Do you know what to do on a long flight?
France, Asia, South America — they’re destinations that appear on nearly everyone’s bucket list. Yet most Americans’ passports are embarrassingly blank. The average American has visited just three nations. That means most of us have seen just a paltry 2% of the globe.
Perhaps one reason Americans don’t travel more is the long distances most of us have to fly to reach a foreign country. It certainly doesn’t help that, thanks to smartphones, we have a shorter attention span than a goldfish. I mean, what do you do when you’re crammed in a metal tube for six hours, anyway?
Passing the Time Wisely
I once spent an hour-long flight watching the antics of two extremely inebriated individuals in the seats in front of me. I fully expected the police to meet us at the gate and haul them away. (No such luck, of course.) I’ve also noticed some people like to engage in another age-old pastime: making out all the way from Seattle to Denver.
However, if you’re not as easily amused or haven’t flown in a while, the days when you could load up on 15 gossip magazines to pass the time are long gone. Thanks to technology, there’s a lot of entertainment at your fingertips. You might even disembark at your destination wondering how you got there at all.
Here are some of my favorites:
1. Take advantage of in-flight electronics
That little screen in the back of your seat isn’t just for decoration. It’s your in-flight entertainment system, otherwise known as your window to the world. Want to watch the latest blockbuster or catch up on episodes of “The Bachelorette”? Binge-watch all you want.
2. Hook up with a podcast
Want information? Current events? Sheer laughs? Podcasts deliver all of that with a very low investment of energy. Just shut your eyes and drift off. Some airlines, including Qantas, have them built in to their in-flight entertainment systems. You don’t even have to worry about downloading them before your flight.
3. Clean up your phone
Has your phone been running a little slowly lately? Spend your air time trashing all those apps you never use and the accidental photos that are taking up space. While you’re at it, organize your apps by category.
4. Brush up on your language skills
Worried about communicating with the locals? By the time you land at your destination, you can at least have mastered “please,” “thank you,” and “Where’s the nearest bar?” Apps like Duolingo or Loecsen can help you get started.
5. Go playlist crazy
Log in to Spotify or 8tracks, and start making playlists for every category you can think of: travel, party, workout, road trip, etc. You’ll be so busy jamming by the time you touch down that you won’t even have noticed how much time has passed.
6. Kick it old-school
Instead of taking a chance on that potentially terrible in-flight movie, pick up a gritty crime novel at the airport. Depending on the airline, you may have a period of up to an hour between takeoff and landing when you won’t be able to use electronics. This is when books come in handy.
7. Grab some shut-eye
Those noise-canceling headphones shield your ears from engine noise, annoying seat belt sign dings, and the cranky toddler three seats behind you. If you can’t afford a $300 pair, even some foam earplugs can help you get some much-needed beauty sleep. Plus, if you snooze for a few hours, you’re almost halfway to your destination.
Remember, for the highest-quality sleep, go easy on the caffeine and alcohol. These substances dehydrate you and make your sleep less restful. Last but not least, guarantee restful sleep by bringing your own travel pillow. You’d be amazed how many different options there are these days.
8. Move around
As office drones know, it’s impossible to sit that long without fidgeting. Why should planes be the exception?
For the sake of your health, remember to get up every once in a while (when the seatbelt sign is off, of course). To get that blood flowing, you could even do some yoga.
Avoid a stiff neck by sitting straight up, with the crown of your head pointing toward the plane roof; then, slowly roll your neck around in a circle. Second, lift your arms straight up to release shoulder tension. Finish by lifting one leg and rotating your ankle in circles for a minute, then switch.
9. Get into planning mode
Tote along guidebooks or magazines. Decide which art museums to visit and the best night to go dancing. You may not be the type of person who breaks down every second of your trip. You can at least read up on the language, culture, and food. You’ll feel like a local as soon as you step off the plane.
A boring plane ride shouldn’t stand between you and the rest of the world. With a little planning, it doesn’t have to be boring at all. In fact, the flight might turn out to be your favorite part of the trip — right after that chocolate croissant on the Champs-Élysées!