Wish You Were Flying First or Business Class, But Have an Economy Class Budget? – Part II

Flying first or business class is even more desirable today than it was just 5 years ago, since even more amenities are being offered. Some international flights offer a 7 foot flat bed to it’s premium passengers, in addition to more personal space, gourmet meals, free alcoholic beverages, more audio and video entertainment, etc. For those who cannot afford the steep price of these seats, or have their company foot the bill, the only ways to obtain the golden fleece is by using frequent flyer points to upgrade, or hope the plane is overbooked in economy class and you’re fortunate enough to be asked to be seated in the front of the plane. If this doesn’t work out, there’s always Plan B.

One way to get a couple of the perks of luxury travel, is to be a member of a frequent flyer program that allows those with top status to check in at business class & sometimes get in the lounge. If you are booking a longer flight, another way of getting more space for less money is to purchase three seats in a row to be able to sleep straight across the joining seats with the armrests raised. This only makes sense if business class is at least 4 -5 times the price of a restricted economy ticket.

If that is still unaffordable, especially for those traveling with families, Plan C is all about comfort and convenience. First, check http://www.seatguru.com for the best seats available. Also check to see flights that offer individual monitors with an audio & video program for lengthy travel. Try to get the bulkhead seats for more legroom, this gives you a larger personal bubble. Order a special meal up to 24 hours before your flight if you like the choices, including kids’ meals (Hindu gets you Indian food). It will be served earlier than other meals. Have a limo or taxi transport you to and from the airport, or at least have a friend or family member drive you. This will make you feel like a V.I.P., and eliminate the stress of parking. Dress nicely just in case there’s an opportunity of an upgrade. Those who look neat are at an advantage. If you don’t like tourist class food, bring your own snacks or buy a take-out meal at one of the airport restaurants just before you board. Ask the flight attendant for a drink that you like which isn’t popular, because chances are high they will give you the whole can.

Make sure you bring your own headphones, preferably ones with noise cancellation, and a laptop/portable DVD player/media player to view your favorite movies & listen to music, even for a short flight. Also consider other fun gadgets like a PSP, Nintendo DS, etc. to play games. Don’t forget to pack your favorite magazines, newspapers, and a good book! For overnight trips, bring a toiletry bag filled with a very small tube of toothpaste, toothbrush, eye mask, and earplugs. Also have with you an inflatable pillow that cradles your head, and perhaps a thin blanket or Snuggie (I hear sometimes they don’t have enough blankets or pillows). A product that seems pretty cool is called the 1st Class Sleeper (top photo). The sleeper simulates a recliner, and claims to allow you to sleep more comfortably with lower back support. I have not used it, but heard it’s a clever item. If you have a small carry-on, you can use it as a foot rest. Consider having your favorite tea, hot chocolate or even a small French press with your favorite coffee in it for breakfast stashed in your carry-on, and ask for hot water to enjoy your favorite hot beverage on board. Using the eye mask & earplugs alone will allow you to sleep without distractions. Adding an inflatable pillow or the 1st Class Sleeper will allow you to relax more. This will bring you a step closer to the indulgent atmosphere up front.

So, if you can’t manage to get an upgrade to first or business using frequent flyer points or your charm, rely on having a “magic bag of tricks” with you. Your carry-on should contain most of the above items to give you a more pleasant travel experience, whether it’s a one or 20 hour flight. You might not be able to get more space, but you could get quicker check-in, get somewhat better service, have an entertainment program that’s reminiscent to business class 5 years ago, and if you bring your own food, a better meal. With a little planning, you will be the envy of your fellow travelers. That alone will be priceless!

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