If you love to travel and explore like I do, then you know what it’s like: that feeling you get when you know you’re going to be squished into a tiny seat in economy for the next 8 hours as you fly across the country. Imagine sitting there, middle seat of the middle section, with nothing to do, not knowing the people to the left or right of you, not even a window to stare blankly out of…yikes! The anxiety of that thought alone would have me rethinking my flight plans.
But don’t worry, this article is here to save you! Below you’ll find 22 suggestions of things to do on a plane that will keep you from losing your mind out of boredom. While I did include some of the obvious answers, I strived to give you as many outside-the-box suggestions as I could come up with. Many of these I have actually done during my own flights abroad (an 18-hour flight from Boston to Tokyo will force you to be creative to keep yourself entertained).
So let’s start with the most obvious ones:
1. Watch the movie/TV provided. Most longer plane rides provide a movie or TV show episodes during the flight. However, there have been multiple times that the audio is so terrible that I don’t bother or the positioning of the screen was in an awkward location that watching whatever they were showing was not an option. This brings us to 2…
2. Bring your own DVD player or movie playing device. This gives you full control over what you watch, and better audio quality. The downside is that most DVD players and iPods have a battery life of around 2 hours, which means you’ll need to have other things on hand to distract you after the device is dead.
3. Listen to music. The plane does have, usually terrible, music stations available, but the better alternative is to bring your own music player. Not quite as entertaining as watching a movie but the battery will most likely last the entire duration if you use it only for music.
4. Play a game on your laptop/smartphone/iPod or other electronic device. Although you run into the same battery problems as #2. As an alternative:
5. Bring a deck of cards whether it’s a traditional set or a specific game. A traditional deck of cards gives you a wide array of games to choose from, I found a huge list here. It can be difficult to find game-specific cards for a solo player, but if you are traveling with friends, you could bring games such a Uno or, my favorite, Munchkin.
6. Bring a book, magazine, Kindle, E-Reader or whatever else and read. If you’re like me, you probably have 2 or 3 books sitting at home that you started reading but never quite finished, this is as good a time as ever to finish them up. I don’t recommend starting a brand new book unless you’re absolutely sure you’re going to like it. If the only book you bring turns out to be a dud, there’s now one less thing for you to do during that long flight.
8. Chat up your neighbors. This one could go both ways, it could be really great or terribly awkward. But at worst you get a few one word responses and go back to doing whatever you’re doing, at best you could make a new friend.
9. Stare out the window especially during take off and landing. My friend likes to describe the landscape as an odd puzzle of geometric shapes and when the plane descends enough you can begin to distinguish the little, tiny cars on the little, tiny streets. It’s a surreal experience.
10. Sleep. Does this one really need explaining?
Now that we have that out of the way, let’s move on to some more interesting ideas:
11. Build a business. At one time or another every one of us has imagined opening our own business. A plane ride gives you this big block of time without distractions to finally get moving on your dream, you have no excuses. Use this free time wisely and get started on a business plan, all you need is a pencil and some paper. Write down what your business will do, what steps you need to take to get started, what competitors already exist, how will your business be unique and what your ultimate goal for the business is. I’ll bet you anything that during this exercise, you’ll start to feel really excited and this excitement should carry you over to actually getting started on this business idea (You’re welcome!).
12. Learn or brush up on a language. This is especially helpful if it’s the language of your destination. There is nothing more fulfilling than arriving in a country and NOT having to ask everyone “Excuse me, do you speak English?”, at least learn how to ask that question in their native language. Amazon has a wide array of language materials, my suggestion is to find a set of flashcards where the user feedback is positive. Alternatively, if you don’t know how to pronounce the words, an audio guide would be a great add on with the expectation that you probably won’t get to practice speaking while you’re on the plane (at least without someone telling you to be quiet :-/ ).
13. Learn to read tarot cards. I actually did this on a plane ride to Ireland when I was younger. Be sure to buy a deck of tarot cards that is visually appealing to you, the most widely suggested beginner tarot deck is the The Rider-Waite Tarot Deck, but a deck that you find interesting means you’re more likely to use them (even if just to look at the pictures). The tray attached to the seat in front of you is more than enough room to practice a few card layouts, so practice, practice, practice.
14. Write a letter (or an E-mail). Is there a friend or relative that you’ve been meaning to catch up with but haven’t had the time? During the flight is the perfect time to sit down with your thoughts, reflect on everything that’s happened in your life lately and write that letter you’ve been meaning to send. Bonus brownie points if you send it from your exotic destination.
15. Hone your Origami skills, just remember to use the smaller 3″ x 3″ paper otherwise you’ll start encroaching on your neighbor’s space.
16. Creatively write – a story, poem or song lyrics. This suggestion will only appeal to those who like to write, regardless bringing a pencil and paper on board gives you a wide range options (see #11, #14 and below). Along the artsy-fartsy line:
17. Draw/Sketch. You don’t need a lot of tools to draw: a notepad, 2 or 3 pencils of different hardness, a ballpoint pen, a felt tip pen, an eraser and maybe a marker. Just don’t expect that these items will magically turn you into the next Michelangelo.
18. Map out your activities. If you don’t already have plans at your destination, why not take this opportunity to figure out some things to do? Many flights don’t have internet on board so you will need to either print off some information beforehand or grab a travel book – Lonely Planet makes decent travel guidebooks.
19. Create a travel journal. I did this during my trip to Japan, I still treasure that journal to this day. See how important a pencil and paper are? But seriously, this is a great time to start a travel journal and, consequently, the plane back home is a great place to fill in the gaps you missed while you were out exploring on your trip. Fill this journal with detailed accounts of your trip and when you get home; put it away for a while, just until the memories of the trip become blurry. Then, whip this sucker out and read it, it will be like reliving the experience. It’s a great tool to reflect back on the wonderful times you’ve had.
20. Make a “To Do” list. I always make “To Do” lists…for everything, I love them (in case you couldn’t already tell from my tips for a day trip article). The benefit of making these lists is that you literally pour out all the worry onto the paper, then you can fold that paper up, put it into your wallet and forget about. It’s a great way to start off a vacation, literally putting away all the stressful things waiting for you at home.
21. Meditate. This is simple to do and requires nothing other than yourself. The simplest form of meditation is to close your eyes and count your breathing. Count one (in your head) when you inhale and two when you exhale, all the way up to 10. Then start back at one. Clear your mind of wandering thoughts, if you find your mind wandering, bring the attention back to your breathing. If you lose count, just calmly start over at one. You’ll be amazed how quickly a half-hour can fly by doing this.
22. Learn about an interest. Fascinated by genetic engineering? Want to have a deeper understanding of Greek philosophy? Grab some material for the plane ride and get your learnin’ on! This could be lumped in with #6, but this is a much more active form of reading. You’ll be underlining and circling words, rereading previous sections, flipping to the glossary section and taking notes. This will require a much more keen focus than reading a book for pleasure, so maybe do #21 before delving into this to focus your mind.
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