I fly a lot and while on-board entertainment is a lot better than it used to be, flying still is a long boring activity with lots of time and not much to do to fill it. One of my biggest challenges is that being trapped in a metal tube jammed into seats that are more suitable to a 12 year old boy than a nearly 40 year old man is the fact that you can't really move around. For me, that means that my legs get restless and my belly gets rumbly ... that unfortunately only makes the situation worse and god help the person in front of me if they steal my space by reclining their seat into my lap!
Luckily though, flying doesn't have to be all bad. Over the years I've managed to develop a handful of ways to cope with the inconvenience so I'm going to share my tips for staying sane and passing time on a long flight.
Get Snacks Ahead of Time:
The easiest thing to fix here is to make sure to get a good snack or two to help make sure you don't get too hungry. While airlines used to give out peanuts it seems like most don't these days. Peanuts are a fantastic snack since they have protein, taste great, and have a satisfying crunch when you bite into them but they are OH SO MUCH BETTER when combined with milk chocolate, caramel and nougat! Yeah, that's right I'm talking about a SNICKERS® bar and luckily you can find it at your local Walmart a LOT cheaper than what you'll find in the airport by the gate.
Load Your Phone / Tablet With Movies:
This is an easy thing to do these days since there are so many places to get movies on to your mobile devices that I've found many airlines have simply stopped showing video entertainment except on very long flights. Make sure you aren't at the whim of watching a rom-com by packing your screen with your favorite action, sci-fi, or comedy shows and that will absolutely help you kill a couple hours.
Wear a Good Headset to Dampen the Noise:
Even if you aren't going to watch a movie or listen to music that wearing a good pair of headphones makes flying a lot more enjoyable. While it won't eliminate all outside noise it will dampen the roar of the engines, the crying babies, and the chatter of the people in back of you.
Play Some Mental Games:
Mental games are going to be your friend here and it's even better if you have a buddy with you to play against. Some examples would include a challenge hunt - "find someone with red hair" or "find someone wearing a baseball hat". Others ideas would include simply counting games. For example: how many people are on the flight, how many window shades are open, how long does it take to have the call light answered. These might sound insane but it's a good way to keep the mind busy rather than focusing on how cramped and hungry you are sitting in your seat.
Be Nice to the Flight Crew:
While I find that it's always nice to treat people well the crew on your flight isn't always treated as well as they deserve. Many people have told me that the trick to having a GREAT flight is often the mood of your flight crew, so let's play the odds and make sure that YOU are an object of their affection for the next 5 hours. It's not that hard, simply bring something tasty on board to give to them like oh ... a few SNICKERS® bars. After all, your flight crew gets hungry too. Trust me, you'd MUCH rather have them satisfied rather than hangry :)
While you may never know how far it actually can get you, I've found that this works especially good on shorter regional flights but it's really never a bad idea and you'll find that there are extra cookies, a snack box left over, free drinks, or even an option to move to an empty row. SNICKERS® or no, it's always good to treat your flight crew well though, so please make sure to greet them with a "good morning" when you board the plane and thank them for things they do for you during the flight.
Do In-Seat Exercises:
While you can't do much in the plane, there are some things that you can do. While seated, this includes rotating your feet to keep blood flowing as well as occasionally twisting your torso and neck so that blood continues to flow easily. Additionally, I recommend that on any flight over 3 hours that you should stand up and take a walk to the bathroom at least once. Even if you don't have to pee, this is a chance to kill 5-10 minutes and stretch.