Thanks to my generous boyfriend and his air-mile upgrades, I've been spoiled by the good life at 35,000 feet and find the comedown to economy tough when traveling on my own dime. I want to be in the fast-track lane; I want to sleep on a flatbed seat; I want the champagne to flow freely until we land! But what I want and what I can afford are two different things. Sound familiar? Well, I couldn't let this state of affairs continue forever, so I worked out how to give the cheap seats a little more class.
1. Natural Selection
Check-in online as early as possible to swap your seats (or to confirm the good ones you snagged when you bought your ticket). Window seats away from toilets and galleys should be your objective, preferably as close to the front of the plane as possible: The fewer heads you can see ahead of you, the more VIP you'll feel. But beware of bulkheads as they often cater to parents and infants; diaper bags and baby bits take up lots of space and will creep into your space without fail.
2. Keep Calm and Carry On
Keep your carry-on to a minimum in a chic tote that can fit under the seat in front of you while leaving plenty of room to stretch out. Bags which take up too much under-seat space and crowd your feet should go up into the overhead locker without fail. It's best to have your essentials (like your book, headphones, iPod, etc.) handy in a light-weight pochette which you can take out and keep with you while your carry-on is stowed up and out of the way (i.e. Le Pliage Tote from Longchamp, from $145.00).
3. Hold Everything
Business and First Class passengers are treated to amenity kits filled with all sorts of goodies to make longer flights more comfortable. Well, we can do that. Just create your own. Put travel sized versions of your favourite toner, moisturiser, hand cream, and lip balm into a bag. A tiny vial (or two) of aromatherapy oil is another must have: A little sniff can be comforting if not downright indispensable if the plane has some nasty turbulence. And don't forget your toothbrush.
4. Head Over Headphones
Privacy is the traveler's greatest luxury and something that's sorely missing from the back of the plane. Noise-cancelling headphones can help you feel like you're in your own cocooned space, even if the stranger sitting next to you is just an inch away. And whether you're actually listening to anything or not, headphones of any kind will send a message to the chatty grandma on your other side. Try the Phiaton PS 20 NC from $99 or splurge on Bose QuietComfort from $349.95.
5. Knock Yourself Out
On longer flights, the difference between the refreshed-looking passengers that emerge from the front cabins and the bleary-eyed masses that stagger out of the back of the plane is sleep. Help induce zzz's in economy with a travel pillow, cashmere shawl, eye mask, and (with your pharmacist's advice) a mild sleeping pill. Although comfort isn't guaranteed, even an awkward slumber will make the flight go a lot quicker and you'll feel less fatigued when you land. Then, when you arrive with that cashmere shawl draped around your shoulders, a stylish carry-on bag slung over your arm, and a fresh aromatherapy scent wafting behind you, no one will know that you were at the back of the plane at all. We like the Kuhi Comfort Travel Pillow $40 and the Travelrest Blowup Pillow $27.
Photo credit: Economy class via Shutterstock