Would You Pay Extra for First-Class Perks in Coach?
For many Budget Travelers, saving money on flights is not just a practical priority but a point of pride. We find a good deal, reserve it, then we try to beat it. We keep checked bags to a minimum, pack the right snacks, and, of course, resign ourselves to a narrow space in coach with minimal amenities.
But some airlines are playing games with the whole concept of coach lately, as reported by Brian Sumers on Skift.com yesterday, offering first-class and business-class perks to coach passengers. For a price, of course.
FIRST-CLASS FOOD IN COACH
Many of the new perks are on flights to Europe. On British Airways, for instance, passengers can pay more than $20 for a “Taste of Britain” menu. If you’re flying Austrian Airlines and can’t wait till landing for your first bite of schnitzel, it can be yours, for a price. Air France takes things a step further, offering passengers from some U.S. cities an upscale menu similar to the one in business class, including real plates and stemware, for $25.
PAY FOR YOUR PAJAMAS
One airline is taking the pricey perks to an extreme: Etihad Airlines, the national airline of the United Arab Emirates, will sell coach passengers a pair of pajamas just like those offered for free to passengers in its first-class “apartments,” for $35. Etihad is also selling coach passengers onboard amenity kits, Champagne, and, on the ground, access to its business- and first-class lounges.
WHAT DO YOU THINK?
Although we’re leaning firmly against the notion of paying extra (and not just extra, but an inflated price) for ephemeral perks that won’t really make our lives any better (why not spend that money at your destination instead of in the air?), we’re always curious to hear what you think. Have you ever paid for first-class perks in coach? Would you consider it?
Google Goes High-Fi
International travelers looking to stay connected used to have limited options: buy an unlocked phone and switch out SIM cards from country to country, put a smartphone in airplane mode and take advantage of free wifi whenever possible, or suck it up and shell out for those insanely overpriced roaming fees. But with the introduction of Google’s wireless service, Project Fi (fi.google.com), in 2016, peripatetic Android users got an extra boost, receiving coverage in more than 135 countries for the same rates they pay domestically—including free texting, wifi calling, and reasonable data plans.EASIER TO USE THAN EVER Now Google has gone one step further, expanding coverage to even more countries and territories (170 and counting) and adding a new feature that takes the guesswork out of the planning process. Starting today, if a destination is covered, the international flight info in subscribers’ Gmail will automatically ping their Project Fi app with a notification detailing data costs for the upcoming trip—no more run-around calls with customer service or nasty surprises when you get home and open the bill. DOES YOUR SMARTPHONE SUPPORT PROJECT FI?One caveat: You do need a smartphone that works with Project Fi (and the selection is fairly limited), but if you’re in the market for a new service provider and spend a lot of time overseas, it’s well worth a look.
How to Get a Good Sleep on a Plane
Remember how well you slept on your last flight? How the hours in the air just melted away in a haze of happy dreams, and how you woke up refreshed and ready for your vacation? Neither do we. But we do have great advice on how to make your next flight the most restful ever. Our authority is Roy Raymann, PhD, the resident sleep expert at SleepScore Labs (sleepscore.com) and former “sleep czar” for Apple, where he helped developed NightShift and Bedtime. Here, Raymann’s easy steps to grabbing maximum shuteye at 30,000 feet. 1. BOOK A WINDOW SEAT While the window is prized by travelers who want to watch takeoff and landing and spot landmarks like mountain ranges and lakes down below, Raymann says the window seat also has an advantage for those who want to sleep: Lean against the window, and enjoy the relative peace and quiet of not being disturbed by seatmates who have to visit the plane’s restroom. 2. GET COMFORTABLE Raymann recommends that you wear comfortable clothing (including sleep socks), pack a neck pillow, use the airplane blanket (or pack your own). The more your airplane seat feels like a comfy home away from home, the greater the chance you’ll stay asleep and wake up refreshed. 3. SHUT OUT NOISE Most of us need quiet to sleep properly. Raymann recommends that you use earplugs to dampen the noises of the plane’s engines, flight crew, and fellow passengers. Or employe noise-cancellation headphones and listen to something relaxing, such as nature sounds or gentle music. 4. EMBRACE DARKNESS People sleep better in the dark. Pack a sleep mask to help you create your own personal darkness and to discourage you from opening your eyes. 5. EAT & DRINK IN MODERATION While it’s not a good idea to try to sleep on an empty stomach, it’s also a mistake to eat large portions or fatty or spicy meals. Opt for light, healthy snacks, such as nuts. And while drinking wine, beer, or spirits may help you fall asleep, remember that it will likely make it more difficult for you to actually stay asleep. 6. RECLINE & STRETCH Use what legroom you have to stretch your legs and recline your seat (remember to do so politely). Raymann recommends straightening your legs, bent slightly at the knees in order to fall asleep more easily, and leaning back tells your brain that you want to rest or sleep. WHAT ARE YOUR FAVORITE WAYS TO GET A GOOD SLEEP ON A PLANE? We want to know what sleep tips work for you. Post a comment, email us at info@BudgetTravel.com, or follow us on social media to join the conversation.
7 Eco-Travel Tips for Earth Day—and Every Day!
You already know that the best vacations aren't just about you, right? Seeing the world brings a new appreciation for that world, and a natural desire to leave it a better place. And it's never been easier to be good to yourself and the planet at the same time. Here, our top trip tips for an environmentally friendly—and totally brag-worthy—vacation. 1. PACK FOR THE PLANET Between disposable snacks, Ziplocs, water bottles, batteries for electronic gear, and wrapping paper for gifts, just one carry-on can contribute an awful lot of junk to airport trash bins. Multiply that by the nearly 2 million people who pass through security in the U.S. each day and you've got tons of garbage headed straight to landfills. Instead, opt for reusable options such as sandwich bags from ReUseIt.com, clear Tupperware containers for toiletries and souvenirs, re-chargeable batteries, and BPA-free plastic or metal water bottles. And in place of gift paper, wrap presents in light fabric that can be used (either by you or the giftee) again. 2. STAY AT AN ECOLODGE The notion of a resort that does no environmental harm—or even gives back to the Earth with sustainable practices—would have sounded a bit like science fiction a few decades ago. Now, stylish lodges across the globe offer luxury, adventure, and sustainability all at the same time, and many will set you back less than $200 per night. Some of the highlights of an eco-stay can include imaginative architecture that often relies solely on local materials, solar power, innovative water filtration systems, environmental education programs like guided tours and nature walks, employment of local residents and native peoples, and restaurants whose kitchens rely on locally sourced produce—often grown right on the lodge's grounds. 3. TAKE A VOLUNTEER VACATION There's no better way to say thank-you to America's phenomenal parks and trails than by volunteering your time to build or repair a trail. Right now, there are ample opportunities to volunteer to help Puerto Rico recover from the devastating hurricanes last fall. And right here in the lower 48, the American Hiking Society offers weeklong stints that can include backpacking or day hikes with a group of up to 15 volunteers and a group leader. Lodgings are simple: cabins, bunkhouses, or just campsites. The work? Trail maintenance and construction, bridge and shelter renovation, and native species reestablishment in national parks and forests, state parks, wildlife preserves, and other unique environments across the U.S. 4. GET TO KNOW THE LOCALS It doesn't matter whether you're in the heart of the Amazon or on a crowded boulevard in Paris—reaching out to the people who actually live year-round in your travel destination is the easiest and most reliable way to deepen your experience. It can be as simple as asking locals to recommend a public park or a favorite hike. Over the years, Budget Travel has highlighted readers' True Stories, often demonstrating how a smile, nod of the head, or a politely asked question can turn a tourist into an honorary local, privy to sights, tastes, and feelings unavailable to those who simply pass through. 5. SEE THE U.S. We're not suggesting you pass up the opportunity to see every corner of the world—we're all about stretching and crossing boundaries—but the simple fact is you'll be responsible for fewer carbon emissions (and save more than a few bucks) if you explore closer to home. And you don't have to go coast-to-coast to savor homegrown delights. This weekend, visit the nearest state park, historical society, or winery. Next time you've got a few days on your hands, we've got budget destinations across America you'll love. 6. SHOP AT A FARMERS MARKET Here in the U.S., we tend to think of farmers markets as a groundbreaking component of the local food movement—and no doubt the explosion of markets in recent years has helped bring home cooks back in touch with the folks who actually grow their food. But, of course, green markets have been a staple of civilization for centuries and can be found just about anywhere in the world you might be visiting. Dive in to local markets, try fresh fruits and vegetables you've never eaten before, ask farmers and locals for recipes, and if you have access to a kitchen, bring home a bagful of homegrown produce, fresh flowers, and the satisfaction of having contributed to the livelihood of a farmer. 7. WALK, RIDE A BIKE, OR TAKE A TRAIN Being on vacation shouldn't be an excuse to put more car and bus fumes into the air. No matter where you're staying, opt for walking tours over buses, rent bikes, and get to know the public transportation system.
How to Survive an Air Disaster
In the wake of the uncontained engine failure on Southwest’s flight 1380 earlier this week, we feel a responsibility to remind our audience, in no uncertain terms, that you already know the best way to ensure your safety on a plane: It is vital that you learn how a plane’s oxygen masks work, listen and watch the crew’s safety demonstration, and understand the layout of the plane every time you fly. Southwest flight 1380 experienced engine failure that appears to have caused pieces of the engine to pierce the exterior of the plane, killing one passenger and injuring others and triggering a decompression that required the flight crew to rapidly descend to an altitude where oxygen was adequate. Of course we hope you’ll never face a situation anywhere near as harrowing as the one that passengers on that flight endured, and Patrick Smith, a Delta pilot and author of Ask the Pilot (askthepilot.com) reminds readers that prior to the tragic events on flight 1380 week, U.S. air carriers had not had a fatality since 2005. Here, the essential, common-sense steps every flier must take to survive and thrive at 30,000 feet: PAY ATTENTION TO THE SAFETY DEMONSTRATION You think you’ve seen and heard it all before - and the flight crew may even joke a bit about how difficult it is to hold your attention as they demonstrate how to buckle and unbuckle a seatbelt - but the fact is most passengers zone out and miss vital information about the plane’s exits, proper use of oxygen masks, and the importance of wearing seatbelts even when not absolutely required. LEARN HOW TO USE AN OXYGEN MASK There’s evidence that most passengers don’t know how to deploy oxygen masks properly, meaning that in a serious emergency, on top of the anxiety of cabin depressurization and the plane descending tens of thousands of feet in a matter of seconds, unprepared passengers find themselves gasping for air. Surprised? Well, do you know how to use a plane’s oxygen mask? The simple solution? Watch the safety demonstration to see how the oxygen mask should cover your face. WEAR YOUR SEATBELT (EVEN WHEN YOU DON’T HAVE TO) Sure, seatbelts on a plane sometimes seem like an unnecessary pain. You know what else is an unnecessary pain? Getting tossed around by major turbulence or an emergency descent. Wearing your seatbelt even when its not required, especially if you plan to fall asleep for the flight, is always a good idea. KNOW WHERE THE EXITS ARE LOCATED This is simply a matter of listening to the safety demonstration and watching when the crew directs your attention to the exits. Memorizing the exits when you’re relaxed and settling in for your flight is a lot easier than scrambling to figure out where they are during an emergency. UNDERSTAND THAT DECOMPRESSION IS RARE AND EASILY MANAGED Movies and TV, urban myth, and frantic social media posts have taught us all to believe the cabin decompression is a disaster on an epic scale. Not so, says Smith in his recent post on Ask the Pilot. “Essentially, the pilots don their oxygen masks and initiate a rapid descent to a safer altitude (normally ten-thousand feet). Passengers, meanwhile, have ample supplemental oxygen if need be. An emergency descent might feel very abrupt, but it will be well within the capabilities of the airplane,” Smith notes. DON’T LET MEDIA COVERAGE AND ‘PASSENGER ACCOUNTS’ FREAK YOU OUT Smith also points out that, in the wake of air emergencies, first-hand accounts from passengers via social media and the news media can sometimes be less than reliable. “Claims that the jet was in ‘free fall,’ was ‘diving toward the ground,’ or was in any way out of control are simply untrue,” he reminds readers.