Surviving a Long Flight

Bjorn Koch long flights

New York to Mumbai is about a 16 hour flight without any stops or layovers.

Atlanta to Johannesburg is about 16.5 hours in the same fashion.

Dallas to Sydney is about 17 in total, one of the world’s longest nonstop flights possible. That’s 17 straight hours sitting in one seat, moving mostly to stretch your legs or use the equally cramped bathroom. All in all, long flights are not one of the more enjoyable experiences in life.

Even thinking about long-haul flights can be exhausting. But sometimes, like most everything else exhausting in life, long haul flights are a necessary evil.

So what is a person left to do on their 17-hour intercontinental flight? Here are five suggestions on how to spend your flights, even if they’re not quite 17 hours long.


Depending entirely on how easily you’re able to fall asleep, dozing off for a few hours might be one of the better ways to pass the time on a flight. Factor in, of course, how jet lag will affect you and whether you want to be sleeping for an entire flight. If, for instance, your flight lands at 4 p.m. local time (regardless of where that is), you might not want to have slept the entire plane ride in the interest of being able to fall back to sleep that evening. Regardless, sleeping is an easy way to pass the time on a long flight.



Reading is a fantastic way to allow time to melt away while you get lost in the pages of a book. Grab one (or a few magazines, or an ebook if that’s your preference) and a set of earplugs or headphones and crack it open the minute you take off. If it’s an old favorite you’ll more than likely get engrossed and wind up finishing it before you even realize you’ve been in the air for 15 hours. If reading is your game, periodic breaks to stand and stretch are recommended, though if you feel yourself beginning to drift off when you’re reading, embrace it.


Listen to Music

Your headphones are your friend when you’re on a plane, particularly one with small children. Another tip that could wind up taking you back to tip number one on this list, picking out your favorite albums or making a long flight playlist to help you pass the time is highly recommended. As an added bonus, music drowns out the other sounds on a flight and can be conducive to getting other activities done as you see fit.


Do Some Work

Need to put together a report by Friday? Want to get some work on your novel done? Maybe you just want to free write for a while, write a poem, pen a letter to your significant other or catch up on your emails. While wifi might cost you a pretty penny on a flight, what is keeping yourself relatively sane really worth?

Creative outlets like writing or drawing–whether you’re using your computer or a notepad–are great ways to both accomplish something and pass the long hours of a flight.


Have a Drink or Two

This one is best done in conjunction with one or two of the above (though perhaps skip the work). Some airlines offer free drinks on long haul flights, so take advantage and have a drink or two, assuming you’re of legal age. Some people find that a drink helps them to fall asleep or brings out their creative side, so if you fall into one of those camps, order a glass and let the time fly by.