7 Ways to Keep Busy on a Flight

7 Ways to Keep Busy on a Flight

Have you ever looked at the description of a flight you were about to book, and felt a little overwhelmed by the length of time you were going to spend on a seat, in a small confined environment? Did you start to wonder what you were going to do to keep busy?

I flew on my first trans-atlantic flight in 1988. I was 17, and my seat allocation placed me next to a funny Australian car dealer. My school-english had not prepared me for his accent, and i spent most of the flight listening to him, and asking him to repeat words over and over again, until I started figuring out Kaaaaaa was car, etc. This was summer 1988. The flight entertainment was a single film on a big screen, that was rolling down from the ceiling; before, and after, was left to you to organise. And, I guess, this conversation with a fellow Australian passenger showed that people had to rely on one another to keep, somehow, busy.

Long haul flights can be all sorts of things:  exciting to those flying to Thailand or South Africa on holiday, or a curse for those frequent travellers who do the classic intercontinental commute more often than they’d wish.

Inflight entertainment is usually the only activity on board of a plane.

Inflight entertainment is usually the only activity on board of a plane.

Lots of websites and blogs have already addressed this topic, bringing up topics such as the choice of the seat on the plane, wether or not to eat during the flight in order to impact the metabolism and trigger less jet lag. And yes, they all advise you to exercise, take a little walk and stretch your legs on the plane. The best post I read on the matter was probably the one on Lifehacker . However, besides sleeping, or eating, what is there REALLY to do on a plane once the doors are shut?

Here are a few ideas and thoughts, collected over the years.

Bring your own entertainment. Why I hear you ask, nowadays most flight companies have fully equipped planes with individual screens that provide a broad selection of films, TV programs and diversified music. And I agree, except I also disagree. Well, if like me you have also flown with Air Egypt or Air China this year, you do know that not all planes have inflight entertainment, and those that do may have decided to provide you with a broad selection of 40 year old films with little to no language options. This is precisely why a book, a couple of magazines, and some films on a tablet, can be the things that save you from a nervous breakdown on your journey to Beijing or from Cairo. Besides, if you fly return over the same month, you will realise soon enough on your return flight, that you gave already watched the best film on your way out. Then what…

Stretch your legs… with a purpose. You should not stay seated too long on a plane, an average of 3 hours is a good balance for you to get up. Ideally more often but this is a plane, not a train. It is not so easy taking a walk, and there is literally nothing to do on a plane once you are stood up, even more so when everybody else is sleeping and the lights are off. Last year I decided to take a chance though, and in the middle of the night I walked all the way to the back of the plane. I found the area where the flight attendants prepare meals, drinks, and eventually sit down with a magazine or talking about their last flight to whatever city. I spotted the smell of coffee and asked if i could have a cup. I was immediately offered cream, sugar, and possible other drinks. I stood there for a while, with my hot coffee, while my husband was sipping on a glass of wine. It was like having a date drink, except it involved toes stretching and little ballerina-like movements and tip toe walking. Alternatively, and if you feel self conscious, lock yourself up in the toilet for a few minutes, and crouch or do a series of  tip toes.

Think and plan. As many of us live a very fast paced life, planning, thinking, digesting thoughts, have almost become a luxury. Wether you are on your way back from a business trip, back from holidays abroad or heading back to your home country with a long list of relatives to catch up with, your schedule has probably not left you that much time to make proper plans.

Time to make lists. You are not sleeping and everyone around you is. Grab your smart phone or tablet; switch on your light and take a small notepad, and write down the thoughts that start coming now that you FINALLY have time: main things to do when you get back in the office, birthday presents to buy in advance, items you need to buy for your 3 weeks stay in a business hotel. It can also be a good time to remember things you were meant to do, or analyse recent events. It is also a good time to check those traveling Apps you added to your phone, and start planning your holiday visits, museum opening times and restaurants to try out.

Tidy up. It doesn’t matter if you are male or female, we all tend to throw a lot of things very quickly in our bag, wallet, briefcase, while traveling: city maps, business cards, shop receipts, small objects. This is particularly the case on your flight back.

A friend who regularly flies to Mumbai was telling me she always tidies up her handbag and wallet on the plane: business cards, receipts, entry tickets, etc.

As for me, I tend to sort out my photos, both on my smart phone and on my camera. It doesn’t matter why or where I travel, I am one of those “trigger happy” people with a camera. Plane journeys are my favourite time to delete those totally unnecessary or failed 20 % of photos. It also allows to conclude your trip. The mind has time to reminisce recent events that are brought back by the various snapshots.

Read or Play: You don’t have to be a child to play, it is a great and relaxing form of entertainment. A friend of ours is terribly anxious every time she has to fly. The bruises on her husband’s wrist say it all, she doesn’t enjoy the experience at all, take off and landing particularly. When she has to fly on a distance or a type of plane that doesn’t include films on a screen, this otherwise very relaxed and sweet couple plays games on a tablet. Yahtzee, Mahjong, card games, all seem to help get her focus away from the fear of flying. Generally speaking, books, magazines, and crosswords or sudoku games are among the passengers favourites.

Nurture yourself: This may apply more to women, although men are not excluded. Onboard a plane, the air is usually particularly dry. a whole night spent on a plane will often let you feel dry, puffy, uncomfortable. Some women come equipped: face mask to apply discretely when the lights are off, moisturisers, body lotions, nail file. As the amount of “liquids” and other cosmetics is limited in the cabin (5x100ml), perhaps the airport duty free is worth a detour before heading to your gate.

Not sure about the face mask on the plane? You may want to read this post 😉

Human Interractions: If you have tried all the above, and you are still left with a fair portion of time, you may want to consider the old and very classic option of socialising with the person next to you. There is no guarantee of success, but it is a little bit like that box of chocolate quote…

You must be logged in to post a comment Login