12 ways to entertain yourself on a flight without a laptop

Stay calm. You’ll survive 12 hours on a flight without a laptop or tablet, I promise. Here’s how…

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What’s the fuss? US President Donald Trump and the American government are considering a ban on laptops and tablets in hand luggage on flights from the UK, extending restrictions enforced earlier this year in March.

You might feel panicked at the prospect of spending a long, boring flight with only in-flight entertainment to keep you occupied if this comes into affect, but there are loads of ways to stay busy on a plane that don’t involve electronics. Here are 12 suggestions on how to pass the time next time you’re on a flight without 21st century tech…

1. Read a book

I’ll get the obvious one out of the way first. But it’s a valid point. The last US ban (announced at the end of March 2017) included e-readers, so you’re safest bet is to pick up a paperback.  I’ve doggedly clung on to old fashioned books and refuse to use an e-reader because I can’t trust myself to keep my phone charged let alone a Kindle, but if you’re a fan of electronic books and haven’t bought a paperback in years then I recommend bargain bin roulette. Find the 99p bargain book bin, stick you’re hand in and go with the first book you pull out – Jame Patterson, Jenny Colgan and Sir Alan Sugar fans won’t be disappointed!

2. Play sudoku

Or any other pen and paper based puzzle game. Pick up a stack of these mind bogglers from WHSmiths before you jump on board your flight and you’ll have hours of fun, half-finishing sudoku puzzles, tormenting your travel companion by interrupting their peace with pleas for help on cryptic clues and getting leaked biro all over your hands. And if you thought sudoku was a solo sport, think again – race your neighbour to the solution to get your heart racing. The prize? A packet of complimentary airline biscuits.

3. Do a brain dump

I find flights are the best time to spew out all of the thoughts and ideas whizzing around my brain on to paper, the to do lists, the blog post ideas, the things nagging me at that particular moment. Use the down time from tech to scribble your thoughts, plan what you’re going to see and do on your trip, or even start that book you’ve been boring your mates about for years.

Note which says

4. Colour in

This is the third idea for staying entertained on a long flight that involves pens and paper, but it’s one for all of those who get too mad at puzzles and prefer making pretty pictures to ineligible scribbles (speaking for my own, I’m sure yours are masterful works of prose). There are loads of colouring books on the market, I don’t need to tell you that if you’ve ever been to the bestseller aisles of a supermarket or Amazon. My picks? The sweary ones.

5. Take photos

Keep it non-creepy though, none of unsuspecting fellow passengers. I mean clouds, the earth below, selfies, you could even try and make something Instagram worth from the tray of reheated mush you get at meal time. Get creative and start snapping to pass the time.

6. Speak to fellow passengers

Personally, I’m not sure how keen I am to just strike up a conversation with the random person next to me, there are far too many things that could go wrong. Are they an oversharer who will describe in great detail how much their piles hurt and how they’ve had to buy a special travel pillow for the journey, or maybe they’ll whip out the family photo album and I’ll be stuck looking at pictures of someone’s granny that, quite frankly, I couldn’t care less about? Having said that, it could go all very pleasantly and you might discover a new pal for the duration of the flight, but best dodge the Facebook ad at the end, it’ll just be another person clogging up your feed that you never speak to and barely remember where you met. Alternatively, speak to those you’ve actually travelled with, you know, your friends or family, usually the ones we ignore when we’ve got a laptop or tablet with us.

7. Sleep

Easier said than done, but if you’re one of those lucky souls who can sleep on the edge of a matchstick and can get 40 winks on plane, by all means do it! Close those peepers and before you know it you’ll have killed at least 20 minutes. Aids to get you there include travel pillows, Nytol and the fortune to not be sat next to a crying baby.

8. Cloud watch

Pick out shapes in the fluffy stuff outside your window. Is it a dragon? A castle? An elephant? It’s timing ticking away that’s for sure!

View from window or airplane

9. Play the Duty Free game

Admittedly, my thought when flicking through the in flight Duty Free mag is usually, “who honestly buys this toot.” This in itself provides some entertainment, but you can turn browsing this catalogue of over-priced watches and style-devoid sunnies into a game to pass the time. Open it at a random double spread and pick which item across the two pages you’d rather have. Are you a Swarovski crystal or Sekonda ‘Seksy’ kind of watch girl? Michael Kors or Armani man smell? That should kill all of 10 minutes at least.

10. Would you rather…?

Lose an arm or a leg? Eat vomit or lick the sole of your flip flop? Be rich and have no friends, or be poor but popular? Whether you go philosophical or downright disgusting, answers can be insightful (or just disturbing) and this game can last for hours. That’s hours of free fun without the need for a screen.

11. Eat

Really. Slowly. Chew every mouthful 100 times. Halfway through you might even forget what slop you’ve been served and actually be able to eat everything on your tray. Maybe.

Airplane food, assorted sandwiches

I love carrot, sugar and tuna sandwiches! And chicken ham, oh you spoil me!

12. Drink

Ok, so I know drinking on a flight isn’t the best thing for you. Getting drunk is only going to bite you in the arse when you nose-dive into a hangover in the 7th hour of a 12 hour flight and that kid behind you won’t stop screaming – “will someone shut him up with an iPad! Oh wait…” But god, if you’ve crossed off everything else on this list and you’re still searching for something to do, then you bloody deserve a drink! Just take your gin with a few waters in between, and with any luck you’ll be able to take a nap and not arrive too dehydrated.

Drinking on board a flight to stay busy

I’m not trying to be condescending with this list. I’m just as guilty as the next person of experiencing that blip in my belly, the dread at having to spend 10 hours plus on a plane without my choice of TV shows and movies to switch off to. In a world where we’re less reliant on scheduling and have the huge benefit of being able to choose entertainment on demand, losing these freedoms can seem daunting. But it’s ok, you’ll survive (some slight mocking there), you might even find a new way to stay busy that you actually enjoy!

Any other ideas for staying busy on a flight that I’ve missed out? Add your suggestions in the comment section below.

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