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After all the time it takes to earn miles, find your dream itinerary and actually book it, your experience in that fancy seat at the front (or top) of the plane will be over in the blink of an eye. Yes, even 15 hours goes by quickly when you’re spending it with Cathay Pacific, Emirates or Lufthansa in first class. Everyone has different priorities when it comes to premium travel. Some will be more focused on rest and relaxation, while others will want to indulge in every amenity available to them. No matter what you’re looking for, these tips will help you get the most out of your trip.

1. Do Your Homework Before You Leave

You may have a good mental picture of what your first-class flight will look like: lie flat seats, good food and decent wine for a change. But if you don’t do some research, you might miss out on valuable perks that aren’t always well advertised. For example, some airlines offer chauffeur service to and from the airport for premium-cabin passengers, but you need to register for it. In other cases, a quick Google search can help you pick which lounge is best for you. Cathay Pacific first-class passengers flying through Hong Kong have their choice between The Wing and The Pier, two of the top airport lounges anywhere in the world. While the amenities are similar, the vibe of each lounge is different, giving passengers a choice of whether they want an open and airy experience in The Wing, or a more private and secluded time in The Pier.

Emirates
Don’t miss out on being driven through town in a stylish “Emirates First Class” car.

You’ll also want to spend some time on SeatGuru. Even though all first-class seats on a given plane are generally the same in terms of size, storage and amenities, there might be subtle differences that could affect your seat choice. First-class passengers on a 747 are sure to enjoy sitting in the nose of the plane (row 1), while solo travelers on Cathay Pacific will likely prefer seats 1A and 2A for the extra privacy they provide.

Lufthansa
If you’re traveling on a 747-8 like Lufthansa’s consider sitting in the nose of the plane in first class.

2. You Don’t Get What You Don’t Ask For

Do you want another glass of champagne? Or maybe you can’t decide which dessert you want, and would rather sample both? Maybe it’s something as simple as an extra bottle of water to keep you hydrated between meals. Good service will always be proactive, but no one can read your mind. As long as they haven’t run out of whatever food or drink you’re asking for, your flight attendants should be able to fulfill your request. Many American travelers are trained to think that the call button is only for life and death emergencies, but if you don’t ask…..

Caviar service on Cathay Pacific.
If there’s any caviar left over from dinner you better believe I’m asking for some with my breakfast.

3. You Don’t Have to Do Everything

Large aircraft like the Airbus A380 have opened the door to in flight amenities that were previously unthinkable. But just because you’re flying on a plane that has a shower and a bar (in addition to a comfy bed and thousands of hours of TV and movies) doesn’t mean you have to try it all.

An hour flight is just long enough to check out the bar.
Shower or bar? While you might be able to squeeze in both on a longer flight, don’t feel like you have to just because it’s there.

4. Set Your Watch to the Destination Time

My favorite perk of flying up front is being able to eat when I want to, not when the flight attendants decide it’s time for the meal service to begin. I make a habit of setting my watch iPhone to the local time at my destination before we leave. I time my meals and my sleeping around the destination time so it’s easier to hit the ground running. I’d rather fight jet lag from the plane instead of spending my first day of vacation desperately trying (and failing) to keep my eyes open.

5. Don’t Forget to Smile

I recently flew Cathay Pacific first class for the first time, and it was easily the best flight of my life. At the end of the 15 hours, Raf, the flight attendant who’d been taking care of me the whole time, came up and said “Thank you…” I smiled, expecting him to say “… for flying with Cathay Pacific today.” Instead, he said “thank you for having a smile on your face the entire flight, you really made it a pleasure to look after you.” As simple as it sounds, the flight attendants, gate agents and lounge attendants you interact with over the course of your journey are people too. And while you’re excited to be kicking off summer vacation or seeing friends and family for the holidays, this is just another day on the job for them. A nice smile goes a long way toward bringing out that top-notch service you expect and deserve. So kick back, relax, and enjoy your flight!

What are your favorite tips for making the most of a ride up front?

Featured image of a first-class seat on an Emirates A380 courtesy of Stan Honda via Getty Images.

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