I am on a plane at least once a month and, to be honest, I have been a bit spoiled in this recession as fewer people have been traveling. I was upgraded to first class almost every time I flew — even on overnight flights to Europe. Well, the U.S. economy is recovering and more people are traveling — that’s a good thing — but this week on my trip to France, I was “downgraded.” That’s right, even though I offered American Airlines 50,000 of my coveted points, plus $700, I was stuck in crowded coach class. Ah ha, no fear. First, class is a state of mind, and I have devised the BYOFC — Bring Your Own First Class — three-step system.
Choose your seat wisely
First, it is essential to carefully select your seat. A best bet before choosing your seat is to visit www.seatguru.com, an independent website that is the authority on airline seating, in-flight services and airline information. The site will help you choose a seat that suits your comfort. Whether you prefer an aisle seat, a window seat or the exit row for the privileged few, Seat Guru will give you a complete description. It will warn you of exit rows that don’t offer extra legroom and tell you the rows that do. It will tell you seat width, pitch and if it has a power port for your laptop.
Flying in comfort is totally up to you and what you prefer. You can replicate the first-class amenity kit easily. Most standard first-class amenity kits include a blanket, eye mask, tissues, lip balm, socks and a pen. These products are now sold online and at the airport. You can also make your own amenity kit at home and bring it with you. Pack these items in your carry-on luggage and be sure they are easily accessible before and after you put your bag in the overhead compartment or under the seat in front of you. The Sharper Image and online retailer TravelSmith both offer a great selection of practical and affordable items.
BYO pre-flight cocktail and food
While technically against the rules, those mini-bar-sized spirits can fit neatly into the TSA regulation-sized plastic bag. In fact, four Absolute bottles are a perfect fit. To have your own spirits on hand is especially nice when those in first class are being offered a pre-flight cocktail. Simply purchase your favorite mixer from the airport concession stands and violà. Don’t forget to pack your favorite snacks, too. Even in first class, airlines are becoming increasingly stingy and offering fewer menu items. While you can’t heat anything up, you can enjoy your favorite snacks — just like in first class. I go to the grocery store before every trip and stock up on the mini-sized, low-calorie snacks. Sometimes an airport merchant will have a cheese and cracker platter for sale. There is nothing more civilized than enjoying a cocktail and cheese just minutes after take-off.
Jeff Guaracino is a vice president of the Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Corporation and author of “Gay and Lesbian Tourism: The Essential Guide for Marketing.” He has learned to how to find the best deals and travel resources out there for our community. If you’re traveling locally, check out www.visitphilly.com.