I recently overheard a conversation in which a woman mentioned she would never go to Hawaii because she doesn't like long flights. For someone who lives to travel (and has a trip to Hawaii planned for this fall), I would never turn down the opportunity to explore another part of the world solely because of the long flight. Granted, I don't look forward to spending hours confined inside a metal canister with the prospect of getting stuck sitting between a crying baby and a portly fellow with overactive sweat glands. However, I'm willing to endure a few hours of torture for the pleasures that await me when I land.

My eavesdropping got me to thinking, what is the best way to get through a long flight? I did some searching on a few blogs and found everyone was pretty much giving the same advice: drugs, alcohol, and sleep. I agree that sleeping through the flight is probably the absolute best option, if you can do it. Being knocked out, even if for only part of the flight, will make the time go by much faster. However, I don't condone taking sleeping pills to accomplish this feat. I feel that sleeping pills are for people who have a real medical condition, and taking them while on a plane is potentially dangerous and will leave you groggy and in a bad mood when you arrive at your destination. The alcohol tip I agree with to a degree. Having one drink to help loosen you up may be a great idea; getting drunk might get you banned from flying with the airline again.

Not everybody can sleep on an airplane. The seats are uncomfortable, it's noisy, and sometimes the people around you refuse to close their shades when the sun is obviously beginning to burn your retinas. So, it's a good idea to plan ahead how you will keep yourself occupied throughout the flight. I have never understood people who get on a plane with nothing to entertain themselves. They'll look at the in-flight magazine for about 10 minutes, get bored, and then just sit there doing nothing for the rest of the time. I came up with a few ideas based on what I've done in the past, seen others doing, or just think would be a great way to pass the time.

To keep your mind distracted:

  • Watch the in-flight movies if offered
  • Bring a portable DVD player to watch your own movies
  • Listen to your iPod
  • Read a good novel and immerse yourself in another world
  • Don't watch the clock
  • Do crossword or sodoku puzzles
  • Take your hobby with you if possible
  • Get to know your neighbors, you might meet some really interesting people

To use your time productively:

  • Bring travel guides to plan your trip
  • Write a journal of your travel experiences
  • Organize your photos on your laptop; choose the best to share with friends
  • If visiting a foreign land, study the local language
  • Write letters to friends or family
  • Create to do lists for when you get home
  • Make a list of who to buy souvenirs
  • If you're a student, do your homework

To take advantage of being forced to sit quietly, meditate:

  • Think about where your life is going
  • What have you accomplished in the past year that makes you proud?
  • What goals do you have for the next year?
  • What changes do you want to make in your life?
  • Dream big! Imagine a better life for yourself and figure out a plan to get it
  • Pray. Open up and express your feelings, concerns, and gratefulness to your god

I'm sure there are a million other ways to keep yourself busy on a long flight. Don't let a fear of being trapped on a plane for several hours keep you from seeing the world. If you do, you'll never know what you're missing out on.