How to turn your flight into a digital detox

Make use of your flying time to go unplug and disconnect. Here are some interesting ways to have fun while being tech-free.

Mother and daughter sitting in a plane holding hands and talking.
  • Pilar Mitchell
  • October 2019

Taking a break from the mindless screen-scrolling can be surprisingly fun - and good for you. Switch off and try these analog activities on your next flight and you can make your holiday start the second you step on the plane.

Turn flying time into story time

Travelling with kids is the perfect time to read, as long as it’s a group activity. Pick a family-friendly novel like the classic Charlotte’s Web or the contemporary Captain Underpants and read out loud.

The Harry Potter series suits adults and kids of nearly all ages, and there are illustrated versions to engage even the youngest in your group. Between adults sharing the narrator role and kids competing to do the best Hagrid impression, time will pass so quickly you’ll be at your destination before you find out who was trying to sabotage Harry during the Quidditch match.

Do an activity with the whole family

Grandkids might be looking forward to watching hours of movies on the flight, but you might be able to tempt them away from screens with some quality one-on-one time.

Bring some playing cards and let them teach you Snap, do a word search together or pack a couple of mindfulness colouring books and a packet of textas. The illustrations are intricate and involved, so everyone will love crowding around your tray table and bringing them to life with colour.

A woman plays a game on her phone on a plane.
A card game or a colouring book will be a welcome break from the screen.

Preserve your memories

The flight home is a great time to go through your photos, choose which to save and which to delete, and shortlist some for an album.

Get the kids involved. Going through photos is a lovely way to reflect on the trip together and create an album that represents everyone’s favourite memories.

When the pictures are sorted and everyone has settled down in front of their own movie, use the quiet to write a journal entry about your experiences.

Plan your holiday activities

Sometimes it’s hard to get the family together before a trip to weigh in on what they want to do while away. Not so on the plane. A 10-hour flight to Tokyo or three-hour jaunt to Auckland is the ideal time for everyone to have their say. Your seven-year-old grandson might be desperate to see the deer at Nara Park near Tokyo, and your daughter-in-law might want to do a street food tour of Singapore.

Three mature people look at a map on a plane.
Make use of the flight time to plan the details of your upcoming holiday.

Practice mindfulness

Stay off screens and try an easy grounding practice you can do anywhere, anytime to bring your attention into the present. Yoga teacher and founder of The Light Collective yoga and meditation school Sian Pascale suggests this simple breathing exercise: “Close your eyes and slowly inhale for the count of four, hold the inhale for the count of four, slowly exhale for the count of four and hold the exhale for the count of four.” The best part of this stress-busting exercise? “The effects are instantaneous,” says Sian.