no reason you can’t make your own! “Assuming I'm not traveling with my kids, I like to make mini-packs of beauty items that I'd normally find in a business- or first-class seat. Generally that just means a small makeup case or Ziploc with hydrating face wipes, lip balm, a disposable toothbrush and mini container of toothpaste, and a little tube of fancy hand cream. I don't feel like I missed out on the business class experience as long as I have somewhere to stretch my feet out and all my parts are hydrated and decent smelling,” says lifestyle and beauty expert Bryce Gruber of TheLuxurySpot.com.
Flying can be murder on your senses, but also on your skin. If you want to look and feel fresh when you land, some spa-ing while you fly is important. “I like to slather on a thick moisturizer like Estee Lauder Re Nutriv, don a cashmere eye mask, and dab eucalyptus oil on my pulse points. And then I take two melatonin and pretend I'm in first!” says beauty expert and frequent traveler, Amber Katz of Rouge18.com.
4. Be ready to create a bedroom onboard.
If you’ve ever ridden on a plane before, you know sleeping comfortably is a luxury that seldom happens. The seats are small, legroom is super tight, and finding a spot to rest your head is nonexistent. Make sure to bring a good pillow with you — JetComfy Travel Pillow is a good one because it makes snoozing on a plane easier by mimicking a natural resting pose that props up your head and decreases pressure on your spine and neck.
And invest in a tiny but luxe blanket. A lot of airlines don't have enough blankets — or any, if it's a mid-day flight. “Plus, when you get one, it's scratchy and thin, in a plastic bag (ew!), and who knows where it's been. Plane AC makes me freezing cold, and I would rather swathe myself in a blanket than huddle in my coat. No matter how great the coat is, it invariably bunches up at the tailbone or pulls awkwardly at one arm," Katz says. "A blanket is stretchier, and you can even cowl it around your head and nap without looking too ridiculous."
5. Give yourself more meal options.
On longer flights with meal service, many passengers don’t know you can choose special meals through the airline website or by calling in advance. “This requires the flight attendant to come find you in your seat, call you by name, and confirm you have ordered a special meal. Other passengers notice, want to know why you are getting VIP treatment, and your meal is often far better than the standard they are served,” says Jonathan Bailey, a San Diego-based travel enthusiast.
6. Make friends with the flight attendant.
Be funny, authentic, and complimentary — call them by name more than once. “They will go out of their way to make you comfortable. This tactic has brought me extra treats, free drinks, even an invitation to sit in the back with the flight attendants and play cards during down time,” says Bailey. "It’s amazing how good it feels to sit somewhere other than in your same seat for seven straight hours."
7. Invest in Global Entry.
This is a must. When traveling home from another country, you feel like a VIP as you whisk through customs in a fraction of the time it takes others. “You walk right past them while they look on in jealousy, swipe your card in the kiosk, scan your passport, and you’re done. We just came home from a trip to Mexico with another family, and were through the line and to our Uber in five minutes flat. It took the other family an hour,” says Bailey.
8. Dress nicely...
It makes a difference on how you are treated. “If there are upgrades to hand out, gate personnel are more likely to grant favors to people not dressed in sweats and flip-flops,” says Bailey.
9. …but wear flats.
High heels take up thee or four precious inches of legroom — plus, boots tighten up as your feet swell with altitude, and make your feet fall asleep, increasing the cramped claustrophobic feeling. “I typically wear sandals or flats and bring a pair of travel socks in my handbag. Once I get seated, I remove my sandals, put on the travel socks, and stretch my legs out — really utilizing those inches of extra space to wiggle my toes. The socks aren't just to be polite, either — when the plane's air conditioner cranks, wearing socks helps keep my extremities warm,” says Katz.
10. A little help is OK.
“Sleep is the ultimate luxury on a plane, especially in close quarters like coach. The supplement melatonin is a travel essential and easy to throw in your carry on. It’s a drug-free way to help fall asleep and stay asleep, while flying or adjusting to time zones,” shares Shannon Wright, wellness expert for Natrol.
10. Definitely wear headphones.
And make a pre-programmed music playlist. “I don't even wait till I board to avail myself of this small but essential luxury. The minute I get through security, I start my personal soundtrack. And once I'm sure my row is seated, I buckle my seatbelt, turn up the music, and tune out everything else. Nine out of 10 times I'm asleep before we take off,” says Katz.
SleepPhones are a great overnight travel option — they can help you fall asleep faster while traveling (some get a lot of value out of listening to nature sounds or relaxing music), but you can also use it listen to audio books, music, or movies.
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