How to not get bored and stay entertained on a long flight

There’s a lot more to do on the plane than watch movies… and we're not just talking about Netflix downloads (although that's a pretty great idea too).

A woman sitting in a window seat of a plane looking out and smiling
  • Pilar Mitchell
  • November 2019

Even when you’re travelling with the most awesome airline, flights can feel long, and you need entertainment to pass the time. These in-flight boredom-busters are so effective, one minute you’ll be settling into your seat, the next you’ll be landing at your destination.

Get organised for your trip

Even on a flight with no Wi-Fi, there are plenty of trip planning apps that work offline. Before you leave home, use Google Maps to sync the cities you’ll be visiting and explore the streets of Ho Chi Minh City before you land. For money, XE Currency Converter gives you exchange rates in real time.

Want everything in one app? Try Triposo, which mines travel guide information from sites all over the web. Download the data pack for your destination and it will give you information on activities, restaurants, maps and currency conversions all offline.

Catch up on your reading

Holidays are the perfect time to get stuck into a good book, whether it’s the old school paper kind or an audiobook downloaded onto your phone.

Don’t reach for a challenging piece of literature, though. You’re on holidays! Instead go for an easy vacation read: a romance, a classic whodunit, a collection of funny essays.

A flatlay of travel gear including a mobile phone, camera, hat, sunglasses and passport
You can download audiobooks on to your smartphone ahead of your flight

Train your brain

You might not be able to exercise your body while flying, but you can exercise your brain. Games on apps like Lumosity claim to improve your memory, problem solving skills and make your brain more elastic, but even if they don’t, they’re pretty fun.

If a classic approach is more your style, pick up a puzzle book at the airport before you take off. Try word jumbles or Sudoku, or really challenge yourself and master the art of the cryptic crossword.

Take an art project

Maybe the art world is hailing you the next Banksy, or maybe you’re drawing the same stick people you drew in kindergarten. Either way, pulling down your tray table and drawing is a meditative way to pass the time in the air.

Art savants will only need a sketchbook and a pencil to get drawing. For everyone else, try a pack of fancy textas and a mindfulness colouring book.

A girl draws in her journal on a flight.
From colouring books to crochet, art is a great way to pass the time.

DIY in-flight entertainment

On a long haul trip, in-flight entertainment is your lifeline. But what if you’re on the return leg of your journey and you exhausted your list of must-see flicks at the start of your holiday? That’s when a bit of DIY entertainment comes in handy.

Find a good binge-worthy series on Netflix – think Stranger Things, or a good Scandi noir – and download the whole series onto your tablet.

Pro tip: calculate your flight time and choose a series you can watch start to finish between take-off and landing.

A woman taps on a tablet screen
Having pre-downloaded movies on your device can be a lifesaver on flights.

Learn the local language

The flight from Melbourne to Tokyo is 10 hours, which is plenty of time to learn a lot more than domo-arigato-mister-roboto. Take advantage of the long flight to learn the language of your destination country using a free app.

You could start with phrases like, “Where is the toilet please?” Then you can move on to the important stuff like, “Which train station has the best soba shop?” and “Where can I buy an authentic Anello backpack?”