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Keeping Adults Entertained on Long Haul Flights

Updated on January 7, 2021
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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!

You've checked in, boarded your plane, taken off and have nothing but the next several hours of traveling ahead of you. Exciting isn't it? Though I am looking forward to our destination, those long hours on the plane can be painful if I haven't packed some of the best things to take on a long haul flight. Like a child, I need to be kept entertained to keep my sanity - and don't they say time flies when you are having fun?

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 to holiday!

What's on our In-flight Entertainment?

Airlines specialising in long haul flights will offer you seat back entertainment or screens placed over-head around the cabin. Look for your entertainment guide in the seat back pocket, almost 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 up to date ones, having been released in the past 18months or so, so you are bound to find something you haven’t seen before. The online guide to what's going to be shown on your flight is usually realised 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 30mins to 2hours per show/film you watch!


What's the best audio for long haul flights?


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. You can sign up to your flights in-flight wifi (note there might be a fee for this) too, meaning you can stream as much music through your phone as you like. Spotify has been my go-to for years when it comes to streaming musics, it's 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 entertainment.

One of the best things to take on a long haul flight is a really good pair of noise cancelling headphones. I bought a really affordable pair of Anker Wireless Headphones some years ago and they are a saviour for any long haul flight. The inner ear fit cancels out excess noise and being wireless, I can move about freely without feeling like I am chained to the cabin seat.


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 Teachers Pet, Bear Brook, Dr Death, The Walk Amongst us - UK True Crime and S-Town to name but a few! Many of these are like listening to audio books 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 Brene Brown might be more up your street. 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 audio books? Audible has always been my go-to when it comes to audio books and if you manage to grab a discount code or free trial, it might cost you less than the physical book itself. The great thing about audio books is you can sit back, relax and just listen, giving your eyes a break. You can find yourself so relaxed and submerged in the novel that you may even forget you're on a plane. I love listening to sci-fy audio books such as The Expanse series by James S A Corey or listening to the author themselves read their autobiography such as Michelle Obama reading Becoming.

Time Elapsed: anywhere from 3 mins per song to a few hours with an audio book!


What should I read on my flight?


Books are some of the best things to take on a long haul flight if you ask me. A self confessed book worm 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 bookclub recommendation, especially for a pool side 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 make sure they don't expire whilst you're away (though most libraries have apps now so you can renew the loan from the other side of the globe!).


Either 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 tomb 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 back lighting, so you don't have to faff with the annoying 'reading' light above your seat.

Magazines / Newspapers

Yes, I still buy magazines in 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, 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 20mins to 1hour depending how engrossed you are!


What are the best games for long haul 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 distracted fun for multiple players too. Your smart phone 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, sudoko 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 onto that might not be available on your in-flight entertainment system!

Card and Travel Games

With the seat back trays pulled down and a few card 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 is and small enough to take up 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 end of uses once you reach your destination too. Pool side game of poker anyone?

Travel sized games such as Monopoly, Scrabble, Cluedo, and Guess Who are all time classics, 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 loving pulling out a physical board game, even in travel size to pass some time.

Time Elapsed: 1 hour+ depending on how much your enjoying the game!

How to entertain your toddler on a long haul flight

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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    • mquee profile image


      9 years ago from Columbia, SC

      A lot of very good suggestions and ideas for travelers. There was a time when flying was a restful, if not peaceful experience. Now with all of the security precautions which causes people to have to hurry to get to a changeover flight, it takes awhile to get the stress level down. Very good hub.


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