Prescribing to the “take two Ativan, have a couple of stiff drinks and call me when the seat belt sign for landing comes on” is definitely one way of passing time on a long flight. This may be an effective method of coping but most assuredly it is an unhealthy and even dangerous way to endure the long-haul.
As the wife of a long-haul pilot and having lived overseas, my experience with traveling long distances is very extensive. I have learned over the years that being prepared for the journey is essential to keeping the brain from numbing and the body from developing living rigamortis.
My first line of defense is Attitude! Check the “Oh my Gosh, this is going to be unbearable,” mentality at the aircraft door. It will do you no good to dwell on the negative since that is not going to make the flight any quicker. Accept your fate as a captive being for duration and put that time to good use.
Pre-planning your in-flight entertainment is a prudent move. Your carry-on should contain that which will occupy you in the event the actual in-flight entertainment provided is not to your liking or not enough for the duration of the flight. Be sure to bring excellent reading material. Is there a book or an article you’ve been desperate to read but haven’t had time? Perfect. You may want to consider an e-book instead of traditional books or magazines. These little gizmo’s are a terrific alternative. They carry hundreds of books, newspapers and magazines all in one lightweight, and compact electronic package. Sony makes one called the Reader Digital Book and Amazon has their version which is called the Kindle:
If technology is your choice of stimulant than of course your laptop computer, an iPod or any number of handheld games are a necessity. Earphones are an issue with many travelers. Do yourself a favor and take your own. They are clean, they work and they are comfortable. Most earphone plug-ins are universal and will fit in the airplane socket. For some, the thought of using earphones that a stranger has used previously is just plain icky.
Do you love traditional card games? If you are travelling alone than a deck of cards and Solitaire will keep you company. If travelling with others, card games are always popular. There are cards and board games available in travel size. Some are magnetized so that pesky air turbulence will not interfere at a crucial move in the game.
If you are inclined to write, be it in a journal or your epic novel, make sure you bring along your writing materials. A good notepad, a couple of pens and your thinker’s cap may be all you need to pass the time.
Do you like crosswords, anagrams, Sudoku? Pop a great puzzle book into your bag. There are many that have a little of everything and they are inexpensive.
As always, the airline you are flying usually provides in-flight entertainment. Movies, News programs, sitcoms, and music channels are available. You can even watch the progress of your flight and all the data that goes with it. For some people, twelve hours of mindless watching is all they need.
Sleeping is always an option. If you can make yourself comfortable enough to catch a few zzzz’s you’re one of the lucky ones. Many people cannot sleep on airplanes so optimizing the ability to do so is important. Sleeping is also the quickest and most painless way of passing time. You must bring a good head/neck rest with you. Pillows on an airplane tend to be somewhat small and inadequate. They are also very scarce these days. If you do have room in your carry on, bring a travel blanket or shawl. Not only does it keep you warm but you know where it’s been. Meditative or relaxing new age or instrumental music really helps. If meditation is part of your lifestyle you can practice that as well.
Above all, make sure you move your body. Although you may not be able to take walks other than to and from the washroom, you can do some exercises in your seat that keep the circulation going and the limbs and joints from swelling and stiffening up. A good number of airlines now provide you with cards or even programs that show you which exercises work well while on the aircraft.
Long-haul flights are just that, a long-haul. However, they needn’t be such a trying ordeal. In today’s crazy paced world, most of us dream of having ten or twelve hours to just sit and do nothing but read or watch movies or play games. Take advantage of this time and direct it in a positive light. You can’t change it so why not take advantage of the time to pursue the things you usually do not have time for. I learned many, many flights ago that fighting the inevitable is impossible. Today I look on the flight before me as a marvelous opportunity to do just that. Happy flying!