In 2009, I went to Florida from Saskatchewan, Canada with my Sister and her family for a week at Walt Disney World – and back then I thought that was a long flight. Granted, it was a hectic day with two connections, lots of rushing around, and cramped quarters in packed airplanes. But, I look back at that trip now and laugh – that’s not the longest I’ve been in the air!
My first venture out of North America was to London in 2012 – and that was roughly an 8.5 hour flight from Minneapolis. My legs cramped up, I panicked a little waking up from a restless sleep to find the seatback in front of me reclined all the way – it was a little harried! I thought that was a long flight – and again, I laugh. I’ve been up in the clouds even longer.
Fast forward to this month’s trip to Tokyo. Minneapolis to Narita is a flight that lasts just over 12 hours. Half a day, up in the sky. Now, THAT is a long flight (or at least the longest I’ve been on so far – I’ve yet to make the journey from the South Pacific back to North America, but it’s coming.)
When I was telling family and friends about my upcoming half-a-day-in-the-sky, they cringed at the thought of spending so much time trapped inside a plane. “How will you spend the time,” they ask? Good question.
Everyone has their own way of killing time while on board an airplane. Here’s how I make time fly during those long journies.
Catch some Zs.
I consider myself fortunate that I can sleep pretty easily no matter how badly my body is contorted. Whether it’s sitting up, laying down, in the fetal position, or upright in a chair – I can usually figure out some way to doze off. I know not everyone is as fortunate, but if you can get some sleep during a long-haul flight, it’ll make the time pass by a lot faster. During my Minneapolis to Narita stretch, I spent about 3 hours out of the 12 sleeping. Not a lot, but it wasn’t too bad.
Food + Drink.
On major international flights, you’ll usually get fed and watered. On this trip, the alcohol was free (thanks, Delta!), and for me a beer or two can help me fall asleep a little easier. Build in about 30 minutes per drink service.
Two meal services (dinner and breakfast), plus a late-night snack will consume about 30 minutes of your time each. I kinda look forward to the meals, to be honest. Airplane food gets a bad rap, and while it might not be a steak dinner at Ruth’s Chris, it’s more than acceptable in quality.
Total it all up, and between eats and drinks you’ll use up anywhere from 2.5 to 3 hours in the sky.
One movie. Maybe two.
I have a short attention span when it comes to films. A long time ago, I used to be able to do double and triple shows at the cinema – but now, I’m mentally exhausted after just one flick.
During my 12 hour flight time time, I checked out the new Disney film “Inside Out,” plus watched a few episodes of John Oliver’s “This Week Tonight,” (and a couple other HBO shows). In total, I used up about 2-3 hours of the flight.
A little night music.
If the in-flight entertainment system has a good classical “pops” channel (that’s the familiar classical music you hear in movie scores and on TV commercials,) I’ll usually plug in my headset and let the sound flow. If not, I’ll open up Spotify and crank up one of my playlists.
Traveling internationally means having to fill out customs and immigration forms. When I’m getting settled on the plane, I usually pull out my itinerary, a pen (always take a pen!) and my passport so I can get it all scrawled out shortly after they give us the documents. This is about 15 minutes of work.
Stretch your legs.
While I’d love to have the window seat so I can sleep a little easier (without fear of falling out of my seat), I always take the aisle seat because I enjoy getting up to stretch my legs during a flight. I always hate someone playing gate keeper, and I’m terrible about worrying over waking someone up – so I take it upon myself to be the guy in the aisle seat. Plus, with upwards of five to six beverage services on a flight, that lavatory is often calling my name…
Take a look in a book.
I know a lot of people complain that they never have enough time to read – I’m one of those people. Yet, when it comes to spending 12 hours locked inside a metal tube being hurled through the air, I’m just not terribly keen on using my time to turn pages. I’m not sure why, but it’s the last thing I want to do. If I do get sucked in to my book, however, I’m good for about an hour before I need to come up for air. Conversely, I can read the airline’s in-flight magazine front-to-back at least twice during a trip. (Go figure.)
I feel fortunate I’ve found a way to make the time pass by pretty painlessly for me during long-haul flights – and I feel for folks who dread the journey. What are the things you do to pass the time on board? What is your advice for those working up the nerve for their first long-distance flight? Share your thoughts in the comments!