You have booked a long-haul flight for the holidays? Congratulations! You have probably found the perfect time and the best fare for a trip to a great exotic location. A dream holiday may take you to an all-inclusive resort in Cancun, a world-famous theme park in Orlando or the idyllic beaches of Sri Lanka. Perhaps, you are travelling for work?
Whichever it is, you’re in for a long flight! Two of them, in fact!
If you are travelling with your kids, you are probably dreading the long trip to your dream destination and back. Don’t worry, we feel your pain! After all kids tend to be much less patient and more fidgety.
But if you think about it, when was the last time you managed to spend a few hours of quality time together? With some planning, a long-haul may turn into a wonderful bonding time to remember!
Alternatively, if you are travelling alone and are not quite looking forward to the long hours you’ll have to spend strapped to your small hard seat, a simple change of mind-set may be all you need.
Air travel is actually a wonderful opportunity to enjoy some amazing me-time. And me-time or self-care is essential for happiness. Why? Because it helps reboot your brain and unwind, it can even improve your concentration and make you more productive.
So if you have already booked those tickets for your dream long-haul, read on! We have prepared a list of travel tips just for you!
What are the most fun things to do on a plane to help you pass the time?
A lot of airlines offer great in-flight entertainment, so you can watch movies and TV shows, listen to music or play games. On most international flights the aircraft entertainment system also features a map to help follow your flight, plus extra information about the weather at your destination.
If you are lucky, your plane may offer wi-fi, which makes your entertainment opportunities practically endless. How do you know? You can check before booking your ticket or ask the flight attendants once you’re on the plane.
However, if you don’t want to find yourself or your kids glued to a screen for 7 consecutive hours, read on. Our list offers a lot of alternative fun things to do on a flight.
I am sure you’re not one of those parents that rely on technology to babysit their kids.
So here is a suggestion that does not involve the use of electronic devices: good old-fashioned pen and paper. It’s very simple and often much more entertaining (plus a great bonding opportunity). Perhaps, your kids will find out how a lot of mobile games started - hangman, tic-tac-toe, battleships! I’m sure you can come up with even more!
If you are travelling alone, your most obvious option is your smartphone - a real pocket-sized portable gaming station. Simply remember to look through the apps and download some games just in case your flight does not offer wi-fi. With a simple google search on "which games to play on a plane", you can start unscrambling words or racing through those mazes into the endless world of gaming.
Most of these games are suitable for your kids. They also offer a great opportunity for fathers to share some exciting virtual adventures with their boys.
Once your hands are tired from all the screen swiping or drawing and writing, there’s a bunch of games you can play by simply looking around and speaking. Why not try ‘I spy with my little eye’ or ‘Who am I’, for example? Chain stories are also great fun.
Your neighbour is sleeping? Then, do some Charades or miming.
All of the games above require almost no preparation. But if you like planning things ahead, you might throw in among your basic carry-on necessities a deck of cards or a small magnetic board game set (say, chess or checkers).
Books, books, books
This is my personal favourite pastime for long-haul flights.
You have started a great book but you are too tired to read more than a page before going to sleep? Well, a long flight is the best opportunity to finally read the whole book in one go! Most travellers prefer light reads but you can also try a classic. This is probably a good time for Jack Kerouac’s On the Road.
Magazines are also a very popular option with most passengers. You probably have a bunch of these lying around half-read in your home. Why not use the flight to finally go through all those long articles you have skipped?
Another favourite read with most passengers is the travel guide. These usually have great illustrations and offer valuable recommendations about places to visit, amazing sights and delicious food to try. A travel guide offers a great opportunity to learn something more about the exotic location you are travelling to. If you are visiting a new and distant place, chances are you or your kids don’t know much about it.
This is perhaps the most popular pastime on a plane. International long-haul flights usually offer a nice collection of films you can choose from. If your plane has wi-fi, you can also binge-watch your favourite TV series using one of the popular on-demand streaming sites.
In case you are not one of the lucky passengers who get to fly on a plane equipped with wi-fi and in-flight entertainment, do not despair. Simply download you favourite content in advance. All you need is a couple of movies or a few episodes of your favourite TV show that you can watch offline on the plane.
Listen to music or try a podcast
You may also download your favourite music to help you relax and get some sleep (zzzzzzzzz).
If you are one of those travellers who cannot sleep on a plane, go for an audio book or some podcasts. In this way, you can simultaneously rest your eyes and be entertained or learn something new and exciting.
BBC have a great collection I have recently found. Spotify also offers a range of podcasts. Another popular option is TED Talks on the go.
Learning languages is a great exercise for your brain. It keeps it flexible and nimble, sharpens your memory and improves your decision-making skills.
What is more, once you finally reach your destination, knowing a few basic phrases will help you communicate with the locals. They will appreciate your interest in their language and culture, and you will feel proud you have learnt something new.
How do you go about it? Most guidebooks have a language section at the back with suitable phrases to learn. Another great option is a language app like Duolingo or Memrise, for example. Simply download the app and start practising, collecting stars and flexing your brain muscle!
Plan your journey
A simple notebook and a pen is all you need again. On your way to your destination you can make a bucket list.
Creative bullet journaling is a great way to organise your expectations and plan your journey. You can make a wish list of sights you want to see and things you want to try and do. You can draw a map of places you want to visit and illustrate it with food you would like to try.
Researching your holiday entertainment options is half the fun! Data shows that the planning of a trip, the simple expectation of the positive experiences associated with travelling already makes us feel happier.
If you are travelling back home, you can record your impressions from the trip. What was the best food you tried? The best moment? The funniest memory?
You can also use this opportunity to write down your future goals or reevaluate your resolutions. Why not outline the perfect career or draw a self-growth mind map?
Creative writing offers other amusing options.
You can try writing a haiku poem (5-7-5 syllables). Or may be the imaginary biography of a random funny looking passenger on the plane!
You can also make a list of 7 random keywords and take turns to create a story around them. You can set a genre for your writing to make the task more challenging! Who knows, you may end up with a great script for a home-made film - another great memory!
Images and words
Coloring books are a great pastime for kids, especially girls. They are generally great for young kids as they develop their fine motor skills.
Nowadays, bookstores offer coloring books for adults which feature amazingly beautiful original art designs. The benefits for adults are even greater: stress relief and relaxation.
Alternatively, crossword puzzles are the favourite recreation of language lovers. Most airport bookstores offer a good variety of these. Simply get one (or two) and enjoy! You may even learn a new word!
Sudoku is a great option for math lovers. The printed version is as entertaining as the apps, so take your pick!
Make photo collages
A long flight is a wonderful opportunity to organise the photos on your phone or your laptop while traveling to your destination. You can remove duplicates, create folders and clear up space for new photos.
If you are returning home, why not go through all your new photos and create some great collages or animations. These are a wonderful way to free up some space and organise your precious memories so that you can easily share them with your friends and family.
If you are lucky enough to be flying on a plane with wi-fi, you can even upload your holiday collages on social media. You can even get some envious comments from your colleagues at the office!
Create a playlist
Remember old-time mixtapes? This great form of self-expression used as a cheesy romantic gesture in many teen movies. Today we call them playlists.
Online music services offer a huge variety of playlists: 50s, Rock or Have a great day, etc. The opportunities are so vast that you never seem to have enough time to explore the curious titles and recommendations.
One of the reasons we dread long flight is that we usually feel quite uncomfortable. Many articles online are dedicated to the negative effects of long-hauls on your body: diminished sense of taste, oxygen deprivation, DVT.
The last one sounds worst of all (aren’t abbreviations particularly scary?)! All right, let me reveal this one. DVT stands for deep vein thrombosis. It occurs when a blood clot forms in one of the deep veins in your body, usually in your legs. DVT can happen if you don't move for a long time.
How can you prevent it?
Simply stand up and move about, stretch your legs or do some yoga. Downward facing dog may be a bit too embarrassing as you may end up on passengershaming/instagram. However, there are some basic yoga moves you can certainly do on a plane. Why not try eagle arms, seated cow or seated cat pose!
How often should you do this? Well, try to stretch your legs at least once an hour. If you feel you are encroaching on your neighbour’s space, simply stand up and walk about.
A long flight is the perfect opportunity to talk to a stranger. You can meet someone with a fascinating life story! After all a plane collects within its small cramped space hundreds of people from all walks of life!
Long-haul flights are often associated with long layovers and delays or cancellations. So our last piece of advice is: if you experience any disruptions, know your rights and check if you are eligible for compensation!