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I hate that moment when you get on the plane, lug your carry-on through Business Class and you see the people sitting in their spacious seats, sipping champagne, already settled, giving you that half-smile and a look that says, ‘Yeah…that’s right. My carry-on is guaranteed in the overhead and I’m going to sleep the entire flight. What’s up, capitalism!”
Sure, I may have been one of those people on occasion, but for the most part I’m hoofing it with my Economy brethren, damning the man and plotting the pitch-fork revolt from the back of the cabin.
This weekend I embark on a cute little 11-hour flight to Istanbul, Turkey. No, it will not be Business Class. So in preparation, I’m dusting off my little Economy Class Survival Guide, which I thought I should share with all of you.
1. Dress to De-Stress
I don’t know if this happens to you, but on long flights my body swells up to about four-times its normal size. Something about the water rising out of your tissues and sitting under your skin…I don’t know, someone told me that and I bought it. In any event, constricting jeans don’t really feel the most comfortable when your body is reenacting the scene from Willy Wonka when Violet turns into a blueberry. Comfortable clothing is key. Go for stretchy fabrics, and layers. Temperatures go a bit haywire on the plane. But please, I beg of you, leave the crushed velvet leisure suit at home. Comfortable does not mean Real Housewives of New Jersey.
2. Nurture Your Neck
Yes, Business Class has lie-flat beds. Economy seats recline a generous 10 degrees. Nothing says sound sleep like sitting upright mashed against the overweight gentleman next to you. I know they look goofy, but friends, those crescent-shaped neck pillows are incredibly effective. If anything, you won’t be the freak whose head lolls to one side as you awkwardly jerk yourself awake to prevent drooling on yourself.
3. Gimme the Drugs
Look, I don’t have a drug problem. I don’t use prescription medication for recreational use. I’m just saying that Tylenol PM, when mixed with a glass of red wine, will knock you out for about eight hours. I once slept the entire way to Israel, in Economy, on that combination. And I always use it on my flights to Europe. If it’s an unusually long flight, say, to China, go for the real stuff: Ambien. Seriously, it was like that 15-hour flight never even occurred.
4. Entertainment Options
Sure in Business Class the entertainment options are right in front of you. Hours worth of movies and TV shows. In Economy, we do not have that luxury, so you must be a little more creative. Don’t just rely on the iPod. Sometimes you get a little antsy and want to switch to a bit of light reading, so bring an engaging book. For those of you who need visual stimulation as well, load up your laptop with movies, or bring a few of your favorite DVDs on the plane. If you can constantly keep switching forms of entertainment, the flight will seem shorter.
5. Necessary Noshing
Most air carriers these days suck. If they aren’t charging you a ridiculous amount for the ticket, they’re charging you for checked bags, blankets and yes, food. It’s not uncommon to be undernourished on a lengthy flight, leaving us to fend for ourselves. Remember to load up on snacks at the airport, past security, so you aren’t awkwardly handing over your nibbles to the TSA agents. And remember – the stinkier the snack, the more likely you are making some mortal enemies. The cabin is shared space (and air), people. I don’t need your tuna salad wafting into my nose. Perhaps that turkey wrap is a better option, no?
I don’t know what it is about me that attracts men who are anti-establishment. My high school boyfriend was a die-hard Boston Red Sox and Philadelphia Eagles fan, much to the shock of our fellow New York peers. And here I am, eight years later, in a new relationship with a different guy who, shockingly enough, is also a die-hard Boston Red Sox and Philadelphia Eagles fan. And we live in Queens. Sundays at the local bar are interesting.
That all being said, and being the excellent girlfriend that I am, I procured Eagles tickets for my guy for his birthday. The plan was to head down the Saturday night before and have a mini vacation in Philly before heading to the game on Sunday. We were going to take Amtrak. It was going to be a breeze. And then October came and the Phillies made it into the NLDS playoffs. And all the hotel rooms were booked. And Amtrak prices skyrocketed up to $140 round trip each. So much for an easy trip…
…or so we thought.
It’s actually a breeze to get down to Philly for a day from New York. New Jersey Transit runs out of Penn Station regularly. An hour and 15 minute train ride (on a local Northeast Corridor train) puts you at Trenton, NJ. After a quick connection, you can find yourself on a SEPTA train which runs straight to Philadelphia’s 30th Street Station. It’s just a two hour trip and a round trip ticket will cost you $50.
Unfortunately not everything can go so well. The Eagles choked in the fourth quarter against the San Francisco 49ers. The ride home was less than pleasant.
I am afraid to fly. There, I said it. Good thing I picked a profession that would keep me constantly on the ground. Whoops. If you are an aerophob like myself, allow me to let you in on a little secret. Two words: Business Class.
I arrived in Dusseldorf, Germany for this long-awaited press trip last Thursday, July 22, and, man, after a seven-hour flight in Lufthansa’s business class, I could see anyone becoming an airplane junky. Even me.
After two glasses of Coppola Shiraz and a plate of charcuterie in the Business Class Lounge at Newark Liberty International Airport, the knots in my stomach seemed to loosen just a smidge. A seamless boarding followed by a very chilled glass of bubbly was enough to almost bring a smile to my panic-stricken face. Even as we sat on the runway for an hour and a half due to air traffic (oh the joys of flying, right?) the flight attendants were sure to come by with cold glasses of sparkling water and orange juice.
Now for the kicker. As the dinner hour rolled around someone came by and asked if she may set my table. She was kind enough not to laugh at my perplexed look and instead proceeded to place a white linen tablecloth over my tray table. As for menu options I opted for the Tanqueray cured salmon served with orange, pumpernickel and mustard-dill dressing to start. For a main course I tucked into some of the most tender beef short ribs I’ve had in a while. Seriously, this is airplane food? Flight attendants rolled beverage carts by what seemed like every few minutes to top off my glass of red wine.
Feeling sleepy from a full belly (and maybe from that Tylenol PM I popped) I was delighted to find that my chair reclined to an almost 180-degree angle. Pillows propped up just right and TV tilted so that glare would be minimal, I hunkered down to watch “Date Night,” – that Steve Carell and Tina Fey movie with a star-studded cast (think Mark Wahlberg, James Franco, Ray Liotta, Mila Kunis…). Turns out I probably didn’t need to take that Tylenol PM – that movie was a snore all on its own. Note: There are dozens of movie and television options to choose from. I also watched an episode of Entourage and 30 Rock – to which I owe my sanity after suffering through Date Night.
When I awoke breakfast had long been over but I found a nice to-go bag by my seat with a sandwich, yogurt and some fresh fruit. Well rested, satiated and safe I was ready to take on Dusseldorf. Aerophobia cured…or at least until I’m back flying coach.
Being born and raised in New York, I never thought about it as a travel destination. I always brush off the wide, blinking eyes and dropped jaws from people I meet on my travels when I tell them I am from New York City. It never seems like such a big deal to me. It is just home. But after comparing it to cities all over the world I see that there really is no contest, if you know how to do NYC right. So here are a few tips from a local to help you get the most out of your Big Apple experience.
1. No one from New York calls it the Big Apple, so before you set foot, be sure to eliminate that phrase from your vocabulary.
2. Subways after dark are harmless. You may hear the shadow of a quiver in the voices of your elders, warning you about taking the subways at night. But these pearls of wisdom are coming from a generation when crime was rampant and hookers hung out in droves on the corner where my freshman year college dorm now sits (Third Ave. and East 11th Street, Third North, NYU….go Violets). Now, let me be clear because I don’t want any fuming e-mails from people saying they were mugged on subways after dark. Be smart about it. Don’t travel to neighborhoods way out in the outer buroughs. And ladies, don’t stumble on drunk with your purses hanging wide open.
3. Times Square doesn’t exist to New Yorkers. It’s a blank spot on a map, a black hole to be avoided at all costs. The only time a true New Yorker goes to Times Square is when connecting to another subway line (Times Square is a major subway hub, home to the 1, 2, 3, A, C, E, N, R, Q, W, S and 7 trains), and even then they never surface above ground. If you are going to go to Times Square, you might as well stay in suburbia where you can still eat at Applebee’s or Olive Garden.
4. It’s okay to spend $6 on a beer. When Paul Rudd mocks “$9 beer night” in the movie 40 Year Old Virgin, he wasn’t far off from describing New York. Now, I don’t expect you to know where to go to find the best beer deals on your first trip to NYC. While they definitely do exist (another blog post for another day), some of the best bars that I know have a pretty pricey menu when compared to bars across the country (I’m thinking of you, $2.50 Heineken at Snyder’s Tavern in West Shokan, New York). Your best bet is to start at Happy Hour (typically between 5 p.m. and 7 p.m.), when there are often two-for-one deals.
5. Williamsburg sucks. That’s right, I said it. For those of you who aren’t familiar with Williamsburg, it was once a seedy, blue-collar neighborhood in Brooklyn, right across the East River. Slowly more and more young people moved there to take advantage of the low rents. It became a trendy, artistic community, which at one time was probably a funky and bohemian scene. And then word caught on. Gentrification reared its ugly head and rents sky-rocketed. And now? Williamsburg is a breeding ground for the uber-hipster – the kind that spends a ton of money to look like they have none, and in an attempt to be different from everyone else, they all look the same. Don’t let anyone tell you that you can escape Manhattan by heading to Williamsburg. Try other neighbs in Brooklyn like Fort Greene. And on a short trip, you really can’t go wrong just staying in Manhattan. There will be other visits to the city, I’m sure.
6. Don’t let a cab driver tell you that his credit card machine is broken. It’s not. They just want tips in cash. If they tell you it’s broken from the get-go, get out and find a new cab. If they don’t tell you until the end of your ride, that cab trip is on the house, baby.
These are just a few tricks of the trade that I picked up all these years in the city. I’m sure on your own trip you’ll discover a few for yourself. Enjoy.