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20 Things to Do on a Plane

Your long awaited holiday is finally drawing close and you’re excited. But you get a little deflated when you think of the long flight you will have to endure to get there. There are only so many things to do on a plane to keep yourself entertained. And you can only sleep for so long. Here are a twenty ideas that will make that long flight fly a little easier.

1. Rekindle Your Reading Flame

You may have bought a book, or a couple of books you have never quite found the time to dig into. Take the opportunity to be away from distractions and sink your teeth into your favorite fiction book. To save on hand luggage space, you could might consider getting a Kindle and signing up for a Kindle Unlimited Membership Plan.

This will help you save space for other items in your backpack as well as increase the variety of books you can bring with you since they are digital. Unless the book you have is a real page-turner, it’s a good idea to mix up your reading experience. You can even throw in a couple of magazines with high-quality images to give your eyes a break from the continuous flow of words.

Flights are a great opportunity to get a self-improvement book. It will give you time to try out some of the practical exercises that are typically mentioned. You may discover things about yourself that you may want to change to improve your outlook and make the most of your life. Make sure to carry a notebook to write down the areas you want to improve or the habits you want to develop.

2. Watch a Movie, or Two, or Three

Most people will end up watching a movie, or catching up on their favorite series. With a Netflix or Amazon Prime Account, your options are virtually limitless. You can find a recent release that you may have missed or a classic you watched as a kid.

Either way you will find that you’ve shed an hour and a half from your flight time without noticing it. A long haul flight is the perfect opportunity to try out a new TV show. By the time you’re done with the third season you could be getting ready to land.

To ensure you get the most out of your in-flight movie experience, be sure to carry along high quality, noise-cancelling headphones.

3. Soothe Your Ears with Some Music

Spotify Music on a Plane

When is the last time you just listened to some good music? Long haul flights are a great opportunity to go through your Spotify and listen to some albums you didn’t have time to really experience. Those stereo, noise-cancelling headphones and an eye mask will come in handy for your overdue auditory escapade.

Thanks to the suggestion algorithms on most music streaming platforms, you can use those long hours to discover new music. Your favorite artists may have released albums upon albums while you were caught up in the daily grind.

4. Plug Into a Podcast

You can put those headphones not only to entertain, but also to educate yourself. There are oodles of podcasts available on practically any topic under the sun. Whether you want to listen to political banter, climate change debates or artist interviews, you can get a corresponding podcast. TEDTalks are also available in podcasts if you would like to fill up the hours with inspiring talks from prominent figures in different spheres.

My personal favorite is Gimlet Media. They have a wide variety of shows like Science VS where they discuss facts and opinions on science or even Reply All which is a podcast about the internet.

Gimlet Media Podcasts
Some of the many shows from Gimlet Media.

5. Learn a Skill

Take advantage of the on-board Wi-Fi, if it’s available, to rummage through YouTube for how-to videos. You could learn a new banana cake recipe that you could try when you get back home. Or get ideas on how to make unique lampshades from recycled plastic bottles. If you had an interest in art but have never got to sit down to practice, you can rekindle that artistic flame under the guidance of expert YouTubers. If you happen to have a tablet and stylus with you, you can even follow along practically.

You can even challenge yourself to take your learning a step further by beginning an online course. Most of these will offer a free trial period so you can sit through a few sessions and see if that course is something you really want to do before making a financial commitment.

6. Go Shopping

That free Internet connection can come in handy in helping you do some in-flight window-shopping. Log into your Amazon or eBay account and see what’s new or what is on sale. You may find that pair of sneakers or vacuum cleaner you’ve been eyeing is now being offered at a staggering discount.

In your idle browsing you may also get some cool gift ideas for a spouse celebrating their birthday soon or a couple with an approaching anniversary. You can add them to your wishlist and make the order when the time is right.

7. Capture the Sights

From thousands of feet in the air, the world makes a breathtaking spectacle. So why not break the boredom of the flight by using your phone camera to capture the world from a bird’s eye view? If you time your shot well, you’ll be able to snap some incredible scenes; majestic mountain ranges, striking cloud formations against an orange sunset, etc. This is ready fodder for Instagram, if that’s your thing.

If you’re on your way back from your dream holiday, you can take the time to review the photos and video you’ve captured. You can discard the ones that are poorly focused or downright embarrassing and use an editing app to spruce up those that are almost there. Once you have an album of your best pics and clips, you can share it with friends and family on social media.

If Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram are not your cup of tea, you can upload them onto cloud storage and send the link to individual email addresses (you’ll have plenty of time after all).

8. Catch Up on Some Work

If your on a business trip, the many hours in the air can be useful in preparing for your meeting. You can also use the time to clear up the office work that will be waiting for you on your return. With no phones ringing or colleagues barging into your office, you could end up accomplishing much more than you would have tied to your desk.

Make sure to keep track of the hours worked as some employers will allow for overtime pay. If you’re on a vacation, you could use that un-distracted time to tie up some loose ends so that you can concentrate on having fun when you get to your destination.

9. Catch Up on Your Sleep

When is the last time you had a full eight-hours of sleep? If you’ve been slaving away night and day fueled by caffeine and high-energy drinks, your long haul flight is a good opportunity to rest. Just grab an eye mask and a pair of earplugs, if you’re sensitive to noise, and take a nap. The jury is still out on whether or not it is a good idea to use a neck pillow, but if it helps you sleep more comfortably, don’t forget to carry one.

Getting that overdue snooze is not only a way to whittle down the hours of your flight, it is good for your health. Doctors say sleep reduces stress, improves your memory, keeps your heart healthy and helps stave off cancer. If you’re flying on a business trip, you will be alert and well rested enough that when you land you can hit the ground running. And if you’re vacationing, you won’t have to waste day one of your new adventure fighting off the effects of jet lag.

One of the keys to enjoying a restful flight is trying to keep the run-up to your trip as light as possible. Avoid overworking yourself to the point of wrestling with reports hours before takeoff. Also avoid partying into the wee hours prior to your journey.

10. Polish Your Language Skills

You can make your trip to a foreign country all the richer by learning the local language. There are a gazillion language apps now available online to improve your grasp of Portuguese, French, or Español. If you take the reading, talking, and listening exercises seriously, you will be surprised at how much progress you can make by the time you land. You might even learn a cheeky phrase or two that can prove to be a handy icebreaker.

Use Duolingo on a Plane

11. Do Some Research

In addition to familiarizing yourself with the local language, one of the important things to do on a plane is to learn about your destination. This will serve you well if you’re going there on a leisure trip, or if you have a bit of time to spare at the end of a business trip.

Yes, you may have your travel itinerary all planned out, including visits to known attractions and recreational spots, but your extra research may lead you to exciting places that are off the beaten path. Apps like Roadtrippers and TripHobo will help you not only plot out your itinerary, but find exciting attractions and eateries that are along the way. You can work out the finer details of your vacation expenditures with Budget Your Trip or similar apps.

12. Begin to Journal

A fun record of your vacation adventure will make a good reference point when you’re narrating your story to friends. There may not be much to write about on the flight, but you can open your journal by jotting down your expectations.

You can continue your record of your adventure after you arrive and keep it up throughout your itinerary. On your way back you can compare your expectations to your actual experiences.

13. Begin Your Novel

If you’re an aspiring novelist, your journal notes may be the starting point for a potentially gripping story. Or you can seize on the hours of tranquility to begin dreaming up characters and plots. If there is Wi-Fi available, you can search for software packages that help you organize the different elements of your novel in a logical way.

14. Get in Some Exercise

Where on the plane, you may ask, will I get enough space to do any meaningful exercise? Good question. Getting in a full exercise routine isn’t going to be possible on an airplane, but you can do the bare minimum. A couple of walks up and down the aisle are a great way to keep up your blood circulation. This simple exercise can also help you avoid deep vein thrombosis. This condition occurs when one of the deep veins in your body, usually those in your legs, develops a blood clot.

To avoid this, take the opportunity, whenever it is safe to do so, to get up from your seat, move around the cabin or do some simple yoga stretches. You don’t have to showcase your entire routine, but there are a few dignified stretches that will not make things awkward for neighboring passengers. Even the flight attendants encourage passengers to do so from time to time on long flights.

15. Play a Card Game

Carrying a deck of cards with you on a long flight is a good idea. There are many single-player card games you can keep yourself busy with, including the universally popular solitaire. Besides the easy basic solitaire, you can try your hand at Klondike solitaire, Canfield solitaire, or even Yukon solitaire to spice things up.

You may not have a deck of cards with you, but you can still play basic solitaire or its other variants via a smartphone app. There are dozens of other card games you can play on your own, but you might be lucky enough to find a neighbor who also partial to cards.

16. Play Another Type of Game

Card games are, of course, not the only kind of game you can play on a flight. If you’re scrabble enthusiast, you can bring your board along. You can also buy crossword puzzles and Sudoku puzzles in most airport bookstores. To save on baggage, it may be better for you to simply download your game of choice.

If you’re on a flight with on-board Wi-Fi, you can even kill time with the mobile versions of popular online video games like Mortal Kombat, FIFA or the NBA 2K series. If you will be carrying your laptop, you can even play the full versions of the games. However, be warned that on-board Wi-Fi can be notoriously iffy so try to stick to single player games.

17. Make a Friend

Your deck of cards can be useful in helping you break the ice with your neighbor. But you don’t need this or any other prop to spark up a conversation. Simply introducing yourself can be enough to prompt your neighbor to open up to you. You may discover that you’re seated next to a fascinating individual with whom you have plenty in common.

Furthermore, if he or she is a native of that country, they may be in a position to help you make the most of your trip. They may help you find the hidden attractions regular tourists miss as they follow their travel guides. Even if your neighborly chatter doesn’t yield such fruits, it will have at least helped you knock a few minutes off your flight time.

18. Do Some Knitting

You could choose to ignore the in-flight entertainment and on-board Wi-Fi and instead do something physically engaging. If knitting is your thing, carry some needles with you along with a ball of yarn. Note that the long, pointed metallic needles may not be allowed. You may need to exchange these for the wooden or plastic kind. Check the TSA luggage guidelines as well as the guidelines of your chosen carrier to ensure your knitting equipment complies.

Depending on your speed, and the length of your flight, you may end up with a cute pair of booties for a treasured nephew or niece. If those baby shoes feel beyond your skill level, you can start with a basic scarf.

19. Do Some Art or Crafts

Another craft you can kill time with is beading. Buy some wire, clasps, pliers and a few packs of beads. By the end of the flight you might have a neat, colorful bracelet or earrings to rhyme with your exotic getaway. Try to get as much variety in your beads as you can to keep you interested long enough to make something complete.

Did you know there are coloring books for adults? They are a thing, and a pretty engrossing one at that. Order one along with a pack of colors in preparation for your flight. As you get busy shading the patterns, you will feel yourself become calmer as the stress you have been shouldering slowly lifts away. With each having a hundred or more patterns, you won’t notice the hours slipping by.

20. Start Making Plans

It’s never too early to start setting goals for the coming year. Your idle hours of flying can be a good time to take out your notebook and begin dreaming up the future. Who do you want to be, or where do you want to be in the next year, two years or five years?

If you’ve always dreamed of starting your own business, you can put it down and begin fleshing it out. You can even look for a business plan template to help you structure your enterprise and present it in a way that will be attractive to potential partners or sponsors.

If you want to shed some weight, you can begin working on a gym schedule. You can use the on-board Wi-Fi to research on exercise routines for beginners as well as diet plans.

Hayden Wall

Hayden is the founder of Travel Gear Discounts and tries to vacation as much as possible. He loves finding the latest travel accessories that will make getting out easier and planning the perfect weekend getaway.