Faking Fabulous First Class: Enjoying Airline Luxury for Less

I was settling into my 9-hour flight from Istanbul to Bangkok quite nicely, enjoying five feet of leg room and indulging in a luxurious stretch, when a passing gentleman sputtered out, “How did you manage to get THAT seat? I flashed a smile and plucked another piece of baklava from a box while my new friend shook his head. “You have baklava, too! What’s your secret?”

I never shared my secrets — or my baklava — then, but I’m happy to share now! No matter where you sit, or how much you pay, you can still enjoy a first class flying experience.

Faking Fabulous First Class: Enjoying Airline Luxury for Less

The Best Seat in the House

When I’m looking for several feet of extra leg room, my first stop is SeatGuru.com, which presents a color-coded map of every aircraft detailing the best and worst seats. Thanks to SeatGuru, I found the blissful exit row with the most legroom on my Istanbul to Bangkok flight.

Don’t be distraught if the exit row appears to be full. Many airlines block advanced selection of these seats as they want to ensure they are occupied by physically fit individuals. If you are checking in early, be sure to ask about their availability.

It’s not only exit rows that offer extra space. On a recent Sydney to San Francisco flight, a slight curvature of the aircraft meant there was a row with two seats instead of three. We were thrilled with the extra privacy, leg room, and storage space!

Faking Fabulous First Class: Enjoying Airline Luxury for Less

Some Real Peace and Quiet

No matter where you sit, there is no guarantee of a peaceful, quiet flight. Drunken Businessman Bill, Snoring Suzy, and Tiny Tantrum don’t discriminate by airline class. Fortunately you can mitigate your risks.

A larger aircraft such as the A380 often has a second smaller and quieter economy section upstairs or at the back of economy plus. When selecting your seat, do so strategically to avoid sitting next to the noisy washroom and galley, as well as next to the bassinet baby seats (often at the bulkhead.)

I also recommend investing in travel friendly, noise cancelling headphones. My basic pair has gone a long way towards enhancing my rest and enjoyment.

Faking Fabulous First Class: Enjoying Airline Luxury for Less

Feeding Body and Soul

First class food is miles above that in economy, but it’s nothing like real food from home. I try to take along my own easy-to-pack, easy-to-eat, delicious snacks. My favourites include homemade muffins chock full of pineapple, coconut, and macadamia nuts; trail mix with dried cherries, cashews, and dark chocolate; spicy sesame noodles with crunchy julienned veggies; and rye bread sandwiches with gouda, roasted red peppers, turkey, and maple bacon.

I’m a bit of a coffee snob and, whenever I can, I travel with my Starbucks double-walled thermos (with attached French press plunger) and freshly ground Hawaiian coffee. I ask a flight attendant for hot water and make my own brew. The smell really is incredible! Godiva dark hot chocolate and high quality herbal tea bags would work equally well as a treat.

Faking Fabulous First Class: Enjoying Airline Luxury for Less

Penny Pinching Pampering

I have to confess that my deep, dark travel secret is shamelessly pillaging the duty-free testers and samples. I may or may not have recently boarded a flight with my arms slathered with incredibly expensive Chanel eye cream! While I hope you exercise a little more restraint, I do encourage a visit to the duty-free skin care counters to indulge (with dignity!) in some luxurious treats.

One treat everyone can definitely get behind is picking up a few tiny indulgences for the plane. A few pieces of chocolate, some fancy sparkling water, and inspiring magazines are affordable, delightful ways to sooth the traveling soul and feel like a million bucks.

Faking Fabulous First Class: Enjoying Airline Luxury for Less

Time For A Little DIY

I was so excited to see a Givenchy amenity kit on my Singapore Airlines flight to Sydney, only to discover it contained nothing but a cheap pair of socks and toothbrush. Gee, thanks, but I think I’ll stick with my own DIY kit! Here’s what I pack to stay clean, comfortable, and on the good side of the TSA.

A toothbrush and Sparkle Toothy Tabs from Lush
Olay cleansing cloths (just add water)
Deep Steep Moisture Stick — I love the lavender-camomile scent
Sympatico Solid Perfume — I love No. 8, which smells like coconut and meringue
Body Shop Cocobutter lip balm — So moisturizing, I even use it on my cuticles!
NARS “The Multiple” makeup stick — I like South Beach (a nice bronzy color) and Maui (a medium rose)
Thick, cozy socks from SmartWool
Don’t forget foam ear plugs and an eye shade! I sprinkle my eyeshade with lavender oil from BonnieHeath Farm for some relaxing aromatherapy.

Flying CAN Be Fun!

It’s hard to believe that flying was once thought of as a glamorous and relaxing experience. Air travel these days certainly comes with its challenges, making the pricey pods and beds of first class more attractive than ever. Fortunately, even those of us on a budget can inject a little class, comfort, and — dare I say it — fun into even the longest of flights. Bon voyage!

All photos are courtesy of the author.

Faking Fabulous First Class: Enjoying Airline Luxury for Less