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How to Stay Entertained When on a Long Flight


You’ve finally made it to your plane seat after navigating the airport security lines, locating your gate, and waiting for boarding. Sadly, now the challenge begins on how to keep yourself entertained for hours upon hours of your long-haul flight.

Unless you’re lucky enough to score a First-Class seat with a comfortable bed where you can easily sleep away the flight, enduring long-haul flights crammed into a confined coach seat can be challenging.

Thankfully, mastering the art of in-flight entertainment can turn the skies into a playground of possibilities or a productive office whether you’re a seasoned traveler or a first-time flyer. From immersive books and captivating movies, to possibly even learning a new skill, the opportunities to stay engaged and entertained are endless.

So, fasten your seatbelt and get ready to explore the best ways to make the most of your time above the clouds on your next long-haul flight.

Listen to Some Music

One of the best ways for you to not only stay entertained during a long flight but also relaxed is to listen to some music. Listening to music can soothe nerves and possibly even help you to get some sleep.

The key is to create several playlists for different moods such as relaxation, sleep, upbeat tunes for when you’re trying to stay awake for the meal service, or music that will allow you to stay focused if you plan on catching up on some work.

Ensure your playlists are downloaded for offline listening to avoid issues with connectivity unless your flight offers free onboard Wi-Fi. Noise-cancelling headphones are a must to block out engine noise and chatter from other passengers. Just make sure they are comfortable headphones since you may be wearing them for extended periods of time.

While you may be inclined to listening to your favorite artists or genres, a long-haul flight may be a perfect time to explore different styles of music that you might not typically listen to, whether that’s classical, jazz, or alternative music.

Ensure your device is fully charged before boarding the plane and bring a portable charger to keep your device powered throughout the flight. Some airlines offer a selection of music through their in-flight entertainment systems if you happen to forget to bring your device or download music to it.

Take Time to Read

Long-haul flights are also the perfect opportunity to do some reading, you know that thing we used to do before smartphones and social media. I’m not talking about scrolling through your socials reading posts or a few short news stories, rather instead diving into an intriguing novel or educational historical nonfiction bestseller.

Sometimes it’s a good idea to pack a mix of reading materials such as books, magazines, and newspapers in your carry-on. If you’re lucky enough to have lounge access, many airport lounges provide a wide variety of magazines and newspapers free of charge and most all airports have shops selling books. Consider using an e-reader like a Kindle, which can hold countless books and takes up far less space and weight than traditional books would.

It always pays to be comfortable while reading, so choose a window seat where you can lean against the wall or an aisle seat if you prefer more legroom. Use a travel pillow to support your neck and maintain good posture to avoid neck and back strain.

Make use of the overhead reading light provided by the airline or consider packing your own portable light that will allow you to read easier and prevent eye strain. When using an e-reader, adjust the backlight to a comfortable level to also avoid eye strain.

Make sure to pack your reading glasses if you require them and if you aren’t eager to read, consider downloading audio books to your phone. Don’t be afraid to alternate between different types of books or magazines to keep things fresh throughout the flight.

Catch an In-Flight Movie

Long-haul flights offer the perfect excuse to binge that favorite Netflix series or take in a complete movie franchise. Movies or shows with engaging plots can make hours seem like minutes and provide a great way to unwind and relax during the flight.

Watching a screen requires less effort than reading or working, making it an easier option to enjoy when you’re tired. Download your favorite movies and TV shows to your device before the flight to ensure you have entertainment without relying on in-flight Wi-Fi, or hopefully make use of personal in-flight entertainment screens often provided by airlines on long-haul flights. International flights often feature a good selection of recently released movies.

If you prefer a larger screen than your phone, a laptop can be a great option so long as it’s charged or you have the ability to keep it charged during the flight. If seated by a window, lower the shade to minimize glare on your screen and don’t forget to adjust the brightness of your screen for optimal viewing.

Choose a mix of genres to match your mood. Opt for a comedy to get you to smile If stressed or a thriller if wanting to stay awake. Pack your favorite snacks for added comfort and to give yourself that cinema-like experience.

Play Games

Not only can games keep you entertained and engaged on long-haul flights, but they can also be mentally stimulating where you may actually learn a few things or sharpen your brain. There are endless games you can enjoy on your smartphone these days, ranging from sudoku and crossword puzzles to trivia and solitaire.  

Games require active participation, making time pass more quickly which is the goal on a long flight, and mobile devices and portable gaming consoles make it easy to pack your favorite games along during flights.

Download games or game apps that can be played offline to avoid issues with in-flight connectivity. Portable gaming devices like the Nintendo Switch or Valve Steam Deck are ideal for more immersive gaming experiences.

Some games are easy to play and don’t require a lot of concentration, whereas others are designed to keep your mind engaged. There are games to match nearly any interest whether you’re into sports, adventure, fantasy, multiplayer, or strategy games.

Get Writing

Writing allows you to make the most of your time, turning idle hours into productive ones or ones that can showcase your creativity. Writing not only keeps your brain active, but also can give you the opportunity to actually process your thoughts and ideas. Some find it even quite therapeutic.

You can go old-school and pack a journal and pens or make use of writing apps like Google Docs, Evernote, or Scrivener. Create a list of writing ideas or topics before the flight. Do you want to start writing a novel or autobiography, journal about your travels, think about and jot down future goals, or write a letter to a friend or family member to catch up?

You don’t need to be a travel blogger to document your journeys, experiences, and thoughts. And you don’t have to write a 400-page book, rather it can simply be a short story or poem. Alternatively, you could simply take time to work on various to-do lists.

Meditate

You don’t necessarily need silence, a yoga mat, and burning incense or candles to meditate, Many people often find that their travels create a lot of stress, especially during the transportation part of it such as when flying on planes.

Meditation should in theory help to reduce stress, increase relaxation, and improve mental clarity to make for a more pleasant flight. Meditation promotes relaxation, making it easier to rest and potentially sleep during the flight as well.

Meditation really doesn’t require any special equipment, just a comfortable seat and some quiet time. Of course, it doesn’t hurt to have noise-cancelling headphones or earplugs to block out cabin noise and there are incredible meditation and mindfulness apps such as Headspace, Calm, and Insight Timer that allow you to listen to guided meditations or things like yoga nidra designed for flights.

Meditation can be done in short sessions, making it easy to fit into various periods of a long flight. It may be more effective during quieter times, such as after meals when the cabin lights are dimmed.

Practice deep breathing exercises to calm your mind and body, try to focus on being present and aware of your surroundings, or visualize a calm and peaceful place to help you relax.

Get Some Work Done

While travelling is supposed to be about taking time off and enjoying a much-deserved holiday, long-haul flights can be a perfect opportunity to get caught up on work. Then there are of course those that are traveling for business, so a flight can offer time to prepare for an international meeting or business proposal with clients.   

Long-haul flights generally offer extended uninterrupted time so long as you aren’t unlucky enough to be seated next to a stranger wanting to share their entire life story, which means it’s usually an opportunity where you can actually get work done.

The confined space and limited activities can create a focused environment for deep work. Limited or no internet access can further minimize distractions from emails and social media, helping you concentrate on work tasks.

Create a list of tasks you want to accomplish during the flight and ensure all necessary documents and files you may need are downloaded and accessible offline. Use productivity apps like Trello, Evernote, or Microsoft OneNote to keep track of tasks and notes.

Use this time to jot down business ideas, outlines, and important points, or to read and review documents, reports, and articles. Just remember to take breaks to avoid burnout, so maybe interrupt your work with some of our other options throughout the flight such as watching an in-flight movie, playing games, reading a book, or listening to some music.

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