Seats that double as recliners, more than enough leg space, Michelin-quality meals, and drinks on flow— this is how most people imagine their ideal flight. And for those who are traveling first class, this is how their flights actually are. But for thousands of dollars more per ticket, this remains nothing more than a fantasy for the majority of flyers. First class is the dream, not the reality.
Coach has a reputation for being cramped and claustrophobic, noisy and uncomfortable. And if you don’t go about it the right way, that’s totally accurate. But flying coach doesn’t have to be a nightmare, and the luxuries of first class don’t have to remain so exclusive. If you know what you’re doing when you’re flying, you can end up with a journey that feels like first class for the price of a coach ticket.
There are several simple, clever, and- most of the time- free, things you can do to make your experience in coach as pleasant as possible. And on top of that, there are also ways to increase your chances of actually getting boosted up to first class without paying a dime. Read on to find out what you can do to get that first-class experience for free!
Not all airlines were created equal. In fact, some are infamous for how cramped they are.
You don’t have to pay big bucks for a first-class ticket, but it’s worth paying a little more to avoid cheap airlines that pack in as many people as they can.
JetBlue, for example, allows thirty-three inches of legroom, which is two more inches than the industry standard. Ask around and get to know which airlines have good and bad reviews for leg space.
The difference between first class and coach is that most people leave the former feeling refreshed, and the latter feeling almost hungover (even if not one drink was consumed). But you can still have that fresh feeling in coach if you pack a small bag of amenities to get you through the flight.
You’ll need moisturizer and lip balm to keep your skin supple at high altitudes, face wipes or mist to freshen up, sanitizer to wipe down things around your seat, and possibly medications like pain relievers or anti-nausea meds.
The blankets and pillows you’re provided with on a plane may look tempting and harmless, but to turn up the comfort factor, avoid them.
The main reason airline "comforts" stop you from feeling lavish is that they’re made with cheap material that is scratchy and uncomfortable.
What’s more, the pillows, especially, bring up all sorts of questions about hygiene and cleanliness. To fly in as much comfort as possible, bring your own supplies so you don’t have to use the provided ones.
Noise is one of the biggest obstacles to getting to sleep on a flight. And sleep is the one thing that can help the time pass more quickly than anything else. It can also help you to emerge from the flight feeling rejuvenated.
A pair of quality noise-canceling headphones may come at a price, but it will be worth it. Throw these on when you’re ready to zone out, and fall asleep to your own tunes or get lost in a movie and forget where you are.
A comfortable travel pillow is an absolute must for any flight.
Anything that’s going to help you relax your body in a comfortable way, and possibly get to sleep, is your friend.
It’s tempting to grab the cheapest crescent-shaped pillow you find at the airport, but take the time to look through the higher-quality options before you leave. You can get memory foam pillows and other kinds that are specifically designed to keep your head from falling forward or back.
A light scarf or pashmina never goes astray on a flight. Many people find they need to wrap themselves in something to fall asleep, even if they’re not cold. So you can take your scarf off to double as a blanket if you get cold.
Doing this will also allow you to avoid the airline-provided blankets. Your own clothes will also immerse you in your own smell (not that you’ll be able to detect it), which will subtly make you feel more at home.
Plane food can be surprisingly tasty, but you don’t want to risk having to eat something that makes you gag out of extreme hunger.
It’s always a good idea to bring snacks with you on the flight that you know will fuel you up.
Opt for foods you like to make the experience as enjoyable as possible, but stay away from anything that’s likely to make you feel sick. In most cases, foods that are fried or greasy won’t make you feel good.
It’s not the best idea to drown your sorrows at not being able to afford first class, because you don’t want to leave the flight feeling like a dehydrated zombie. But at the same time, one or two drinks can help you to relax and take a load off.
Rather than sneaking your own drinks on board, just buy them from the flight attendant. Sip something that makes you feel like you’re already relaxing in the sun at the poolside.
It’s 2018,- there’s no longer a reason to endure a long flight without some form of electronic entertainment.
Many airlines offer movies, television, music, and games for free, so do your research to find out how prepared you have to be.
If a screen won’t be provided, load up your tablet with your favorite movies and TV shows and make sure you have your favorite songs downloaded and ready to go. Letting your mind run wild is the best way to forget you’re actually in coach.
You can bring all the entertainment you like, but it won’t mean anything if you run out of battery. If you’re taking connecting flights, you may get a chance to recharge your devices at the airport, but with flight delays and gate changes, you can’t rely on that.
Instead, invest in a nifty portable charger. Make sure it’s totally charged before you leave home, and then when your tablet or iPod starts running low, you can boost it up right there in the sky.
The more bored you are, the more you’ll start looking around your coach surroundings, resenting the fact that you’re not in the luxury of first class where you should be.
To avoid boredom mid-flight, make sure you bring some backup entertainment that is not electronic, in addition to your devices.
Sometimes you’re still wide awake, but your eyes need a break from the screen. That's the perfect time to bring out a book you can get lost in, or a puzzle book to occupy your mind.
The one thing you don’t experience in first class is aching muscles from bending in all sorts of ways to try and get comfortable. As a general rule of thumb, the more leg room you have, the more you’re going to feel like you’re not in coach.
You can have some sway over this by checking in as soon as possible to select the most ideal seat. Every aircraft and airline is different, but the exit-row seats usually have significantly more room to stretch out.
Sometimes, you have the opportunity to pay for extra legroom without going all the way and paying to boost your seat to first class.
On some airlines, you can choose the exit row for an extra cost, and if it doesn’t put too much of a dent in your budget, you should do it.
On shorter flights, having that extra space to move around in might not be worth paying more. But if you’re flying for five hours or more? Trust us- it’s worth it.
The more you know an airline, the better your chances are of scoring top seats. For starters, you’re familiar with any perks you can pay for, such as securing the exit-row seats. Secondly, you’ll know all the guidelines for checking in and be able to get in and select your seats before new customers who leave it to the last minute.
And finally, many airlines allow you to earn miles and status as you continue to travel with them, which could get you upgraded.
No matter where you end up sitting on a flight, you can always make things more comfortable for yourself by putting as much of your luggage as possible into the overhead compartments.
Leave out the things you’ll need, so you’re not getting up every hour.
Store your phone, tablet, necessities, and any snacks in the pouch on the seat in front of you, and secure the rest away. That leaves you with as much leg room as possible- and your seatmates will appreciate not having to climb over your luggage.
First-class is an exclusive and (if you couldn’t tell from the separation curtains) private experience. To create the same feeling in coach, try to build up as much privacy as you can.
You won’t be able to make the people around you disappear, but you can trick yourself into feeling like you’re alone by wearing your noise-canceling headphones or earplugs and an eyeshade or blindfold. On top of that, you can also blast some music and cocoon yourself in your scarf.
If one thing can make you feel even worse on a long, grueling flight, it’s feeling terrible before you even board the plane.
You might have to sleep in an uncomfortable position for a few hours, but that won’t be half as bad if you sort out any aches, pains, or knots you already had beforehand.
Many airports offer spas where you can get a quick fifteen-minute massage to iron out the tension in your neck and shoulders before a flight.
There is nothing stressful about first class, so to bring a sense of luxury to your experience in coach, you should make it feel as calm and tranquil as possible. That can be tricky on an airplane that’s charging through turbulence, but the key is to learn to maintain a peaceful mind, no matter what’s going on outside your body.
Before you leave home, spend time learning and practicing the art of meditation so you can find your inner, calm place among the chaos of coach.
You’ll have to do research online as to where you can and can’t get away with this, but taking advantage of it where you can will relieve the stress of crowding at your gate before your flight:
In some airports, you can access the first class lounge without actually paying for it.
Sometimes, you can pay for a day pass into a first class lounge, which is probably worth it. It’s especially worth it if you have a long wait between connecting flights.
Nobody actually wants the middle seat anyway, but if you’re traveling with a friend, one of you will make the sacrifice so you can sit next to each other. Rookie mistake! If it’s not peak season and the flight isn’t completely full, single travelers are much less likely to choose a seat in between two taken ones.
By taking the window and aisle seat only, you increase your chances of having a free seat in between you- and all that extra leg room.
You should always be as respectful as possible toward flight attendants. This is mainly because their job is not as glamorous as it looks. Considering all the grumpy, demanding customers they have to deal with, they deserve it! But there’s an ulterior motive, too.
If you’re nice to a flight attendant, they’re likely to appreciate it.
If anybody’s going to get bumped up to first class, or the exit-row aisle, it’s going to be the person kissing up to the flight attendant.
The way you dress can have a major influence on how you feel while flying. The key is to be comfortable, but at the same time, you’re probably not going to feel like you’re flying first class if you’re dressed in drab clothes.
For clothes that are comfortable and elegant, try cashmere. Clothes that are completely cotton will allow your skin to breathe and stop you from getting sweaty during the flight. Before leaving, throw together an outfit that you’ll be happy to wear for hours.
Slippers on the plane are a must. The best ones are comfortable but don’t take up a lot of space, like the white hotel kind. Seriously, who doesn’t feel like a VIP while in white hotel slippers?
Even if they’re not the fancy kind, you’ll need some kind of slippers because wearing shoes for a long flight will be too uncomfortable.
And since you’ll probably be getting up to walk about the cabin and go to the restroom, you really don’t want to be barefoot.
Compression socks may not make you feel like a rock star, but they’ll greatly help with the pains and aches you can get from sitting in a cramped space for too long. Plus, they’ll help to prevent blood clots and varicose veins from forming.
Anything you can do to minimize pain and discomfort while in coach is going to make you feel a little more like you’ve finally made it to first class, so these are worth the investment (and maybe a bit of awkwardness).
We can’t stress this enough: the less hydrated you are on a flight, the worse you will feel. If you don’t drink enough over the course of the flight, you might end up with dry skin and lips, a headache, dizziness, and fatigue.
To feel like you’re in first class, you have to feel as fresh as possible, and that means drinking up whenever you get the chance.
Bring your own bottle and fill it up at the airport if you don’t want to pay for refills.
References: Thrillist, Harpers Bazaar, TLC, CN Traveler