As an aviation enthusiast, and a person that just likes being on a plane in general, I don’t have a hard time keeping myself busy or entertained on long-haul flights. As such, I decided to compile this list of some of the ways that I use to keep myself busy on long flights ranging from enjoying the window views to listening to audio books (get two audiobooks for free here).
Hopefully, the things to do on a long flight that I outline below will give you some inspiration if you are about to take your first intercontinental flight, or if you have trouble finding something to do when stuck on an aircraft for hours at a time. And, hopefully, you will get a tip or two from it about what to prepare before heading to the airport.
1. Enjoy Seeing the World from a Bird’s-Eye View
As an aviation enthusiast and someone that loves to travel, this is one of my most favorite ways to spend time on long-haul (and short-haul for that matter) flights.
There is nothing I enjoy more than a great view through an aircraft window. And, while I generally opt for aisle seats on long flights in economy class as I they are more comfortable than window seats, that doesn’t stop me from enjoying window views.
One way I do so is just by looking “over my neighbors” (while making sure I am not disturbing them). This way only works well for aisle seats in a row of seats next to a window. The other way is to walk over to the aircraft’s doors which usually have a window that you can look through.
Besides just looking through the window, I also like to understand what I am seeing or where we are flying at any given moment. To do that, you can use the “airshow” or “moving map” function of the in-flight entertainment system.
Are you interested in trying business or first class for the price of economy?
If so, you might want to check out Four Ways to Try Business Class Without Breaking the Bank - a free guide that I put together detailing some of the ways I was able to do so - and experiment with some of the methods mentioned in it.
2. Do Your Best to Sleep to Arrive Well-Rested
Probably my second favorite thing to do on a plane besides looking out of the window is sleeping.
Luckily, I am the type of person that can sit down in an economy class seat, fall asleep right away, and wake up shortly before landing. In fact, even if I try to stay awake if its mid-day in the destination, I still oftentimes fall asleep.
On the other hand, if you have a hard time falling asleep on an airplane, make sure to get yourself a decent ear plugs and eye mask, as well as a travel pillow. While some airlines provide the former two on long-haul flights, it is hard to rely solely on that (especially if you are flying in economy class).
Also, if you are flying in economy class and there are two or three seats empty next to you (unfortunately that is becoming rarer and rarer), don’t hesitate to make yourself an “economy sleeper” full flat bed.
3. Get Caught Up on Reading or Listen to an Audiobook
Another “good-old way” to pass time on a long flight is reading. Whether it’s your favorite magazine or a non-fiction book that you recently got, you can be sure that in the air you will be freed from distractions that might otherwise keep you from reading the book on the ground.
While reading a book in a window seat on a daylight flight is a pleasure, when it’s dark onboard, reading with just the small reading light on can put a lot of strain on your eyes. As such, I recently also started “reading” books by listening to them.
With platforms such as Audible, you can download audiobooks into your phone before a flight, and listen to them onboard. Audiobooks can take a bit of getting used to, but once you get used to consuming information by listening to it rather than reading it, they are great.
If you want to see if it’s something for you, you can get a free 30-day trial and two free audiobooks with Audible if you sign up through this link. Just don’t forget to cancel your subscription before the 30 days pass if you don’t want to get charged for the second month of use.
4. Do the Mundane Yet Important “Offline” Tasks
Chances are that whether you are a student, a business person, or anything else, there are some tasks that you have to do, but are mundane, repetitive, don’t require Internet connection, and that you keep avoiding.
Being stuck on an airplane for many hours with no (or expensive) Internet connection is a great time to do those without getting distracted by Facebook or email.
Some things in this category that I can think of from the top of my head include cleaning up your computer’s desktop or download folder, tagging your photos (if you are OCD about that like me), or preparing an expense report.
5. Watch an Episode (or Two, or Three, or…) of a TV Show
Watching movies and TV shows is one of the most common things to do on a long flight. Personally, I prefer watching TV shows as.
Depending on the flight you’re taking and TV show you’re watching, you might be able to watch a whole season on a single flight or during both of your outbound and inbound flights combined.
As for what to watch, you can certainly leave it up to a bit of luck and rely on the in-flight entertainment system (unless you are flying with an airline that doesn’t offer personal screens).
With that method, however, you might not find a TV show that interests you. Or, you might find a TV show that you love. But, realize that the IFE system only offers an episode or two. If you read some of my flight reviews, you might find out that the low number of episodes of each show available is my common complaint about many IFE systems.
Because of that, whenever possible, I recommend loading up your personal device, whether laptop or tablet, with plenty of content before your flight.
6. Take Notes About and Photos of Your Flight
While generally this is not on the list of things to do on a long flight for many travelers, even if you are not an aviation enthusiast, I suggest you try doing it at least once.
Some of the things you might want to note include the time you leave the gate (off-blocks time), the time you take-off, what the aircraft cabin and seats were like, whether you liked the meals, how the crew was, the altitude you flew at, and so on.
Separately, you might also want to take photos of some of those things.
As far as taking notes is concerned, you can do it on a notes app on your phone, on a piece of paper, or in My Flight Log – a log book that I designed specifically for that purpose.
If nothing else, the notes and photos will serve as a memory of the flight for you. Or, you might even try to write a review and publish it on the Airliners.net forums or somewhere else.
7. Chat with Your Friends and Family on the Ground
Talking with the people you travel with is the most obvious thing to do on a long flight if you are not traveling alone. You might even want to consider bringing playing cards or something similar to play with your travel companions in that case.
If you are traveling alone, but are outgoing, you can also try to make new friends onboard.
In all other cases, you might want to chat with your friends on the ground using the in-flight wi-fi. While not all airlines offer the service, it is becoming increasingly common.
And, given the fact that many airlines charge by the amount of data you use (and chatting doesn’t use much) and some airlines have special “messaging” price plans, chatting with your friends on the ground is one of the best uses of in-flight wi-fi (in case you don’t have to do actual online work while on your flight).
Things to Do on a Long Flight: Summary
No matter which one of the things to do on a long flight above seems appealing to you (most likely, you will do multiple of them), there are some things that you should do before even heading out to the airport.
Some of those things include fully charging all your devices (and taking the chargers with you since many planes offer USB ports and power outlets), loading content such as TV shows and audiobooks (get two audiobooks for free here) into your devices, and getting your travel pillow and other sleeping items ready if you need them.
While the above or other activities that you come up with should keep you busy for the ten or twelve hours you will be sitting on the plane, if nothing else helps, just sit back, relax, and enjoy the fact that you are making your way from one continent to another almost as fast as sound!