How to Make that Economy Flight Feel like First Class

Got that champagne taste on a “champagne-of-beer” budget? Great news—sitting in economy class on an airplane does not have to be an uncomfortable nightmare, even on a budget airline! It can, in fact, be a pleasurable experience if you prepare for your travel ahead of the flight and maybe, just maybe, splurge a little on yourself.

In an age where airlines have a multitude of budget offerings, there are many great deals on cross-country flights or abroad. That low-fare economy seat may come with similarly valued budget amenities, however, so be sure to level up your own experience to make your economy class flight feel like first with the tips and tricks below. Go ahead, upgrade yourself.


Related: 10 Photos That Will Make Most Choose Flying Economy Over First Class

Pre-Flight Prepping for In-Air Pampering

Make Your Own Amenity Kit

In premium cabins, airlines often give passengers amenity kits that contain toiletries and small items that range in luxury depending on the class and the airline. While you may not get one from the airline in the economy, you can make one for yourself to enjoy on the flight! Grab a pouch with a zipper or drawstring and fill it with small amenities for yourself—comfortable socks, an eye mask, Colgate wisps (remember any liquids still need to go in that clear toiletry bag through security), a sheet mask or under-eye Patches, a face wipe, an eye mask, a lip balm, and any other small delights that might enhance your economy journey. Chocolates don’t hurt.

Invest In A Nice Shawl Or Scarf

The unfortunate reality is that the economy seat blanket may not be so clean and is always a little too thin for comfort, especially on a long-haul flight where the cabins are kept on the cooler side. If you’re a window sitter too, your space gets considerably colder in flight. Having a soft, good-quality wrap will supplement that flimsy blanket, keep you clean, and make your in-flight sleep just a touch more luxurious than it would.

Spurge On A Lounge

Some credit cards allow you complimentary entry into airport lounges (like the American Express Platinum and Centurion, Delta Reserve, and Chase Sapphire Reserve), but you can also purchase a membership straight from the company that facilitates lounge access for those cards without being a cardholder. Priority Pass has a yearly membership (and often they run deals during holidays and high shopping times like Black Friday) that anyone can purchase. Their packages and level of access vary so be sure to pick the right one based on your travel frequency.

Only travel that one time a year? You can also just buy a day-of pass from the airline. This is handy if you’re taking a long-haul flight, and you have to be at the airport four hours early. Pro-tip: some airlines allow you to use the same day pass within a 24-hour time period. So, if you have a layover, your day pass should work for both your departure airport, as well as your layover airport.

In the lounge, you can get some decent buffet eats or sweet treats, a nice cup of coffee, guaranteed charging outlets, some quiet, and perhaps even a glass of bubbly.

In-Flight, Feels Like First

Mix And Match Beverages Or Spring For The Good Stuff

Not all flight service is created equal. Especially if you’re flying a budget airline, service may be limited to one beverage or just water depending on route and cabin class. If you’re traveling with a buddy try this to elevate your drink game: each order the components of a cocktail that you enjoy (ie you order a lemonade, they order tonic water). Then purchase one nip of whatever liquor, let’s say gin in this case. Between the two of you, mix it up and create yourself a reasonably priced Tom Collins! Of course, if you prefer to indulge, just spring for the bubbly anyway. Either way, a little in-flight cocktail makes the experience feel that much more special.

Snag The Bulkhead

This one does require a bit of spending, but here’s another pro tip: if you’re able to wait until check-in, some airlines lower the price of preferred seats, like the bulkhead and exit row, by considerable amounts. This is especially true if the flight is not full. Be careful in your selection though. While some spots, like exit rows, offer a considerable amount of leg room, the seats often have limited recline. On a long flight, particularly overnight, that doesn’t exactly sparkle with luxury. That’s why the bulkhead is the preferred luxury-mimicking spot in an economy cabin.

Related: 15 Celebs Who Fly Economy, 5 Who Only Fly Private Jets

An Elevated On-Ground Experience

Book An Airport Transfer Ahead Of Time

Don’t subject yourself to the whims of surge pricing on ride-shares or the impossibly long queues at the taxi stand. Instead, book an airport transfer, even if it’s a shared van, ahead of time, so that the driver is waiting for you upon arrival. Tour booking sites, like Trip Advisor/Viator, also sell services like airport transfers, complete with reviews and secure online booking. If you book a private transfer, the driver may even be waiting for you at baggage claim with a sign that says your name. Now that is fancy.

Pack Your Checked Bag A Little Lighter

Not only will you be under the weight limit, thus avoiding any additional fees, but some baggage handlers also claim that the heavier your bag is, the more it’s going to the bottom of the hold. Meaning, that it’ll be the last one-off, and you’ll be standing at the carousel forever making awkward small talk with the driver you hired or other similarly-situated passengers. You can make your checked bag just a little bit lighter by packing heavier things, like hard-soled shoes, sweaters, jackets, and non-liquid cosmetics, into your carry-on. You can then also bulk down your carry-on by using packing cubes, so it won’t appear as if it’s bursting at the seams with your most weighted items. Your light checked bag will rise to the top (literally) of the hold and potentially can be one of the first economy bags off. It may even beat those bags from first class.

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