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Air travel can be a drag these days, especially when you fly in coach. From the introduction of so-called “basic economy” fares, which don’t allow you to pre-select your seat and even limit the weight of carry-on luggage, to recent onboard controversies over the most fundamental aspects of human decency, flying can sometimes feel like something you just have to endure in order to get your much-anticipated vacation.

On the other hand, we live in an increasingly hackable world, especially when it comes to travel. Here are a few tips to make your next flying experience first-class, even if your ticket says “economy.”

RELATED: 5 airlines perks you didn’t know you could get in coach

Pick and choose your luxury

Some travelers have decried the decision of airlines to “unbundle” fares and charge passengers for amenities à la carte, but you can make this work in your favor. In many cases, paying 5% to 10% more than the lowest fare gets you a luggage allowance and a seat with extra legroom. Think buy-on-board snacks and cocktails are a rip-off? You’re still paying pennies on the dollar compared to the people in first class, whose tickets come with “free” food and drink.

Bring your own device—and booze?

Did you know it’s free to stream many airlines’ onboard entertainment libraries to your own device? Simply connect your phone, tablet or laptop to the in-flight WiFi network once the aircraft has ascended past 10,000 feet, then stream away. Even better, when you fly JetBlue, the fun doesn’t stop with electronics. The airline allows you to bring—and drink—your own beer, wine and liquor on the plane. Just remember to have a flight attendant open it for you!

ALSO: Orbitz Rewards top tier members enjoy perks like free TSA Preand reimbursement for bag fees—join today!

Join a trusted traveler program

In-air comfort is important, but it’s futile if getting to the gate makes you want to go back home. Signing up for a trusted traveler program such as CLEAR or TSA Pre✓ ® (available free to Orbitz Rewards Platinum members) saves you both time and stress at the airport, thanks to simplified, expedited security screening. In these VIP lines, you’ll move head quickly, allowing you to remain calm and relaxed when you board the plane, able to enjoy even the most cramped middle seat.

Travel with the right credit card

Many frequent travelers sign up for credit cards offered by their airline of choice. You no longer need to be loyal to one carrier to reap exclusive benefits, however. If you hold the Orbitz Rewards Visa Card, your flight and hotel will instantly earn you up to 10% back in rewards, which you can immediately use towards hotels. You’ll earn on everyday purchases, too. With other cards, such as Platinum Card by American Express, for example, you enjoy free entry into hundreds of worldwide VIP lounges. There, you can enjoy free food, drinks and even spa services, regardless of the airline or class of service you’re flying.

Another first-class benefit of non-branded credit cards, which besides Amex Platinum include Chase’s Sapphire Preferred and the ThankYou Premier card Citi, are the fact that your points are transferable. That means you can redeem points for travel on any airline—and freedom, after all, is the ultimate luxury.

Roll the dice

Hindsight is 20/20, and foresight is priceless, but what if you’re at the airport right now? Don’t despair, Mr. or Mrs. Fly-by-the-Seat-of-Your-Pants. If you’re stuck in a bad seat, for instance, approach the gate agent before boarding begins. If exit-row or bulkhead seats aren’t yet sold or assigned, she might give you one for free.

Likewise, if you’re someone who simply can’t feel like first class unless you’re in it, there’s also good news for you. Many airlines sell or auction off upgrades at check-in, often at rates lower than even promotional first-class ticket prices.

Tagged: Feature, Top 10 Lists

Robert Schrader
Robert Schrader is a writer and photographer who's spent the better part of the past decade roaming the globe. Read hundreds of inspiring, informative travel articles on his blog Leave Your Daily Hell, or see the world through his eyes on Instagram, where he's @leaveyourdailyhell.

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