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The Best Ways to Stay Entertained on Long-Haul Flights

Sarah has spent many years travelling across the Atlantic and is here to share her tips and tricks with you on all things flight and travel!

With the right items in your carry-on, a long-haul flight can actually be a lot of fun!

With the right items in your carry-on, a long-haul flight can actually be a lot of fun!

How to Beat Boredom on Long Flights

You've checked in, boarded your plane and taken off; now you have nothing but the next several hours of traveling ahead of you. Exciting isn't it? Though you are likely looking forward to your destination, those long hours on the plane can be painful if you haven't packed the right things in your carry-on bag.

At least for myself, I need to be kept entertained to keep my sanity. With a few long-haul flight essentials in my hand luggage, I can keep myself amused, enjoy my flight and arrive at my destination relaxed, refreshed and ready for my holiday! Don't they say time flies when you are having fun?

What's on the In-Flight Entertainment?

Airlines specialising in long-haul flights will offer you seatback entertainment or screens placed over-head around the cabin. Look for your entertainment guide in the seatback pocket. It's like a television guide, which will show you what films are available, as well as TV shows, cartoons, documentaries, destination guides and audio channels.

The films are generally current ones, having been released in the past 18 months or so. You are bound to find something you haven’t seen before. The online guide of what's going to be shown on your flight is usually released a few months in advance too, so you could always consider putting off watching something if you know it's going to be available on your flight!

Time Elapsed: Anywhere from 30 minutes to 2 hours per show/film you watch!

Sitting on the plane, preparing for take off.

Sitting on the plane, preparing for take off.

What's the Best Audio for Long-Haul Flights?

These days, there are tons of different audio options to keep you entertained while you travel.


There’s nothing like drowning away the sounds of hundreds of other chattering, laughing and screaming passengers (especially if you are sitting anywhere near some unruly young children!).

If you use an online music service such as Spotify, remember to download your favourite albums and playlists by selecting them for offline availability. Of course you can also sign up for in-flight WiFi, meaning you can stream as much music through your phone as you like, but there might be a fee for this.

Spotify has been my go-to for years when it comes to streaming music; its radio channels based on your favourite artists always introduce me to someone new, and with podcasts, audiobooks and more now being available through the app, it's a one-stop shop for audio entertainment.


Spotify has a great podcast selection that's updated daily, but I'm a big fan of using the CastBox podcast app. I love crime podcasts: Serial, The Teacher's Pet, Bear Brook, Dr. Death, They Walk Among Us - UK True Crime and S-Town to name but a few! Many of these are like listening to audiobooks themselves, they're so gripping!

Of course, if true crime isn't your thing, then Dan Carlin's Hardcore History, Joe Rogan, Harry Potter and the Sacred Text or Unlocking Us by Brené Brown might be more up your alley. Recently, I found Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen available as a chapter-by-chapter podcast!


For those who find it a little too distracting to read on the plane, or fancy listening to the soothing voice of Stephen Fry for a few hours (who doesn't?), why not invest in some audiobooks?

Audible has always been my go-to when it comes to audiobooks, and if you manage to grab a discount code or free trial, it might cost you less than the physical book itself.

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The great thing about audiobooks is you can sit back, relax and just listen, giving your eyes a break. You might find yourself so relaxed and submerged in the novel that you forget you're even on a plane. I love listening to sci-fi audiobooks, such as The Expanse series by James S. A. Corey, or listening to authors read their autobiographies, such as Michelle Obama reading Becoming.

Time Elapsed: Anywhere from a few minutes per song to a few hours with an audiobook!

Using your smart phone on the plane.

Using your smart phone on the plane.

What Should I Read on My Flight?

Physical Books

Books are some of the best things to take on a long-haul flight, if you ask me. A self-confessed bookworm from an early age, it's always been a tradition of mine to buy a new book at the airport—there's usually always a Waterstones or WH Smiths in the departures lounge! I'll either go with something specific in mind or I'll peruse the on-offer tables. You can never go wrong with a Richard & Judy book club recommendation, especially for a poolside read.

As much as I love my Kindle, and always load it up and pack it, there's something about a physical book that is just a must on my holiday essentials list. In the past, I have taken library books away with me, but I have to make sure they don't expire whilst I'm away (though most libraries have apps now, so you can renew the loan from the other side of the globe!).


Whether you go with a Kindle, your phone, your tablet, or another e-reading device, you can pretty much read anything from the classics to a best seller as long as you have access to a screen.

If I'm reading a pretty hefty tome or working my way through a series, say Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan, I much prefer having them on my Kindle so I don't lose half my luggage allowance to books! Kindles also make reading on the go much more comfortable, especially if you have a device with backlighting, so you don't have to faff with the annoying 'reading' light above your seat.

I've had my Kindle for 12+ years now and it's filled with comforting classics, new to-be-reads, 99p bargains from the daily deal and more. I'm carrying a library in the palm of my hand!

One thing I always make sure to do is to have a wide variety of choices available—you never know how your mood is going to change whilst travelling! From personal development to a poolside-ready rom-com, a heart-pounding thriller or a nail-biting mystery, I like having access to it all. My Kindle is never short of ways to entertain me. Considering how old my current Kindle is, the battery life is phenomenal, and I've never been caught by a dying battery on any trip I've taken over the years!

Magazines and Newspapers

Yes, I still buy magazines at the airport! I think it's the only time I'll pick up a gossip magazine. It just screams holiday to me, and more often than not, I end up sharing them with the group I am travelling with, and usually friends made around the pool.

They're not an essential, but they are a little travel treat, especially if they come with some fancy travel-sized freebies. Most magazines are available on your phone, tablet or Kindle these days too.

Time Elapsed: Anywhere from 20 minutes to 1 hour, depending on how engrossed you are!

Using your laptop on your plane journey

Using your laptop on your plane journey

What Are the Best Games for Long Flights?


Where would we be without handheld gaming devices? I know my Nintendo Switch is my best friend, and when it comes to flying, it can provide hours of distracting fun for multiple players too.

Your smartphone will have access to hundreds of games in the app store too; everyone still plays Angry Birds...right? I'm a big fan of crossword, sudoku and word search apps too, most of which are usually free.

Though it might not be considered a game by some, Duolingo is one of the most-used apps on my phone, especially when travelling to a non-English speaking country. Duolingo is a free language-learning app that will provide hours of challenging but fun learning for all ages.

If you have access to a tablet device, you can play the same much-loved games from your phone there on the bigger screen. There are also a couple of games and apps that have LAN multi-player functionality, so you can play with your travelling group together as you fly.

Though I don't tend to travel with my laptop if I can help it, you can always download a few games on yours to take along too. Tablets and laptops are the go-to when travelling with older kids; letting them bring their at-home hobbies along for the ride tends to stop them from getting too restless during long haul flights. Laptops and tablets are also great for downloading a few episodes of your favourite show or a couple of films that might not be available on your in-flight entertainment system!

Card and Travel Games

With the seatback trays pulled down and a few games in mind, you can get through quite a few hours playing card games with your traveling companions, or playing games such as solitaire of pyramids by yourself. A deck of cards is cheap and small enough to take up next to no room in your hand luggage. They're one of the best things to take on a long-haul flight, as you'll find no shortage of uses for them once you reach your destination too. Poolside game of poker anyone?

Travel-sized games such as Monopoly, Scrabble, Cluedo, and Guess Who are all-time classics that are particularly great if you are traveling with kids. Just try not to lose all the pieces! Games with a magnetic board and storage drawers in the game board are a good idea. Though these are often replaced with their app counterparts these days, call me old-fashioned but I still love pulling out a physical board game—even in travel size—to pass some time.

Time Elapsed: Anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour or more depending on how much you're enjoying the game!

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2011 Sarah Campbell

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