Your envy-worthy travel bags are packed, you’ve pre-booked your ride to the airport, and now it’s time to load up your carry-on luggage with air miles and air miles of entertainment. But how to create an in-flight agenda that will help you ward off boredom? Decisions, decisions…
To get you started, we discuss what to do on a plane to delight, distract, and rejuvenate you in the hours you’ll spend at cruising altitude.
10 Things to Do on an Airplane to Genuinely Enjoy Your Flight
Whether you’ve mastered the art of air travel or this is your first flight in ages, here are 10 travel tips for diverting your attention while you’re en route to your destination.
#1. Declutter Your Digital Space
Sure, it’s tempting to devote your fly time to the latest batch of unanswered emails withering in your inbox.
But if you’re technically on vacation—or even savoring a few hours off the clock for a work trip—try applying your type-A digital nomad appetite with these three approaches to deep-cleaning your digital desktop:
- Detox your photos library – Who among us doesn’t have a few dozen photos of a single charcuterie plate or some low-grade selfies that will never make it to IG? Condense your photo library down to the gems you truly love, and you’ll make some room for the memories you’ll want to capture on your upcoming trip.
- Refresh your Spotify lineup – If your Hot Girl Summer playlist is still on loop in the dead of winter, it’s time to find some fresh new beats. Start by scrolling through your “liked” songs and eliminating all the “meh” ones. Next, visit your most-loved Artist pages and scope out the Related Artists tab to find a new fave that’s right up your alley.
- Mix up your social feed – While social media deserves a round of applause for its entertainment value, it also fuels some not-so-healthy patterns for our mental health. Research suggests that the arc of social media bends toward toxic emotions (e.g., outrage), so if you’ve been leaving Twitter feeling less than rosy lately, it may be time for a palette cleanse.1
If you’ve still got flight time after you’ve organized all your apps by color? Alright, you have our permission—go ahead and tackle that inbox.
#2. Have You Tried…Podcasts?
Yes, we’re on the podcast bandwagon and we’re not ashamed to say it.
Not sure what to listen to? Allow us to introduce you to:
- A Slight Change of Plans, which documents stories of human resilience in the face of major life changes. (Also deemed Apple’s Best Show of the Year in 2021!).
- This Is Dating for relatable content revolving around singles looking for love in the era of Swipe, Match, Repeat.
- How Did This Get Made?, where three cinephiles-slash-comedians review C-list films with commentary that will keep you ugly-laughing for the entire flight.
- Stuff To Blow Your Mind, for science fans and travelers who feel like indulging their existential side.
Be sure to use your stable airport WiFi to download a few episodes while you wait at the gate. That way, whether you are about to board a long international flight or a puddle jumper, you can plug into something juicy as soon as the plane’s wheels leave the tarmac.
#3. Crack Open That Book
We’d be remiss not to mention the quintessential plane activity that never goes out of style: reading. Now is the time to turn a few pages of the novel stashed in your carry-on.
Wouldn’t exactly call yourself a bookworm? No shame in that. A patently relaxing pastime, reading could simply serve as your route to some deeper Zzs on a red-eye or an extra-long flight.2
#4. Exercise Your Brain
There’s a reason why every Hudson News kiosk balances out its tabloid selection with a Sudoku section.
Crossword puzzles, number games, and downloadable board games like chess all stimulate different regions of the brain to give your neural networks a workout.3 With practice, you may see improvements in:
- Stress levels
Whether you load up on paper puzzles or download a checkers set to your phone, you may just find yourself so absorbed in brain-teasers that you forget TikTok even exists.
#5. Start a Travel Journal
There’s no better way to turn your trip into a bonafide adventure than putting pen to paper and writing one yourself.
Not sure where to start? Try these prompts:
- What are three goals you have for your excursion?
- What are five things you’re committed to leaving at home?
- What memories do you want to bring with you on your return flight?
For fun: write a quick character sketch of the main characters in your story (you included).
#6. Perform an Act of Kindness
If there’s one environment where stress levels run high, it’s the airport.
Performing a gesture of goodwill can contribute something meaningful to someone else’s travel experience. Not only that but small acts of kindness are proven mood-boosters for the good samaritans who execute them.4
Offer a compliment to the in-flight host, or see if your neighbor wants your extra bag of complimentary kettle corn. No need to give your luggage away to the man who lost his suitcase at the baggage claim. Start small, and your petite good deed will last you a lot longer than you might expect.
#7. Quell In-Flight Anxiety
Pre-flight anxiety is a common condition that affects around 40% of the population.5 Symptoms can range from elevated stress levels to motion sickness or full-blown panic attacks associated with clinical aviophobia.
While flight phobias should be dealt with by a qualified professional, there are some ways to control cortisol spikes if you suffer from milder symptoms:
- Build a stress support kit – Akin to your trusty makeup bag, fill a small pouch with pick-me-ups (and wind-me-downs) to assuage in-flight jitters. Focus on calming sensory cues like aroma (eucalyptus or lavender essential oils work great), lotion (for a silky self-massage), and noise-canceling headphones that help you refocus your attention.
- Use CBT techniques – CBT, or cognitive behavioral therapy, placates negative thought patterns to rewire the brain for positivity. If a “stress thought” kicks in, acknowledge it, then respond with a logical answer to prevent negativity from absorbing too much of your headspace.
- Talk to someone – Confining ourselves in an anxious moment can make us forget there’s a world beyond our private anxieties. Whether you’re alongside friends or traveling solo, the truth is you’re surrounded by humans who’d be happy to engage with a fellow passenger. A little light chit-chat can do wonders to foster more internal space and help to ease your mind while you’re in your seat.
#8. Practice Some Self-Care
Your mood, your skin, and your internal clock will thank you if you keep up your pampering practice while you’re in airplane mode.
If none of your favorite products made the liquid volume cut, there’s no reason why you can’t improvise en route to your destination:
- Drink water (and lots of it) to offset the drying effects of recycled air
- Do some light stretching or chair yoga poses
- Give your face and neck a gentle self-massage
- Listen to a guided meditation
- Try your best to get some shut-eye
True, the plane’s bathroom sink may be too tiny to perform your regular 6-step skincare routine. But you can still get away with slipping a moisturizing sheet mask in your carry-on before you check your bags.
Wondering what to do on a long haul flight? If you’ve already checked off all of your other entertainment options, try passing the time with the oldest trick in the book: get some shut-eye. Whether you’re situated in the aisle, middle, or window seat, it's possible to catch up on some zzz’s.
If you struggle to fall asleep on airplanes, you’re in good company. The best way to get cozy is to make your environment feel as familiar and comfy as possible. This comes with knowing exactly what to wear on a plane to maximize your level of comfort. You can try:
- An eye mask to block out the ambient airplane cabin light
- Warm socks
- Earplugs or noise-canceling headphones
- Herbal teas like valerian or chamomile (just ask your flight host for hot water!)
Pre-flight cocktails can be tempting before a flight (or during a long layover), but booze tends to mess with sleep patterns even if the immediate effects can leave you drowsy. Do yourself a favor and skip happy hour until you’ve tapped back down to earth.
#10. Keep the Kiddos Entertained
If you’re traveling with kids in tow, we salute you—keeping tiny humans’ spirits soaring on an airplane is a heroic feat in itself.
If you’re fresh out of ideas for child-friendly entertainment, keep your littles entertained with some of these fun things to do on a plane:
- Play an interactive game – A few rounds of “Would You Rather” or “Simon Says” can be a great way to keep any kid focused, engaged, and in good spirits on a long haul flight. Just beware of games that foster too much enthusiasm—adopt a calming tone of voice and limit your playtime to 3 or 4 rounds to keep energy levels low.
- Sneak in some learning– Word searches, scrambles, or a round of “Hangman” on your snack napkin can be a wonderful way to inspire verbal learning on the sly. If you pick up some MadLibs at the airport, you may even find yourself in stitches along with the kids!
- Encourage good behavior – Offering rewards is an excellent way to help your kids be a class act in the company of your fellow cabin members.
Sure, sometimes you need to hand over the iPad and let your kid zone out in front of the latest episode of Wild Kratts. But, if you’re up for it, your time spent in-flight can be a wonderful time to connect.
Pack Your In-Flight Entertainment Essentials with BÉIS
In the end, those mile-high moments during your flight belong to you. Whether you flex your productivity chops or dock your sleep mask for the entire flight, you get to choose your in-flight adventure to help you make the most of your upcoming trip.
As for who you’ll be when you arrive? BÉIS sumptuous travel accessories make you feel your best and pack right, no matter the occasion. Browse our luxe carry-on bags, weekender bags, streamlined suitcases, and more travel accessories to pack smart (without skimping on chic).
- Hathaway, Bill. “'Likes' and 'Shares' Teach People to Express More Outrage Online.” YaleNews, 16 Aug. 2021, https://news.yale.edu/2021/08/13/likes-and-shares-teach-people-express-more-outrage-online. Accessed 11 March 2022.
- Gutoskey, Ellen. “The Reason Reading Makes You Sleepy.” Salon, 14 Aug. 2021, https://www.salon.com/2021/08/15/the-reason-reading-makes-you-sleepy_partner/. Accessed 11 March 2022
- Milbrand, Lisa. “This Is What Happens to Your Brain When You Do a Puzzle.” Reader's Digest, 29 Sept. 2021, https://www.rd.com/article/what-happens-to-your-brain-when-do-a-puzzle/. Accessed 11 March 2022.
- “The Case for Kindness.” American Psychological Association, https://www.apa.org/news/apa/kindness-mental-health. Accessed 11 March 2022.
- Schaaff, Sarah Vander. “Lots of Americans Have a Fear of Flying. There Are Ways to Overcome the Anxiety Disorder.” The Washington Post, WP Company, 14 Oct. 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/health/lots-of-americans-have-a-fear-of-flying-there-are-way-to-overcome-the-anxiety-disorder/2019/10/11/d4746d84-d338-11e9-86ac-0f250cc91758_story.html. Accessed 11 March 2022.
- Pizer, Ann. “10 Yoga Poses You Can Do in a Chair.” Verywell Fit, 26 Feb. 2020, https://www.verywellfit.com/chair-yoga-poses-3567189. Accessed 11 March 2022.