We all know how tedious a long flight can be. Maybe you have a book to keep you busy, but reading for nine straight hours is quite the feat. In-flight movies can while away a couple of hours, but sooner or later your eyes will get tired of staring at the screen, and you’ll find yourself looking around the cabin wondering, “so what am I supposed to do now?” Unless you’re one of the lucky ones who can nap anywhere, anytime — we truly envy you — nothing is worse than sitting in your cramped airplane seat, wide awake, thinking “are we there yet?” every five minutes. If you’re willing to get creative, there are a few things you can do to make that trans-continental flight go by in a snap.
- Invent backstories for your fellow passengers
When you’re on a long flight, you can’t help but notice the people around you. But since you can’t exactly get to know every single person — nor would you want to — a good way to pass the time is by inventing their backstories yourself. This is especially fun if you’re traveling with a friend. Notice a husband and wife who haven’t spoken a word? Maybe last week she caught him with a mistress. That tattooed punk rock-looking guy who hasn’t taken off his massive headphones? Maybe he’s a rockstar in whatever country you’re visiting, and he’s about to get flocked by fans in the airport. You’d be surprised how much time you can spend doing this. And who knows? Some of your stories might end up being true!
- Bring the essentials
Since it’s difficult to predict the quality of an airline’s entertainment offering for any given month, there are some essentials you should always bring to keep yourself busy on a long flight. Assuming you’re not the type of person who sleeps much during flights (I’m definitely the sleeping type), pack your fully charged laptop, some DVDs, headphones, and a nice long book or a few magazines. One of the best ways to beat boredom is with some variety. Even if you try something new from this list, you should still bring your regular items so that you have plenty of choices to keep you occupied.
- Write a Letter or Start a Travel Journal
Bring a pen and paper with you, and write a personal letter to a family member or close friend about your trip. This is a great way to keep busy, and if you get bored at any time during your travels, you can write another letter to keep your pen pal updated. Another option is to start a travel journal. Recording your experience and keeping up with your journal during your adventures will keep you busy. Plus, on the flight back, you can read back over your notes to keep yourself occupied.
- Strike a conversation
Though it might appear awkward for some, starting a conversation with the person you’re sitting next to can be a fantastic way to pass the time. I’ve met so many interesting people on flights, including a Tahitian model, a Hawaiian historian, and even Robin Sharma – author of The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari. If you’re looking for an icebreaker, ask about where they’re from and where they’re going. After introducing yourself and speaking for a bit, give them some space and see if they pick up the conversation. Heck, they might even be interested in playing some of the games you’ve brought on board. If the flight you’re on is serving alcohol, you can try starting a conversation over a drink.