After my recent trip from Toronto, Canada to Thiruvananthapuram, India for Kerala Blog Express, I honestly feel as if I have magically become an expert on long-haul flights and travel. This was my first time in Asia (yay!) — with the furthest from home being Eastern Europe, I was not prepared in the least for just what over a day’s worth of travel entailed. Two layovers on the way there and three (*cries*) on the way back really did feel like a journey with no end in sight. Of course, though it feels tedious and boring and exhausting and everything else that absolutely drains you during the flight itself, the moment you step off the final plane and arrive at your destination, somehow it always seems worth it.
In the mean time though, getting from points A and B can be a lot easier with a few key things kept in mind. With knowledge from my own mistakes and victories, here are some tips and tricks for surviving that seemingly endless flight:
My #1 go-to for flights of any duration, is to stick my noise-cancelling headphones on and drown out the people around me. Music helps me set my mood for the trip unfolding ahead of me, and helps hype me up for it all. As an example, when I went to Paris a couple of years ago with my mum, I listened to a lot of French music on the flight there (after all, Édith Piaf is one of my favourite singers). On my most recent trip to Kerala though, I somehow ended up listening to a lot of Taylor Swift, who I haven’t listened to in a while; that led to me creating two new playlists while on the plane: “First Kiss” and then, in a sudden realization of how Taylor tells us how good things often come to an end, “Last Kiss” (click through on both to go to my playlist and check out the songs on them. Don’t worry, there’s only a few Taylor Swift songs on them, but lots from other artists). When I realized that this music was becoming a downer really quickly — oh, the joys of being left to your own thoughts while travelling solo for 26 hours — I switched to my ultimate compilation mix: my airplane playlist. In no time, I was pumped all over again.
But I digress.
With that all said and done, music can be a great way to pass the time, help you to doze off, block out the noise of annoying passengers around you, and keep you relaxed for the duration of your flight. It’s also a great way to keep you occupied while on lengthy layovers.
Another perfect way to keep you occupied both while flying and on lengthy layovers? Reading either a physical book or an ebook. My best friend (who I’m heading to Poland with in a couple of weeks) convinced me to start reading from an ebook last year when she got me one for my birthday. I was the type of person who would carry two or three physical books around with me while on the subway, going to school, travelling… though I still love cracking open a brand new book or collecting vintage novels, an ebook is such a convenient alternative for when you’re on the go. I literally carry a couple hundred novels with me in one thin device when I’ve got my ebook in my bag.
For flights that long, I like trying to get at least half a book read on the flight there and the remaining half on the flight back. If I can crack into a second book, I feel like that’s a great personal success. With life so hectic in Toronto, and so much to do when I’m at home, I feel like the only time for me to get any proper pleasure reading done is while I’m either alone on public transit in the city, or while on a trip somewhere far away.
**Bonus points if you read a book based in the city or country that you’re travelling to! It might just be a great way to familiarize yourself with the area through the eyes of the character or person that you’re reading about.**
Nothing passes the time quite so well as watching a movie or TV show on the plane’s built-in entertainment system or via whichever media steaming video-on-demand apps you have on your smartphone. I try to pre-download my favourite shows onto my phone beforehand, so that they’re ready to go while I’m on the plane or during my layovers. On my recent trip to Kerala, I caught up on the most recent episodes of Riverdale on Netflix, watched some episodes of The Office (because HELLO, why wouldn’t I?), and then maintained my recent tradition of watching Wonder Woman on my flight home, on the in-flight entertainment system. Now that I think about it, I’ve only ever seen that movie while 35,000 feet in the air.
The only qualm I have with this method of passing time is that when you’re feeling really tired and try to watch a movie, it almost feels as if time is passing more slowly. Mainly because all you can think about is how you’d rather be sleeping. If this is the case, just go to sleep and watch the movie when you wake up.
There are so many addicting games you can download on your phone to pass the time. Ideally, find games that you can play without any internet connection, in case your flight doesn’t offer wifi. From Solitaire to Candy Crush, there’s a game for everyone to keep the time going by in a more eventful way than staring blankly ahead and hoping to get to your destination soon.
I even have a typewriter app that I sometimes write poetry or insightful little thoughts on, to post up on the Instagram account my friend Kat and I run in conjunction with our creative writing / flash fiction blog, Coffee and Torn Pages. It’s nice to get the creative juices flowing while on a long flight, as it keeps you occupied and feeling good.
I am the absolute worst at falling asleep on planes. I’m always super uncomfortable in the plane seats and feel too close to other passengers to pass out easily. I also have trouble sleeping in an upright position, which of course, only adds to the difficulty of the situation. On my trip to England last year, I picked myself up a memory foam neck pillow that clasps under the chin to keep from sliding off. This made a world of a difference, and I fell asleep within a half hour of getting on the plane for my red-eye flight, waking up about ten minutes prior to landing on my layover in Iceland.
Thanks to Murphy’s Law, in the chaotic excitement of getting prepared for my trip to Kerala this time around, I forgot my pillow at home. I did however, remember my new eye mask, which I plan on using in combination with the pillow on the next flight I take. It’s such a great way to have a comfy, restful sleep (considering the sleeping arrangements).
Though this way of catching a quick nap works well enough, if anyone wants to buy me a ticket to the first class suites on an Emirates flight… I wouldn’t say no. 😉
…And there you have it! My favourite ways to pass the time while travelling across the world. On the bright side, once you’ve done a long haul flight like this, an eight hour flight to Europe seems like an absolute breeze.
How do you pass long flights? Do you use any of my methods? Let me know in the comments!