Keeping Occupied on the Long Haul Flight

Running out of things to do on a long flight will inevitably lead to self-loathing, triggered either by the pattern on the fabric of the seat in front of you or the particularly awful in-flight movie.  That’s why it’s always a good idea to pack multiple items to keep yourself occupied.  The more options you have, the smaller the chance you’ll become bored and you’ll be able to contain the urge to twist the handle on the emergency exit just to see what will happen. You’ll be yelled at to stop, then you’ll be tackled, and finally, you’ll be handcuffed to your seat.  Not that I’m writing from experience.  It’s merely common sense that boredom can lead to an unfortunate outcome.

Airplane Passengers

There’s no shortage of things to keep any long haul traveler occupied.  Many airlines offer a selection of inflight options, but be warned, they’re not always complementary and can vary greatly between classes, so if you plan on boarding with limited entertainment options, be sure to research you airline’s provided options because you do not want to end up playing find the saltine for the next 8 1/2 hours.


Nintendo 3DS.  The great thing about the 3DS is the huge selection of games at your disposal.  There’s enough variety you’ll be guaranteed to find at least a handful of games that satisfy, whether you’re into platformers, puzzlers, or RPGs. The problem with the 3DS is the battery life.  It lasts no more than five hours if the brightness is turned to the lowest setting and all the wireless options are turned off.  Like with any electronic device, make sure it’s fully charged before disembarking, since not every airline affords its passengers seat power outlets.

E-reader.  Why go with one hardcover (or paperback—I’m not judging) when you can load up on hundreds of e-books and overwhelm yourself with choice.  E-readers tend to be better for reading compared to other electronic devices due to their e-paper screens, which help reduce eye strain by a significant factor.  Looking at any lit screen for long periods of time will inevitably lead to eye strain, which in turn can manifest itself as a headache, and coupled with recycled air is a recipe for a very bad time.

Tablet.  A tablet is generally a better choice over a laptop for a two big reasons.  One, it’s smaller and more portable.  And two, tablets such as the iPad or Nexus 7 tend to have longer battery life over laptops (thought that is increasingly becoming not the case).  Load up your favorite tablet with music, movies, TV shows, books, magazines, comics, and whatever else you want and you’re set.  The largest flaw with tablet, however, is productivity.  If you plan on writing, creating spreadsheets, or doing any other type of busywork, while it certainly is possible, it tends to be more of a chore over using a laptop.


Books and magazines.  Grab a book, or two, or three, depending on the length of the flight.  Books, along with their cousin magazines are the common entertainment standby for any flight, but for longer flights, you might want more than one, since those 300 pages—especially for those page-turners—can go by surprisingly fast.  The same can be said for the magazine.  Too many of today’s magazines are mostly ads and may only keep you occupied for 30 minutes, if that, so be warned.  They may be entertaining, but that can be fleeting, and for the long flight, the electronic version may be the better choice.

Conversation.  This one can be tricky.  If you’re introverted, obviously this isn’t going to be a great option, but then again, you might not be the one with a choice in the matter.  Hopefully, you manage to not sit next to an epically boring person who drones on about yogurt cultures.  The key to making time fly is finding a good story-teller, and to a lesser, but important extent, chemistry.  People who can keep the conversation going, while keeping it interesting, can be the greatest and most efficient killers of time.  Of course, you’ll never know if you’re sitting next to a great storyteller unless you ask…


Billy Chamberlin is an avid, frugal-minded traveler and writer who’s always on the lookout for affordable airport parking and other ways to save on travel expenses. When he’s not traveling on business, he strums away on the banjo and builds model spacecraft.

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