Maintain your sanity – Things to do on a long haul flight

Once you’ve managed to get seated on your flight without getting too caught up in the boarding frenzy you might be wondering how to pass the time on your long haul flight.

After taking many flights over the years (I really should tally these up one day), we’ve come up with a ton of ways to keep ourselves occupied whether it’s a 1 hour flight or a 3 legged journey from New Zealand to England… Cue post traumatic stress disorder.

I wanted to get back to basics in this post and list a few obvious things to do on your flight that may be overlooked when trying to find unusual and outlandish activities during your 40’000 foot downtime.

So let’s break it down and go through some of the obvious and basic things you can do to pass the time when flying long distances:

Make use on in-flight entertainment to watch films, TV shows, and play games

If you’re flying a short-haul budget airline then they’ll likely not have an in-flight entertainment system, in which case you may want to move on to the next tip.

For those on a non-budget airline, you have a treasure trove of entertainment quite literally in front of your face.

Watching just 2 films will kill about 4 hours.

These systems are packed full of fun activities such as:

Watch films

Usually dozens of films are available as well as recent blockbusters. On a recent flight to Singapore I managed to enjoy The Kingsman, 21 and 22 Jump street. Along with meals I felt like the flight went much quicker than it did. Bonus points if flying with Emirates and their excellent ICE Entertainment system voted worlds best 2018.

Did you know that Lawrence of Arabia is the longest movie on board Emirates and runs for 3 hours and 47 minutes.

Watch TV shows and documentaries

These systems often also include TV shows and documentaries so you can catch up on Modern Family or Planet Earth.

Listen to music, radio or a podcast

Although I didn’t really use this feature on the last flight I took, it was still an option. There are dozens if not hundreds of albums, radio stations and podcasts to enjoy which will make time, ahem, fly… Some of them even include TED talks so you can learn at the same time.

Play games

I’ve passed so many frustrating hours losing at “Who Wants to be a Millionaire” it’s not even funny. Coupled with a bit of Texas Hold’em, bowling, crosswords and a ton of other games, you certainly won’t be bored for long

In-flight info

This is a bit of a geeky one but most of these systems will show altitude, location on a map, ground speed and distance flown. A recent flight on an A380 also included several camera live feeds which make taking off and landing even more exciting when you can watch it from the cockpit or the rear of the plane.

As you can see I’m a big fan of these in-flight entertainment systems. If they are included on your flight you should definitely take advantage of them (just try not to think about how many grubby hands have used it before you without it being cleaned).

Read a book/Kindle

There’s nothing quite like getting lost in a book. You can waste hours reading your favourite novel. Or even better if you have a Kindle then you can read any book you want!

Some of my favourites and recently read are:

Listen to music

If you don’t have the cool in-flight system then you will almost certainly have an iPod or mobile phone.

Make sure you load up on your favourite music before you travel so that when you’re flying you can drown out the noise of the engines/crying babies and enjoy the sounds of your favourite band. Better yet if you have a Spotify or Amazon Prime membership then you can download playlists, stick them on shuffle and get a surprise with every new song.

Listen to a podcast

As with listening to music on your phone or iPod, you can also listen to podcasts. Download your favourite travel, photography, design, comedy or whatever else podcast onto your device and waste away the hours being entertained and educated at the same time.

Play hangman (or other games using some paper)

You cannot beat the simplicity of using good old pen and paper to play some games with.

You should definitely keep a pen handy at all times (visa forms am I right!) and there’s always scrap paper around (old boarding pass, receipts, sick bags, notebook etc).

Our favourite is hangman but you can play lots of games such as dots and boxes, noughts and crosses (tic-tac-toe) and when you’re finished you can make origami.

Or just throw paper air-planes at each other…

Play card games

If there’s one top tip we always suggest, it’s that you should carry a pack of cards with you.

Playing cards is the ultimate time waster and ice breaker. Cards helped us make friends and cope during a city wide power cut in Cambodia. They have also seen us through many long haul flights.

Whether it’s rummy, poker, solitaire or even snap, a good pack of playing cards will always be welcome and as a bonus they’re great for playing with other people too.

Here is what can only be described as a Wikipedia for card games.

Write a blog post

Chances are that if you’re reading this then you will already have, or be thinking about starting your own blog.

When you’re stuck on a long flight, why not use this valuable downtime to write a blog post? You could:

  • Brainstorm several post ideas
  • Write the outline for a few posts
  • Actually write full blog posts (not sure if I could muster that concentration on a flight)
  • Design some graphics
  • Mastermind your social media for the next few weeks

Have a meeting

Whether you’re travelling on your own or with a partner, you will want to figure out what’s happening next whether it be travel related or business related.

Use this valuable time think about and discuss what’s going on in your personal life, where to travel next, what to do when you arrive at your destination, confirm you transfer plans and double check your transfer/accommodation details.

You can also use this time (if applicable) to have a business meeting with yourself or your partner. You can discuss and plan where you want your business to go, your goals, where you can improve, your next big project and more.

Keep your notes in Evernote (psst, they have a load of pre-made templates now) or, remembering a previous tip, on your handy hangman/notebook sick bag.

Let your imagination go wild!

Get drunk

Obligatory flying can make you dehydrated so please drink plenty of water warning.

OK so this is a little more tongue in cheek, but why not? Let’s face it, flying is not exactly a pleasurable experience so why not have a few drinks and let time naturally pass? A cheeky brandy or 3 brings us nicely on to our last point…

Catch up on sleep

A sure fire way to pass time on a long flight is to just sleep. Get your head rest sorted, stretch your legs, close your eyes and let everything drift away until you’re snoring like a freight train. Just don’t incline your chair without politely asking the people behind you.

Please don’t be that guy…

So, that’s our super simple list of things you can do to pass the time on a long haul flight. Nothing fancy just good old fashioned time wasting. What do you do to pass the time on a flight? Share your tips in the comments below!

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