How to Upgrade Your Holiday Flights

Snacks and gadgets to pack to feel like you're flying first-class

Sitting in first class in the first few rows of a plane can be heavenly. On the rare occasion when my phone buzzes to alert me that I’ve been upgraded, it feels like winning the lottery. Unfortunately, it doesn’t happen nearly as much as I wish it did, so I’ve developed a strategy to make my inevitable coach flights a little bit more bearable. With some preparation, I can walk right past those ten lucky (or rich) people—already sitting comfortably with ample leg room and a mimosa in hand—and my jealous rage can be tamed (if only just a little).

Allbirds Sleep Mask and Wool Shoes

On an overnight flight, getting some serious shuteye is vital. Allbirds makes a sleeping mask from the same material as their soft, wool shoes, and its thickness and heft makes it perfect for blocking out bothersome light—and the winking detail might give your fellow passengers an excuse to smile on their way down the aisle. The shoes too are breathable and comfortable, ideal for long stints walking around airports and sitting in one place. They’re easy to slip on and off, and you can throw them in the wash to get off all that nasty airport floor. Matt Taylor-Gross

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Intelligentsia Instant Coffee

Most airlines nowadays have partnered with a coffee brand, and promise a bold and invigorating cup of joe. I’ve never found this to be true—especially in coach. Fair- and direct-trade coffee roaster Intelligentsia has teamed up with Sudden coffee to turn their single-origin Flecha Roja into a mighty instant coffee. All you need is water, hot or cold, and you’re good to go. They come four to a pack, and you can reuse the plastic tube packaging—it can double as a vessel to bring back any hard-to-find spices you might come across on your travels. Matt Taylor-Gross

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Olympia Provisions Pepperettes

Airports are exhausting. After fighting your way through crowds and waiting in eternal security lines, it’s nice to know you have a little protein-packed meat snack waiting for you on the other side. These mini sausages from Portland, OR–based charcuterie Olympia Provisions are the upscale version of a pepperoni stick, and they come in three great flavors: Petite Pierre (Juniper & Sea Salt), Flaco Paco (Paprika & Garlic), and Kleine Schweine (Caraway & Coriander). Matt Taylor-Gross

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Bose Noise-Cancelling Headphones

I’m still mad at Apple for changing their iPhone headphone jack. Carrying two sets of headphones while traveling—one so I can listen to stuff on my phone and one so I can listen to the tiny TV in front of me—is the opposite of feeling like I got an upgrade. Bose QuietComfort 35 headphones can function wirelessly to connect to a bluetooth device, and they also come with a cord to connect them to that tiny TV so you can scroll endlessly through the movie library before just settling on an episode of ‘Friends’. Or they can just sit comfortably on your head, cancelling out that omnipresent whooshing sound that follows you from takeoff to landing. Matt Taylor-Gross

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Carry-On Cocktail Kit

Flight attendants have a pretty tough job—and that job is to make sure you’re safe and sound and comfortable in the sky. So it’s okay that they’re not also trained bartenders. Since a first-class experience isn’t complete without a cocktail, this kit comes with everything you need to make a classic cocktail in the sky, and get a great Instagram while doing it. There’s a kit for any liquor you favor. Matt Taylor-Gross

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Le Labo Hand Pomade & Lip Balm

Sometimes, that coach flight is so miserable that any sort of comfort or luxury can be a soothing relief. My friends at Black Tomato, a luxury tour operator, introduced me to Le Labo’s line of products. Their hand pomade will make you feel like you are at a fancy hotel getting pampered, while their camphor lip balm will instantly help fight off that constant cabin dehydration. Matt Taylor-Gross

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Ziba Foods Afghan Snacks

Those little bags of peanuts they give you in coach are never as satisfying as you’d like or need them to be. Ziba Foods has been providing quality nuts and fruits from Afghanistan—like sun-dried figs, dried white mulberries, and baby apricot kernels—to chefs since 2010, and they recently launched a retail line. In addition to larger bags, they sell little one-ounce snack bags, which are the perfect size to toss in your carry-on. Not only are they sustainably sourced, but Ziba also creates jobs for Afghan women in their packaging facility, providing many of them their first independent income. Matt Taylor-Gross

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