24 January 2012

Let's face it, planes are not the most exciting of places, and usually, we like it that way (excitement at 35,000 feet is not normally the kind one craves). 

But it can be difficult filling so many hours in a confined space, especially if you have the attention span of a gnat. If you have a variety of activities to pass the time, you'll have lots of options for staving off boredom. Here are some of my favourites:

  1. A good book. It doesn't really matter what kind as long as it's something you are really going to get into. Thrillers and mysteries are good for absorbing your attention and you don't have to spend a lot of money either, as any charity shop will have lots of these (*cough* The Da Vinci Code *cough*).
  2. A trashy magazine. You're not always in the mood for something intellectual and a low-rent magazine can be just the thing if you're a bit tired but you can't sleep. A fun game to play when you've finished is to choose a rude word, then replace one word of each headline with it.
  3. Newspaper. An obvious choice but worth mentioning as they generally have a variety of stories and features, and you can just read bits at a time if you like. You can also use it to make fetching hats for your fellow passengers.
  4. Sudoku and crosswords and other puzzles too, if you like. Too tight to buy a puzzle book? You can print them off the internet - the Guardian website has thousands. You'll be staving off Alzheimers whilst entertaining yourself; and it's a useful conversation starter if you fancy the person in the next seat (you can ask them for help).
  5. Music. Some people can listen to music as a thing to do, but others (me included) tend to use it more for background listening. Ensure your phone is fully charged and well stocked with a variety of tunes, and get noise-cancelling headphones to help drown out the noise of the safety announcement... er, I mean screaming baby.
  6. Podcasts. There are so many around now that you're bound to find one that makes you laugh, fascinates you or entertains you. If you don't know what to get, ask friends for recommendations. If you have trouble sleeping on a plane, a boring podcast can help lull you to sleep. *Insert joke about a long-running rural radio soap opera here.*
  7. Knitting. Check the hand luggage restrictions before you pack your needles - they are usually OK but you don't want to have your half-finished cardigan taken off you at security. Side note - on buses and trains, knitting is a good way of making sure no-one sits next to you.
  8. Other crafts and art. If you're a smoker, vaper, or just generally fidgety, activities to occupy your hands, can be really useful. Sketching, sewing or crochet are good, or colouring in if you are five/still saying the adult coluring book craze isn't over. Don't forget you are only allowed tiny scissors on the plane. 
  9. Games on your phone. Again, a good way to keep your hands occupied and if you are the sort to get addicted to things, you can play games for hours. Just mute the sound or put your headphones in, otherwise someone will end up punching you or chucking your phone in the bin. And they will be right to do so.
  10. Watching the films and stuff they put on. In-flight entertainment has come a long way since I started flying. Even if it's not a film you would normally watch, give it a go - you'll either enjoy it or go to sleep. Either way you'll be passing the time.
  11. Exercise. You're supposed to do this anyway so you don't die of plane cancer or something, but a stroll about and some stretches in the space by the loos can occupy you for a bit.
  12. Games. If you have a travelling companion, or you can make friends with the person next to you very quickly, some games can be fun on a flight. Passenger bingo is one - one of you takes a stroll around the cabin and notes which seat contains 'Fat bloke', 'Terrible cardigan lady' or 'Looks like Gollum'. The second player sees your list, then walks around the cabin and tries to match the seat numbers.
  13. Sleeping. If you are lucky enough to be on a fairly empty flight, go ahead and bagsy yourself some extra seats so you can lie down. If not, ensure you've got a jumper or one of those travel pillow things, it can make all the difference. If you have trouble sleeping, don't drink booze, it'll make you wake up (for the loo apart from anything else). Our technique is to be so knackered by the time we go away we'll sleep anywhere!

Update - 2 more things

I recently went on a long-haul flight where the entertainment system was broken, and I thought I was going to have to stab myself with my knitting needles just to alleviate the boredom. But instead, I did these things:

  1. Talk to the person sitting next to you. I did this and got some great tips about my destination from Pat, who was a local. She also showed me lots of great pictures from her trip to Alaska. I was lucky enough not to be sitting next to a dullard - if you are, make sure you have your earphones handy so you can cut the conversation short.
  2. Talk to the flight attendants. On my six thousandth tour of the aircraft, I stopped off in the galley and started talking to a flight attendant (she wasn't very busy at the time). I occupied some time, and came away with useful travel tips, some interesting insights, and a free magazine!

What are your favourite ways of spending a long-haul flight? Tell us on Twitter!