When you’re preparing for that long-awaited holiday, the last thing on your mind is the flight. But when travelling to destinations such as Canada, getting there can involve mid-to-long haul flights. Staying entertained for upwards of six hours at a time in an aeroplane cabin might seem difficult, but with a little forethought and creativity, there are plenty of things you can do to keep busy. That way, your long flight will literally fly by.
Emily from The Points Guy points out that long flights can actually be a great opportunity to de-connect. She says, “Take some time to read the book that’s been on your bookshelf for a few months, listen to a new podcast or grab a colouring book and get artsy. Long-haul flights can be a great time to do things you don’t normally get to do.”
But don’t just rely on your in-flight offerings. Patti from The Savvy Globetrotter says:
“I always bring my own entertainment for long flights as a backup rather than relying on the in-flight entertainment – in case it is not working or I have already seen or don’t want to see the movie selection. There are a few ways I entertain myself on a long flight, including listening to music, reading books and magazines, doing puzzles, playing games and watching movies and TV shows.” So, here are 15 of our top tips on how to stay entertained on a long flight to Canada and beyond.
1. Read a book
Jason from the blog and travel planner website, Trekeffect, says:
“Reading is by far my favourite pastime, whenever I’m on a long-haul flight. Thanks to the magic of smartphones and e-readers, I can now carry a library of books with me on my travels (it’s really good to have variety). Usually, I read something fun and light, like a classic novel, a business book or the latest thriller. To other travellers, I won’t recommend non-fiction e-books about aircraft disasters… And even though you may add magazines and newspapers to your e-reader, don’t bring paper versions since they take up valuable bag space, and you can get through them fairly quickly.”
Patti agrees, commenting, “My favourite form of entertainment and the one that makes the flight time pass the quickest is to read a great book that I can’t put down. If I love the book, I get so absorbed in the story that it seems to make the flight feel much shorter. Plus, long flights are the only time I have so much time to devote to a book.”
2. Watch a film or show
Perhaps the most popular forms of entertainment during flights is film and TV. Most good long-haul flight companies offer a great selection of in-flight entertainment, which Mani from A New Life Wandering enjoys taking advantage of. She says:
“Even just going through the different movie options offered can take some time, and once you pick, you’ve got yourself a 2-hour distraction. I often watch about two per flight, plus a couple of shorter TV show episodes when nearing landing. And for a better experience, I recommend bringing your own noise-isolating headphones.”
However, with huge sites like Netflix and Amazon Prime, there are endless options besides what’s on during your flight. Annette from Bucket List Journey comments:
“One of my favourite ways to stay entertained on a long-haul flight is to binge watch a new TV show. This is something that there never seems to be time for when at home! An entire television series can easily be downloaded to my iPad or laptop for offline viewing using iTunes, Netflix or Amazon. Then I grab a couple tiny bags of pretzels, put my chair back and settle in for a few hours of consecutive entertainment.”
Check ahead of travel that you are allowed to take your laptop in your hand luggage – flights to Canada allow this, but other destinations vary.
However, it’s worth planning ahead a little to ensure you get the most out of the in-flight offerings.
Emily from The Points Guy recommends, “If possible, do your research before you head to the airport. Check with sites like SeatGuru to see what kind of in-flight entertainment options are available on your flight — whether there are seatback screens with on-demand movies, Wi-Fi, power outlets and more. Then you’ll be able to better determine what you should bring with you.” She notes, “If I’m travelling and know that there isn’t Wi-Fi available, I make sure to download any movies or TV shows in advance so when I get on board, I know I’ll have access and can keep myself entertained for the duration of the long-haul flight.”
3. Listen to a podcast
Want to learn something new or be entertained without having to stare at a screen or page? Podcasts are the ideal alternative, and these days you can find one to fit every hobby or interest. From comedy podcasts and political critique to self-help podcasts and music shows, whatever you are in to, there is a podcast to keep you entertained.
If you’re always coming up with seemingly unanswerable questions, you will love Answer Me This. This podcast rests on a simple premise: listeners send in their questions and creators Helen and Olly answer them. However, in reality, it’s much more than that – expect to learn about the origins of strange phrases, some of the world’s more curious ‘firsts’, along with some straight-talking advice. It’s both hilarious and informative, and will soon become a firm favourite. Another popular podcast is TEDTalks, where you can listen to inspiring talks on a range of subjects given by many incisive individuals. Everything from Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s “We Should All be Feminists” to Katie Bouman’s “How to take a picture of a black hole” are covered here.
4. Snap the sights
Everyone snaps a photo out of the window on their first plane journey, but this is a tradition many of us forget to do as we become more used to air transit. However, some of the best views in the world come from a bird’s-eye view – planes being the perfect place to get that perfect Instagram shot. From above-the-clouds sunsets to map-like detail shots, images of landmarks and the Canadian mountains in the distance, there are so many amazing photos to take on your journey. This is the perfect way to while away the time, as you get the perfect composition and exposure, then spend a little time editing the shot.
5. Write a journal
Have you ever got back from your trip and tried to relay your amazing adventures to a friend, only to find that the fine details have now become somewhat hazy? Ensure that you remember every second of your holiday by keeping a journal while you are away. The flight may not seem like the most exciting part of your travels, but it may later prove interesting to compare your expectations of your destination to the experience you ended up having. You could even write it up in a blog post when you get home!
Rebecca from the travel and lifestyle blog Rebecca Kelsey, advises that journaling on a plane can be great for even more than planning and recording your trip. She says:
“Creative bullet journaling is my current favourite hobby and all you need is a pen and a notebook. You can do so much with a notebook, like re-evaluating your goals and resolutions, creating a mind map of your ideal self, answering creative writing prompts, planning your next big career move, and more. I attribute my journal to the number one reason why I reach my goals. Plus, doodling mandalas is a lot of fun.”
6. Play a game
A failsafe way to keep yourself, family members and friends entertained all together is by playing a good old-fashioned game. Many board games can be cumbersome and complicated, so keep it simple on your next flight with a pack of cards plus pens and paper. This is all you need for several games, whether it’s bluff, UNO or gin rummy. If you’re not so in to the classics, bring along some more modern games such as Monopoly Deal, Sushi Go, or Exploding Kittens (the safe for work version!)
To make these games last through a long-haul flight, get creative. One game called ‘salad bowl’ combines aspects of guess who and charades in one makeshift experience. Simply get each player to write three famous people’s names on paper and tear them into strips, placing them in a hat or cup. Split into two teams. In each round, members of each team take their turn trying to get their team members to guess the person as they pick a name. The goal is to get as many right as possible in a minute. For the first round, players simply describe the person without saying their name. In round two, each player gives visual clues by acting the character out. In round three, the player has to give just one word as a clue. Each time the rest of the team guesses correctly, they keep the piece of paper and count them up at the end of the round, before returning all names to the hat for the next round. At the end of the three rounds, the team that earned the most pieces wins.
7. Do something crafty
For those flights where you really need to unwind and keep yourself occupied at the same time, why not consider doing some crafts? With the advent of adult colouring books, art has become recognised as a great way to de-stress, and you can usually find these books in airports or at bookshops at home. Alternatively, take some knitting on-board (the needles are allowed) – perhaps you could even knit yourself a warm, cosy hat for any snowy hikes you’re taking in areas such as Alberta and Whistler! Simply download a pattern onto your phone, pack the wool and you’ve got several hours of entertainment lined up – and you might learn a new skill in the process!
8. Listen to some new music
If you find yourself listening to the same album, or the normal radio charts, every day, why not make your long-haul flight a chance to discover some new music that you might well love? There are aren’t many times that you will have fewer responsibilities and distractions than this. Before you fly, make a playlist on iTunes, Spotify or your chosen music provider of songs that you’ve been meaning to listen to, recommendations from friends and ‘you might like’ sections on music apps. Label it for your flight, enable it for offline use and simply plug in. If you’re a nervous flyer, remember to check songs for subject matter before you add them to your list!
9. Get productive
If you’re the kind of person who relishes the free time on a flight to catch up on tasks, a long flight is an ideal time to get productive. Emily from The Points Guy says, “Of course, every traveller is different, but I find that I’m most productive with work when I’m in the air. Whether that means reading up on something, writing on deadline or anything else, I find there are fewer distractions when I’m flying. So, while you may be on your way to a dream getaway and the last thing on your mind is work, don’t completely eliminate it as an option.” Then, you can arrive at your destination ready to enjoy your Canada holiday with nothing else to think about.
10. Organise your trip
Alternatively, if work is the last thing you want to think about as you head off on your much-anticipated escape, why not plan your trip? A flight gives you several hours to fit in some last-minute organisation that will help you get the most out of your holiday. Although you will probably already have sorted out the major factors such as transport and accommodation, there are lots of little things you can do on a flight to make your holiday more smooth and enjoyable.
For example, check out the best things to see and do in your chosen destination on the Lonely Planet guides app, or estimate how much money you’ll spend each day with Budget Your Trip. Remember to do the little tasks like deleting duplicate photos on your phone or camera so you have plenty of space to capture your memories once you land. Alternatively, if you’re on a long journey home, why not spend an hour sorting through your photos, editing them and uploading them to social media for friends and family to enjoy?
11. Learn the local language
If you’re travelling to a destination where the residents speak a language other than your own, it’s well worth learning a few phrases before you land, and what better time to do so than on the flight? One easy way to pick up simple phrases such as ‘hello’, ‘thank you’ ‘how much does this cost’ and ‘goodbye’ is with Duolingo, where you will be taken through the basics in a fun, interactive manner. You will be tested on your reading, listening and speaking (although if you don’t want to talk, you can turn off the microphone for an hour), giving a real understanding of key phrases ahead of your trip. This is particularly valuable for visiting areas with a strong bilingual culture such as Quebec.
12. Escape with an app
If you’ve been trying to fit every last bit of holiday gear into your carry-on and haven’t managed to bring along a book, game or notepad, there is always the trusty world of apps to keep you entertained. Whether you choose to spend some time on your flight scrolling through photos of your approaching destination on Instagram, catching up on the latest news online or simply playing a few online games, this is a simple way to stay entertained.
There are more gaming apps than we could possibly list, but one favourite is Two Dots, where users follow two dots through arctic tundra, fiery jungles and ocean depths. The challenges on this game are never-ending, so you won’t run out of levels! If trivia is more your thing, why not try something like Trivia Burst, with over 40,000 questions? And then, of course, there is Netflix, Twitter, Snapchat and a host of other platforms to while away the hours. Make sure you download a couple of offline gaming apps for your journey just in case you run out of WiFi, and find out how to connect once you have boarded.
13. Do a skincare regime
Sometimes on a flight you’ll just want to sit back and unwind, but before you put that eye mask on and try to sleep, take a minute or two to pamper yourself first. Air travel can dehydrate the skin and leave us looking and feeling tired, so this is the perfect time to rejuvenate.
Christine from SmarterTravel agrees, saying:
“A long flight is also a great time to treat yourself to a little self-care. There are plenty of on-the-go treatments that aren’t messy and don’t have a strong scent—making them entirely appropriate for a little spa time at 30,000 feet. Fibre face masks can be applied and discarded with ease, spa gloves deliver silky smooth skin with zero mess, and a quick de-puffing eye mask combats jet bloat and allows you to get off the plane looking your best.” Their article on DIY in-flight spa treatments is a great place to get ideas, but whether it’s a full routine or simply taking the time to moisturise, looking after your skin is essential on a long flight.
14. Move about
On a long-haul flight, it is easy to simply relax into your seat for several hours, but it is absolutely essential to remember to move around. The cabin crew don’t recommend this for no reason – it will not only fend off boredom and fatigue but also keeps you in healthy shape. Christine advises, “Set aside a little time every hour or two for some dignified and discreet stretches, both to fend off serious issues like deep vein thrombosis and annoyances like achy muscles.”
Emily agrees, commenting, “Sometimes you just need to move. When you’re cruising at 35,000 feet and the seatbelt sign isn’t illuminated, get up and stretch your legs. Take a lap around the cabin and a break from sitting for so long.” Take a look around the cabin, you might find some details that capture your interest!
15. Chat to your neighbour
One of the hidden joys of flying that some people don’t discover is the power of talking to new people. Few times are you surrounded by as many people from as many walks of life as on a flight for such an extended time. If you open up to the opportunity, this can be a great time to chat to fascinating individuals. Your fellow passengers may well be like-minded – after all – you are all choosing to visit the same destination. So, simply turn to your neighbour and introduce yourself!