You’re boarding a flight and smile politely at the air hostess, dreaming of your destination (beaches, palm trees, pina coladas) only to suddenly be confronted with row after row of the smug smiles of first class fliers. They’re sipping champagne! They’ve got legroom! Their seats recline flat!
Though it does take some effort to mimic the premium dream, it is possible with a handful of flying must-haves. From noise cancelling headphones to the ever so sexy tempur-pedic lumbar pillow (bear with us), we’ve scoured the internet for the gear that will upgrade any flight to first class. Champagne not included.
1. Hood up, head down.
The most luxe thing about first class? Actually getting some Zs – especially if it’s an overnight flight. With Grand Trunk’s fleece-hooded neck pillow, even the most restless plane sleeper will get a few hours of shut-eye. Memory foam neck support and an attached eye shade will lull you to sleep in comfort and privacy while the adjustable cordlock secures your hood in place (over your eyes is best, if you ask us).
2. The kind of relaxing you can put your back into.
Even if you don’t mind economy, your back certainly does. And while you can’t stretch out like in a first-class recliner, you can get a lower back pillow that will elongate your spine to mimic the same roominess. The Healthy Back Store’s pillow helps maintain posture and reduces the strain of sitting for long periods, so even if you’re not convinced your back will be. It’s lightweight and easily packable, and includes a machine washable cover.
3. Join the Mile High Health Club with these spa-like aromatherapy products.
In-flight showers and concerts in the aisles already exist at 40,000 feet. But until an airline throws money at an in-flight treatment area (Emirates, we’re looking at you), even first class passengers need to make do without their daily dose of spa when up in the air. Thankfully, this aromatherapy kit will do its part to hydrate and nourish your skin with a rejuvenating blend of Eucalyptus Oil and Spearmint Tea products. Even better if you can convince your travel partner to give you a head rub after.
4. First class lounging without the lounge.
Any travel pro knows it’s all in the loungewear. Even though plenty of first class passengers wear suits and heels, many of them change into more comfortable clothing shortly after boarding. FIGLEAVES’ lavishly soft – and so thin you’ll feel just like you’re in the nude between your own bedsheets – Calvin Klein’s tracksuit will do the trick. Keeping you warm and protected from the harsh in-flight air con while looking good for the toilet run? Win win.
5. Cancel out the sound of economy.
Complimentary economy earbuds are no match for the private pods complete with sliding soundproof doors in first class. However, even high fliers have to invest in their own high-quality headphones. And Böhm’s Wireless Bluetooth offering – complete with a noise cancellation feature – might just be the sleekest, most elegant we’ve ever seen. What’s even better? The price is right. Although, being able to tune out a crying baby or chatty seatmate is, arguably, priceless.
6. You won’t have to wait for the steward to fetch this snack.
The most envious thing about first class? The 24/7 access to food and drink. It’s not even about the menu (everyone knows even first class food is still airplane food) but the availability. The good news? Just because one meal and a lacklustre breakfast bar is included with your economy fare, it doesn’t mean you need to settle for the mediocre. You can bring your own stash with just a little bit of planning. Take Kind Bars, for example, and you’ll have a sweet, naturally gluten free snack whenever the mood strikes. And what better to put you in a good mood than eating something you actually like?
7. When it comes to alcohol, call us old fashioned but…
Your very own fully stocked bar may be nice, but you can easily replicate this first-class experience by bringing your favorite go-to beverage onboard. A mini bottle of bubbly is all good and well, but no drink clinks with class, style, and sophistication like an old fashioned. This kit contains everything you need to mix six drinks. Just order yourself a whisky to mix – or better still, bring your own duty-free. But whatever you do, don’t forget to bring a bottle of water, too. See below.
8. Never get the dry-mouthed cabin fever ever again.
One thing all the supermodels will tell you about flying first class? Avoid booze on planes. Nobody wants to add dehydration to the exhaustion of a long flight, and due to the lack of humidity in the cabin air that’s what happens 40,000 feet up whether you turn left or right boarding the plane. Instead of making it worse with alcohol, add some rehydration fluids to your H20 and you’re sure to disembark ahead of the game.
9. Use an iPad as it was intended – as a bring-your-own TV.
What’s better: Average Air’s pick of The Big Bang Theory episodes circa 2012 or your very own curated downloads? Even first class fliers don’t rely on airplane TV – or wifi. Invest in your own iPad, download your can’t-miss shows (the ones your partner begs you to wait to watch with them) and the flight will be over way too soon. Just don’t let on you’ve finished the latest season when you get home.
10. We all wear a mask. But some are more luxurious than others.
One thing first class fliers prioritize is a good night’s sleep. That’s why they’ve shelled out the big bucks, of course. This top-seller in the sleep mask category is your ticket to overnight flight sleep success. Silk doesn’t “tug” at the skin like cotton or other fabrics would, which is extra important for that sensitive zone around the eyes. And with 9,852 customer reviews giving this bad boy almost 5/5 stars, no sleep mask has been so highly backed.
11. The secret to uber comfort is treating your feet like they’re first class passengers.
Time to dust off those socks Mom got you for Christmas last year; the gift that’s been at the bottom of your underwear drawer all summer is about to make a comeback. While it’s easier for first class fliers to get away with putting their feet up (literally and theoretically), with a pair of uber cozy 100% cashmere socks back in economy, you’ll be able to loosen your laces without the fear of unwanted stares from foot-phobic seatmates.
12. Keep your head above water (well, drool).
If the hooded neck pillow feels a bit much, the Trtl pillow is just what you need. It’s scientifically proven to keep your head in an ergonomic – upright – position during rest. No more waking up to find you’ve been drooling on your seatmate’s shoulder. Think of it as a scarf with a hidden support structure that cradles the head for support – middle seat nerves be gone.
13. A luxury coffee-to-go that goes absolutely everywhere. Even 40,000-ft in the air.
Few things make life more worth living than a travel mug you’re certain will keep your laptop/phone/USBs spill-free when you’re running to catch a flight. Fill it up (post-security, obv) with anything you want to keep hot (Coffee? Tea? Irish coffee?) and enjoy your own personal cafe – just like those in the front of the plane. Zojirushi’s stainless steel option keeps liquids warm for hours – and by hours we mean forever – and won’t weigh you down like other travel mugs (it equals the weight of half an apple). It’s also super easy to clean – a quick rinse and you’re good to refill – perfect for on-the-go liquid top-ups.
14. Here’s how to measure your water levels.
Continually asking for H20 refills is no fun (for anyone – neither you nor the stewardess). Bringing your own water bottle will seriously help during long flights where you’re more parched because you’re breathing in recycled air for longer (oh joy). While first class will have a private mini bar, or at the very least, constant drinks service, you can compete with a good old nod to your high school sports days: the traditional Nalgene. Trusted for decades, this water bottle is still our go-to. The only difference is that now it’s BPA free.
15. The bags that organize your luggage like a PA.
Traveling is a mess. No matter how carefully you pack, no matter how organized your system, within minutes of setting off your life will be a hopeless jumble of wrinkled clothes and lost socks. But you can turn the usual chaos into pure luxury with these Shacke Pak travel cubes. Essentially the Russian dolls of luggage, these four cubes are designed to keep you organized – a cube for underwear, a cube for shirts, a cube for pants, for instance (the choice is yours!) – and made from water-resistant nylon that will withstand years of travel wear-and-tear. They’re also designed to keep from folding in the middle, for wrinkle-free clothes, and come with a laundry bag so you can separate clean and dirty laundry – eliminating the most common sin any traveler commits!
16. These luxury sheets have got you covered.
For a bit of extra comfort and luxury, take along your own travel sheets. We won’t tell if you keep the pillowcase in your carry on, either. The washable silk adds warmth and softness to any bed (or travel pillow), no matter how luxe. They pack down to a pouch that’s not much larger or heavier than an iPhone.
17. Carry-on luggage just got smart.
First class fliers know there’s much to the old adage ‘time is money’, which is why they carry-on only whenever possible (suits and blouses? Ask the flight attendant to hang). Thankfully the Subterra Carry-On from Thule makes packing light easy with a compression panel to maximize space, an attachment loop that allows additional bags to be hooked on and several separate compartments for all the necessities (your ID, keys and wallet). It’s so smart looking you’ll never remember you’ve booked economy.
18. Stay super-charged in the air.
For the world traveler, this convenient adaptor supports electrical outlets from 150 countries. With four USB power ports, several devices can be charged at the same time. It weighs only eight ounces, and comes with a high-quality storage case.
19. You’ll never leak again.
Short of your cases being flown halfway around the world in the wrong direction, leaving you stood at the carousel stressed and suitcase-less, this is surely the greatest luggage disaster imaginable – leakage. But these LiquiSnugs will take the stress out of flying. They’re made from BPA-free silicone, are well below the 3.5 ounce limit (each set comes with two 3 ounce bottles and a 2 ounce bottle), and see-through, for a hassle-free pass through customs. But even more importantly, they’ve been tested and tested again to ensure they’re completely leak proof. They come with adjustable labels (to stop you squirting foot cream on your face by mistake) and suction pads for handy access.
20. The travel pillow that blows away all other sleeps.
Forget insomniacs, catching some Zs while traveling is a legitimate, logistical nightmare for just about everybody. But now you can reclaim the sleep that’s rightfully yours with this soft inflatable travel pillow. Super versatile, this inflatable pillow allows you to find your optimum sleeping position with a multitude of different angles, plus holes for your arms and somewhere to keep your smartphone safe. Speaking of which, prior to inflating it’s as small as your cell, meaning you don’t have to wrestle with the dilemma of poor sleep or lugging a giant pillow around.
21. Treat your feet to a little bit of minty luxury.
If relaxation is half the battle when it comes to economy class struggles, why not start from the bottom up – in the most literal of respects – and pamper yourself with Burt’s Bees Peppermint Foot Lotion. Made with coconut oil, peppermint and menthol, the moisturizing lotion relieves pain from your overworked feet, while also leaving them minty fresh and invigorated. Of course, we wouldn’t suggest you do this at your seat.
22. The cardigan that’s like wrapping yourself in a hug.
Comfort is the main aim on any flight, whether you’re on quick transfer or long haul – you want to sit back, snuggle down, and relax as best you can. While economy, with its crammed-in flyers and screaming children, is rarely relaxing, you can at least wrap yourself cozy with this chunky cardigan from Runcati – as close to wearing a hug as you can get.
Breathable and made with a slight stretch, it’s perfect for wrapping around yourself – from your torso right down to your legs – and comes in five colorways. Not just practical and warming, it’s stylish too – a first class look for an economy journey.
23. A hammock for your feet.
You know how it is for your legs on an economy flight – you’re so squashed in that your feet are in a constant state of restlessness. No sooner have you moved them into a new comfortable position – on the foot rest, tucked under your seat, somehow crossed over – that seconds later you’re fidgeting them around again. In short: it’s uncomfortable. But you can mimic the comfy leg space of first class with a portable leg rest AKA a hammock for your feet. Made by Coowoo, this hangs from your tray and has adjustable straps to find the perfect length for maximum comfort. It’s also sturdy with reinforced binding and comfortably big enough for both legs, plus folds up to stash easily into your carry-on.
24. A travel kit for 21st century essentials.
Wires, headphones, chargers, and USBs are the bane of any flyer’s life. They’re almost guaranteed to disappear somewhere between the bottom of your carry-on, in those actually-quite-unhelpful back seat pocket things, or – worse – back in your bedroom drawer. What you need is a handy kit for organizing all your electronics. The BUBM electronics oraganizer comes in two sizes – medium or large – and contains compartments for all gadgets and accessories: chargers, plug adaptors, flash drives, and even your tablet. It handles like a lightweight man-bag (the iWallet, you could say), while the heavy-duty nylon and padded cover will ensure your electronics are secure and well protected.
25. The perfect foil to useless airline blankets.
It’s one of the widely accepted truths of economy flying: airline-issue blankets (you know, the complementary ones that come in plastic packaging) are no good to anyone. They somehow get lost even though you’re squeezed into a few square feet, there always seems to be a gap letting the breeze in no matter how many times you adjust, and awkwardness with the person sat next to you (did I take their blanket? Have they taken mine?). So do yourself a favor by taking your own first class-quality blanket. This Coleman emergency blanket might look like tin foil, but it’s exactly what you need. The polyester and metallic outer layer reflects your own body heat for maximum warmth. And with its shiny silver look, there’s no chance of your neighbor mistaking it for theirs!
26. Forget those airline headphones forever.
Nothing screams economy travel like a pair of disposable headphones, or the sheer annoyance that while music technology is soaring into the 21st century with Bluetooth and wireless buds, airplanes are still fitted with those ancient headphone jacks. Equipping yourself with an AirFly transmitter will immediately upgrade your experience. The transmitter plugs into the jack and uses Bluetooth 4.1 technology to connect with your wireless headphones. Reviewers rate them for connecting easily with no fuss and for a clear, uninterrupted sound. They also charge while you listen and can be used with the jack ports on gym equipment.
27. The shelf you can take with you.
Here’s a simple thing that will make you feel extra-pampered during an otherwise budget experience – some extra shelf space. Because let’s face it, apart from holding a drink and awful in-flight meal, the standard trays you get on airplanes are only good for banging your knees against. The appropriately named spAIRTray fixes to most commercial aircraft windows, sliding easily into place where the sun visor would normally go. Use it for drinks, accessories, eyeglasses or anything, which will all sit safe on the non-slip pad. Also easily washable with soapy water for anyone who’s particularly germ-phobic on flights.
28. A crease-free shirt without the hassle or expense.
Don’t you envy those (literally) high flying business types who get all their suits and shirts couriered by some expensive service, and all pressed and ready to wear for when they arrive at their destination? That’s serious luxury. But you won’t have to worry about that extra expense with the PackTidy. It’s a mini-case designed for keeping your shirt and tie perfectly folded (and even comes with instructions and a folding board for an expertly done fold-job). It fits in your suitcase, carry-on, or even rucksack and has a hard, protective shell for safeguarding your duds and keeping them crease free. Also comes in three different colors, so you can organize shirts in taking multiple outfits on your travels.
29. The taste of luxury.
One of the first signs that your journey is having a long, arduous effect is the taste inside your mouth. It’s all that breathing in dry and recycled air, pounding down sugary drinks to stay awake, and going hours upon hours without brushing. And you just know the passengers up front in first class don’t have that disgusting layer of fuzz over their tongues or the kind of breath that could open bank vaults emanating from their mouths. But you can upgrade your oral hygiene – and sense of feeling normal – by taking a tube of the ever popular Marvis mint toothpaste. It’s formulated for long-lasting freshness, so it’s a perfect accompaniment for long haul flights
30. The gadget you never knew you needed – a cup holder-cum-TV stand
Here’s a gadget that solves several problems at once, for an all-round more relaxing experience – the modest-but-absolutely-brilliant Airhook. It clips onto the tray in front of you, giving you a place to put your drink without needing to have the tray down, and holds your smartphone/tablet in place so you can watch shows or movies of your own choice, without relying on the miniature screen provided in the seat in front of you. It folds down into a compact wallet-sized gadget and promises to hold any device up to 8.5 inches tall. It’s also adjustable, so you can angle your device if the passenger in front reclines their seat.
31. She’ll be made up with this handy travel bag.
Here’s the ultimate in organizing lipsticks, mascaras, foundations, and anything else a woman needs to feel vaguely human – and, of course, like a pampered first-class passenger – while dragging herself thousands of miles around the world. The Habe travel makeup bag is hugely economic, cramming in several cases worth of goodies, including extra long brushes, in several adjustable compartments. It’s also designed with extra protection to keep your makeup products safe, and has a built-in mirror. But don’t take our word for it – it has an incredible five-star rating on Amazon from almost 800 reviews.
32. The end of armrest politics forever.
Jostling for position on the armrest with a random co-passenger can bring down the mood of any flight. If only there was an airplane equivalent of those little dividers you get at the supermarket to separate your shopping from the next shopper’s… well now, there is! The Soarigami divider is made from recyclable plastic and leatherette, and clamps onto the armrest to create a clear space for neighboring passengers. But it’s not just about creating boundaries and shunting them over to their side (though it is partly about that); it’s also an extender, creating a wider and more comfortable space for both passengers to lean their arms on. Happy flying!