Passing the time on planes

Well, I’ve been a bit of a missing-in-action Chitalian lately, as, once again, regular life takes hold and barely leaves me time to think!!  But as I got on a plane to Mexico City, I had some time to reflect on the literal journey to wherever it happens to be on any given day.  I thought about the flights themselves, and how I like to pass the time.

Today, as I sat in my economy seat (actually, economy plus which was nice, but I think I’ll explore the benefits of frequent flier programs in another post) I thought about the actual voyages to reach the many interesting places I have gone to recently.  Now, some people absolutely abhor flying.  I’ve never been one of those people.  I’m told that when I took my first international flight as an infant of less than 6 months of age, I was pleasant and seemed not at all fussed to be on a plane, so maybe its in my nature.  I don’t know.  But as I sat in my seat staring at the paid TV option before me I had to weigh my options and see how I wanted to pass the time.

First, you should know that I actually enjoy the forced detachment from constant reach-ability that modern life offers.  I like the fact that on a plane, I don’t have to feel at all guilty about turning my phone completely off (in fact, flights are probably the most consecutive hours my phone is ever powered down!) or not responding to texts/phone calls/emails.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m a Mac girl who totally loves her iPhone, and I like being able to contact people at any time or get online at any time.  But there’s a certain level of escape that I feel when I hear the airline staff tell me to power down my electronic devices.  For the most part, airplane time is totally “me time”.  There are times that I might use the time to work on things for the office – reports, presentations, or whatnot.  But the rest of the time, its totally time where I don’t have to feel guilty because I’m not doing the laundry, cleaning the house, organizing my paperwork, or whatever.  I can’t do any of those things because I’m on a plane…. duh.  Sorry, guilt, try someone else!

As I sat on the plane this time though, I had an interesting debate with myself, and looked around to see what those around me were doing.  I was on a United/Continental flight, and each seat was outfitted with its own TV that could receive DirectTV….. for a fee of about $8.00.  You might think to yourself, OK, $8 for a 6 hour flight…. not too bad.  But maybe it was the cheap-skate in me, but I felt resentful at having to pay for my on-board entertainment.  I chose to forgo the convenience of the TV in front of me (as, I might add, did most of those around me – I think that this DirectTV idea may prov to not be as profitable as they thought.  They might have a captive audience on planes, but I think that a lot of that audience will be equally resentful as I was, and find other ways to amuse themselves), and opt for other forms of entertainment.  Here are my favorite ways to keep busy on planes:

  1. Music.  Probably my favorite way to keep busy on a plane.  I love music.  I have an extensive and eclectic collection on my iPod and airplane rides is often when I discover old favorites that I forgot I had.  I have stand-by music for when I am just looking to relax and sleep (Enya is good for that, as is Jack Johnson – both help me relax and tune out…. and having earphones that reduce the engine noise is key).
  2. When its FREE, I like on-board entertainment systems.  My favorite is the one offered by Virgin Atlantic.  Now, I get that they’re owned by the same person as Virgin Records, etc., so by offering free music and TV on their flights it’s essentially free advertising for them, but I’m totally OK with that because they offer a great selection of music, TV shows and movies.  I’ve seen many a movie that I’ve really enjoyed but never would have sought out on my own because it happened to be one of the options on my personal movie screen.  Not too shabby!
  3. Old school printed games.  My favorites are the logic puzzles.  I’m convinced that working on these sharpens my deductive reasoning skills….. and even if they don’t, I just enjoy them!  I tend to buy them in magazine form and do them on planes with some frequency.  I also like the New York Crossword puzzles, and since I don’t do them daily, I will buy myself one of those crossword a day calendars every other year or so, and bring a few weeks worth on every trip, and do them as I go along.  My dad prefers Sudoku…. not my favorite, but also not bad.
  4. Sleep.  Ah, sleep.  Yes, I’m one of those people who has no problem conking out on a flight.  But its largely because I come prepared.  For every trip with a flight longer than 3 hours I pack the following: a pillow (and not the inflatable kind – the kind with those little beadies in them), eye shades, ear plugs and/or noise reducing ear phones for my iPod, and a shawl that can double as a blanket if needed.  These days, you can’t take anything for granted.  Airlines aren’t giving out blankets, pillows, and especially not those cute little sets with socks, earplugs, toothbrushes, etc., that they used to give out.  If you want to be sure to have these things, bring them yourself!  Or fly first class, because I think they still get them there……
  5. BYOV.  Bring Your Own Video.  Whether its DVDs that you can play on your work laptop drive during travel, the movie you downloaded to your iPod or iPad, BYOV is quickly replacing the airline provided videos.  You can watch your favorite TV shows or that movie you’ve been dying to see but never quite made it out to the theater for.
  6. Books, newspapers and magazines.  I like to go for things that I don’t think I’ll mind throwing out or giving away along the way, so that they won’t take up space in my luggage on the way home.  But these classics are still good.  And though the Nook/Kindle/iPad/whatever other eReader suits your fancy, are starting to take over the market, there’s still something to be said for the feel of a book in your hand.  Of thumbing through actual pages, not just virtual ones.  If you’re on a long trip, an eReader makes more sense because you can bring 50 books or more in one device.  But for a short one-weeker, especially if you think there’s a chance you’ll be lounging on a beach or at a pool (which sadly I’m not on this trip) it’s nice to have a paperback novel in hand.
  7. Work…. OK, if you HAVE to get something done, this isn’t a bad time to do it.  You’re not getting interrupted by phone calls, or distracted by emails.  The only down-side is that if you are looking for something online to supplement your presentation or report, it’ll have to wait until you’re on the ground and can connect to the internet, but in the meantime, you can still get a lot of the groundwork covered.

Here’s wishing you safe travels full of entertaining activities!

3 responses to “Passing the time on planes

  1. Wonderful post. I totally agree with you on the fact that they should not charge for entertainment on a plane. I do the exact same thing and act like there’s no screen in front of the chair . LOL have a safe trip

    • I’ll be surprised to see if this joint venture between DirectTV and United/Continental continues. I imagine it is expensive to outfit the planes to accept satellite TV, and from the lack of people around me who were actually using it, I’m wondering if it is worth it to them from a cost/benefit standpoint. Only time will tell, I suppose!!

  2. Ha, I also enjoy the detachment one has on a plane with no internet (I don’t connect even if it’s available), phones, or anything else. It is the perfect environment for grading because there are no distractions and you can’t surf the web instead of reading the paper in front of you. So I find this less fun than you 🙂

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