There are always a few unanswered questions that agonize passengers like me just before boarding a flight. “Is this a newer plane?” “Are the snacks any good?” “Are there personal TVs or will the plane have a TV every several rows?” “Will I be able to spread out across a row of seats?”
Upon boarding, the first or business class section with its wide, couch-like leather seats, ample leg room, and large tray tables give some economy passengers hope that the airline also put some thought into the comfort of their not so well-to-do customers. However as you trek towards the back, where the seats are narrow and the armrests are hard, things start looking a little grim. And when you finally reach your assigned seat you realize you’re in a middle seat right in front of the most adorable set of twin babies who are currently screaming their little heads off. And then, you start to reconsider whether this trip is actually necessary.
But all hope is not lost. A little pre-flight prep can make your passage feel a bit closer to the comforts of first class without spending a fortune on a ticket. Here’s five easy ways to upgrade:
Create your personalized first class amenity kit.
Some of the perks of first class are obvious. But one thing you may not have noticed as you were throwing envious glances at the folks with wider leg room and fully-reclining seats are the first class amenity kits, neatly tucked inside their seats. These amenity kits bring additional comfort to the flight and are typically packed in a small bag that includes an eye mask, luxury brand lotion, lip balm, facial tissues, ear plugs, a toothbrush, toothpaste, and other items depending on the airline.
For your coach adventures, create your own amenity kit with those items, plus a face cloth—I’ll explain why later. And since I doubt any airline does this, add some coconut oil or your favorite leave-in conditioner. That dry, recycled air can suck the moisture right out of your tresses. At 12% humidity in the cabin, opt for the quality products that’ll do the job.
You can put the items in a cute little clutch purse if you like to fly in style, and slide that kit into the seat pocket in front of you, so you don’t have to constantly rummage through your carry-on bag every time you need to re-apply your lip balm. Just remember to make sure all of your liquid containers comply with TSA regulations.
Come prepared with a few extra items for added comfort
Never board a flight without these items in your carry on: gum, music, a phone charger, snacks, a blanket or sweatshirt, an empty reusable water bottle, and noise-canceling headphones.
This list seems self-explanatory, however, I wasn’t always sold on the noise-cancelling headphones. I used to think they weren’t worth the expensive price tag. However, when I started traveling more I bought a pair and they’ve made a world of a difference. With a quality set you no longer have to turn your music all the way up to compete with the roar of the plane, and when you see a baby in a nearby aisle—you’ll be grateful you invested in those headphones.
Pack a meal
Unless you’re flying first class, you can’t rely on inflight meals for domestic flights anymore. You can’t even rely on a pack of peanuts (one airline made me pay for a cup of water, which should be illegal). Before your trip, head over to your neighborhood deli for a gourmet sandwich with the condiments on the side. Or, bring an insolated lunch box/bag with your favorite dish if you want a hot inflight meal. Just remember to avoid any soups as it may be confiscated by the TSA.
Also – don’t forget to bring your own mini-bottles for cocktails. Yes, you can do that!
Plan an inflight budget
Have a small “Treat Yo Self” budget for entertainment and refreshments on longer flights. Plan on spending around $20- 25 for a glass of champagne and a movie. Better yet, replace the alcohol with hydrating refreshments like sparkling water and buy an extra movie for a cheaper deal.
Ask for what you want
Fly attendants aren’t personal servants, but they will help make the flight a bit more comfortable if you ask for the right things:
Remember that face cloth you packed in your amenity kit? Whip it out when you’ve woken up from your flight nap, then mosey to the back of the cabin and ask for a cup of hot water. Then, dip in your face cloth. Wipe your face and hands for a refreshed feeling you rarely get in coach.
When the flight attendants bring the drink cart around, fill up your reusable bottle with a few cups of water so you don’t have to keep your tray table open with cups of water on it and constantly worry about spills from turbulence or accidents.
Sure, you may look a little
shameless gutsy filling your water bottle or dipping your wash cloth into water meant for tea, but sometimes getting comfortable on a flight means getting a little creative. First class passengers receive warm towels and bottled water, so why shouldn’t you show yourself some first class love?
If you’re stuck in a middle seat between two armrest-hogging strangers, ask the flight attendants if they can move you to an available seat – or, even better, ask before you board the plane. On flights that aren’t filled to capacity, most airline desk agents and attendants are happy to accommodate your needs. Don’t be shy – ask for what you want!
The items in my amenity kit, my noise-canceling headphones, flight food and my inflight budget all add up to around $215, $65 if you take out my headphones. Other than the food, most of these items don’t need to be frequently replaced, so I spend relatively little on comfort. That budget still pales in comparison to the cost of a first class ticket, so get comfy on your next flight without breaking the bank.
Shae Collins is one of those women who quit her job to travel and follow her passion. In addition to collecting passport stamps, she manages A Womyn’s Worth, a blog that aims a black feminist lens at all things involving race, gender, and pop culture. Laugh with her on Twitter @awomynsworth