You have an excruciatingly long plane ride ahead of you. You’re looking forward to catching up on the latest films and TV series available on the in-flight entertainment. But, what do you do when you get to your seat and there is no screen on the back of the seat in front of you, or even worse, the screen doesn’t work! Both situations have happened to me while traveling, which is why it’s important to have a backup plan for what you can do on a plane.

  1. Nap

The best way to fight jet-lag and feel ready to conquer a new city is by feeling refreshed. Before I fly, I will take a light sleeping pill (make sure to discuss with your doctor before taking any medication), blow up my travel neck pillow and get some shut eye. I make sure to pack ear plugs and an eye mask for the best undisturbed sleep.

2. Read a Book

My sister and I have a ritual where, every time before I leave for a trip she gives me a used, paperback book. A paperback is easier to pack and it’s much cheaper to get a used book. Especially for something I’ll give away or donate once I finish.

3. Talk to the people next to you

things to do on a plane

Global Gal Colleen in Athens after making new friends on a plane!

You may be lucky enough to have someone sitting next to you that’s pleasant to talk to. Once I was on a flight to Athens and started chatting with the couple sitting next to me. We ended up becoming fast friends and they showed me all their favorite restaurants and gave me a view of the city from a local’s perspective.

4. Put in your headphones

There are many music apps you can download (I use Spotify) to listen to your favorite tunes while in flight. I sometimes prefer to listen to podcasts. It allows you to rest your eyes and get lost in a story. I download the app, Podcast Addict, on my phone, which allows me to listen to podcasts for free without data or WiFi.

5. Journal

It can be a very relaxing and meditative experience to journal about what you’re feeling and experiencing. I like to look back on some of my journals that I’ve written to compare how I’ve changed and grown as a traveler.

6. Knit

You aren’t allowed to bring scissors on a plane, but knitting needles are allowed! Wooden or plastic are preferred, and circular knitting needles are suggested. I recommend you check with the airline company and country you’re flying with, but I’ve knitted a scarf while on a long plane ride. It was a nice present to give to my hosts when I arrived.

7. Plan Your Trip

I’m a bit of a last-minute traveler. I usually don’t plan my activities until I get to the city. If I have a guide book, or a few websites saved offline on my computer, I can do a little research to plan the sites I want to see.

8. Organize Your Phone

Taking photos and videos while you’re traveling can take up a lot of storage space. I’ll use the extra time on the flight to go through and delete the duplicates, or the selfies that make it look like I have a double chin. Nothing worse than being in the perfect pose, waiting for a stranger to take your picture, and your phone says, “Out of Memory.”

9. Bring Snacks

Depending on what kind of airline you’re flying with you may or may not get fed. The last time I flew on an 8-hour international flight, they only offered microwaved sandwiches, which were completely overpriced. Luckily, I planned ahead with a backpack full of snacks. When I have nothing to do and not much to think about, my mind instantly goes to food, which is why I pack an assortment of healthy snacks to munch on.

10. Exercise your mind

Sometimes it’s nice to bring a sketchbook or coloring book to help you occupy your time. I’ll also bring puzzle books or a Sudoko book to occupy my brain. Not only does this keep your mind busy, but it can reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s and dementia.

When you’re stuck on a long flight, you’re forced to find ways to entertain yourself. It’s helpful to have several options of things to do on a plane, because you can switch between activities. You won’t be able to listen to a podcast for 8 hours, because your phone is going to die. Or, doing 10 hours of Sudoko, may make your eyes go crossed. Have a couple backup plans to keep you entertained the next time you fly.


Written by “Global Gal on the Go” Colleen