How to entertain yourself during your next long flight

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As an international student who grew up in the Middle East, I’ve had my fair share of long flights. However, don’t let this fool you into thinking I’m unfazed by the notion of spending those 16 hours on my next flight home, cooped up in my little hard chair — in all honesty, the mere thought has me shuddering already. 

Although these long flights may not be the most pleasurable experience, they have definitely gotten easier over time. And it’s all thanks to one little secret: my premade flight itinerary. I know this may sound a little extreme to some, but planning ahead of time for my long flights has actually helped the time to pass more quickly. The idea of upward of 15 hours seems a little less daunting when you know that you’ve prepared different ways of keeping yourself preoccupied. Need some inspiration? Here’s a sample itinerary that resembles one I’d create for my next flight!

3:30 p.m.: Listen to music 

During taxi and takeoff, there’s not that much you can do, which is why I like to start off my flights by listening to some of my favorite tunes. Before you fly, make sure to download all of your favorite music to listen to in the air. In addition, you can also create a playlist on Spotify, or your chosen music provider, of all of the songs you’ve been meaning to listen to, whether this be a new album that came out, recommendations from friends or the “you might like” section on your music app. 

4:30 p.m.: Watch a movie

Most of the time, longer flights will equip your seat with your own little TV screen where you can watch hundreds of movies, ranging from Disney classics to Hollywood’s newest releases. I’m not a huge movie person, but finding a good, fast-paced movie on my flights really helps the time go by just a little faster. Alternatively, you could even download a whole TV show to binge-watch on your iPad or laptop using Netflix or Amazon. 

7 p.m.: Get productive

I totally understand that you may not be bursting with feelings of motivation and determination at the very start of your holiday season. But there’s something about being on an airplane, and the lack of distractions, that makes it the perfect spot for getting some work done. Although you may not be flooded with schoolwork while you’re on your flight, maybe there’s a hobby or side project that you’ve been putting off since the start of the semester. In my case, you might find me cracking out my Arabic books on my next flight. 

9 p.m.: Clear my phone 

I’m always finding myself without any storage, yet I never seem to find the time to actually clean up my phone. It’s a tedious task that you know you have to do eventually, and by getting it done on the flight, you know you’ll be able to enjoy your trip without worrying about the amount of storage you have left. You can probably get rid of a few apps you no longer use or delete some nine out of the 10 copies of each selfie you’ve taken. 

10 p.m.: Write letters

I used to have a little ritual of writing letters to the people I love during my flights, where I’d recount stories of my holidays, provide them with an update of my life at the time or simply express my gratitude for them. I’d write emails and save them in my drafts, or sometimes I’d even write old-fashioned, hand-written letters. These could be to my grandparents, old teachers, old friends, family abroad, etc. 

11 p.m.: Go to sleep 

I’m not a person who sleeps easily on flights, but I’ll usually get a few hours in, especially when the flights are this long. Most of the time, I’ll play a movie or TV show in the background and fall in and out of sleep throughout the night. To avoid jet lag, though, you should probably try your best to sleep during the nightly hours of your destination. 

6 a.m.: Read up on some articles

If you’re looking for something productive to do, you could catch up on some articles you’ve been meaning to read, or you could read some articles relating to pertinent research you need to do. No Wi-Fi on your flight? Download Pocket reader on your phone or laptop before boarding, and you can save as many articles offline as you’d like. 

Unfortunately, you’ll never stay completely clear of boredom during those long flights. At some point throughout the flight, I almost always find myself aimlessly staring out the window or at the screen in front of me and counting down the number of hours left. Hopefully, though, creating an itinerary will help you find a few things to keep you distracted. 

Contact Salma Sarkis at [email protected].