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How to Make Plane Trips More Fun

happy young couple taking selfie on airplane
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Traveling by plane can be stressful and exhausting—but it doesn’t have to be. Arriving at the airport prepared with several entertainment options will help battle restlessness and boredom.

Don’t rely on technology for all of your entertainment needs: your battery could die during your flight, leaving you with no alternatives. Instead, here are some easy techniques for making plane trips more fun.

Do Yoga

You probably don’t want to be that weirdo stretching in the tight, crammed aisle. That’s okay: you don’t need to go all out with crazy planks and backbends. Here’s a detailed list of easy and somewhat discreet moves you can do right from your seat, including neckrolls, deep breathing, and shoulder stretches.

On long-haul international flights, there’s often an area or two with a bit more room. You can do a quick toe-touch or side stretch without causing anyone to bat an eye.

During layovers or delays, do some downward dogs and warrior poses. These rejuvenating poses will help center your body, preparing you for whatever journey lays ahead. It’s especially important to stretch your muscles before a long flight, where you’ll be confined to a sitting position for multiple hours.

Learn a Language

Being stuck on a plane is the ideal time to start mastering that language you’ve always wanted to learn, especially if you’re flying to a foreign country. Download a language app in advance, like Babble or Duolingo, or pack a language learning book in your carry-on, and away you go!

Get Creative

woman writing in journal on plane
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We often bury our heads in our phones when we’re bored, forgetting to explore non-technology activities. Here are some simple ideas to get the creative juices flowing:

  • Journaling
  • Goal planning
  • Letter writing
  • Postcard writing: This is especially great on your trip home; save the stamp and hand-deliver to your friends.
  • Bucket list ideas
  • Future travel ideas
  • Creative writing: Short stories, poetry, or an outline for a novel or screenplay.
  • Coloring: Excellent for both adults and children.
  • Drawing: Sketch some clouds you see out your window.
  • Crafts: Try something different, like an Origami kit.
  • Knitting: Make sure to avoid long, metal knitting needles, which may be confiscated by airline security.

Games

Even though there are a million games for your phone, laptop, and tablet, you should bring along something different. Think traditional games—like the travel version of Yahtzee. Also, consider crossword puzzles, MadLibs (yes, there are fun adult versions), travel trivia, hangman (great for kids), even a deck of cards (just be careful during turbulence. Otherwise you’ll be playing 52 card pick-up).

For kids, consider downloading educational games: try puzzles of the world, trivia for your destination, and airplane information.

Keep the Kids Occupied

Mom and child playing on tablet while flying on plane
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Sitting still for multiple hours can be a real challenge for most children. Here are some key items to load into their backpacks. Bring along several options to cater to changing moods.  

  • Crayons and coloring books: Invest in triangle crayons to prevent them from rolling down the aisle of the plane.
  • New toys: Wrap them up to hand out during meltdowns or extreme boredom. Who doesn’t like a surprise gift?
  • Toys that stay in place: Consider these magnetic toys—perfect for turbulence.
  • Water-based activity books: Water Wow has some excellent coloring books, great for ages 3+.
  • Tablets: Check out the Amazon Fire Tablet, which is designed specifically for children! Pair it with child-friendly headphones.
  • Crafts: Friendship bracelet kit, Play-Doh, Wikki Stix, sticker books.

In-Flight Entertainment

Many airlines now only offer in-flight entertainment via their airline app, which has to be downloaded before you take off (unless you pay for Wi-Fi during your flight). Download it to ensure you have plenty of options on board.

If you find a new show that piques your interest, go ahead and binge-watch it. It can be fun to plow through a new show all at once. You’ll be surprised at how quickly the time flies by.

Books and Magazines

It’s fun to wander into an airport bookstore and pick up a book that calls to you. Usually, they aren’t too pricey. Grab a fun magazine at well—they’re lighthearted and easy to flip through while waiting to take off. The in-flight magazines often have good articles in them, too.

The Art of Conversation

passengers talking during flight
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If you’re traveling with a companion, resist the urge to retreat to your technology-based bubble. Now’s a good time to catch up on what’s happening with each other’s work, goals, you name it. You can also download some facts about your destination, circling the things that interest you.

If you’re traveling solo, you can try striking up a conversation with one of your neighbors. Ask a few simple questions first. If they respond with mumbles or a brief nod, then move on. But if they open up and ask you questions in return, then go for it. Remember to keep your voices low to respect those around you.

Download Materials in Advance

Don’t always rely on the in-flight entertainment to keep you engaged. Make sure to load your phone, tablet, or laptop with material that can run without Wi-Fi.

Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • Netflix: There are plenty of downloadable titles in all genres (keep in mind that they do expire after some time).
  • YouTube Premium: Download your favorite videos to watch later.
  • Music: Create several playlists for different stages of your trip (staying awake, going to sleep, etc.).
  • Podcasts: Pick a few that interest you so you’ll have some choices once you’re in the air. 
  • Books on tape: Bring headphone adaptors to share with your travel companion.
  • Mediation apps: People around you will assume you’re sleeping, but you’re really finding your inner peace.

Snacks and Hydration

Dehydration is common during air travel, especially on long flights. Bring a water bottle, fill it up after you go through security, and then keep filling it up during your flight (there’s often a spigot to fill bottles on long-haul flights). Or, when ordering drinks, get your soda or fancy drink plus a cup of water (most flight attendants are happy to hand out extra water). Staying hydrated will help keep you in a restful, balanced state.

Snacks are helpful too! Often we rush to the airport, waking up earlier than usual and skimping on proper meals. The food offered on planes is usually overpriced and not very nutritious. Here are some great snack ideas:

  • Baby carrot sticks: Drain the liquid before boarding, keeping them in a resealable Ziplock bag.
  • Whole fruit: Keep in mind that all fruits and vegetables must be disposed of before going through customs at any international airport.
  • Packs of nuts: Be mindful if anyone around you has a nut allergy.
  • String cheese: If individually wrapped, they can go a few hours without refrigeration.
  • Crackers: Small, snack-sized packages.
  • Protein/energy bars
  • Dried fruit
  • Beef jerky

Work and Productivity

man and woman typing on laptops during flight
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Sometimes attempting to do real work on a plane can add more stress to your trip, especially if you’re sleep deprived or have a long day waiting ahead of you at your new destination. We advise using the plane trip to have fun, rest, rejuvenate, and enjoy some easy entertainment instead of trying to get into the headspace of being overly productive.

However, if you feel like dabbling in some work tasks, then go for it. Here are some things you can easily do from the comfort of your airline seat:

  • Email: Did you know you can compose and respond to emails in offline mode? Just remember to send them when you land.
  • To-do lists: Go over your current to-do lists, both long-term and for the coming week.
  • Goal plan: Create some concrete plans for work. Or, focus on personal goals like losing weight, how to improve your relationship, etc.
  • Work-related material: Been putting off writing that report or brief? Try typing up a rough draft.
  • Organize photos: If you store pictures on your hard drive, now’s a good time to sort them into appropriate folders, with names and dates.
  • Unsubscribe: If you decide to pay for in-flight Wi-Fi, you can take this time to unsubscribe from all those annoying lists that are cluttering your inbox.

Whatever length your journey may be, always come well prepared. Having extra snacks on hand is key, especially if you’re stranded at an airport after the cafe area closes. Don’t forget your phone charger, bring an extra book, and remember to strike up conversations with your neighbor. Go forth and have an exciting adventure!

Jill Chafin Jill Chafin
Jill Chafin is a freelance writer, aerialist, dancer, food enthusiast, outdoor adventurer, and mama, based in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Read Full Bio »

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