Picture this: You're rushing to the airport, iPhone half dead, without a worry in the world. All you need is for the battery to last until you check in so you can peruse the airport with your boarding pass. Once seated on the plane, you know you can expect an outlet to plug in your phone or laptop and in-flight Wi-Fi so you can finish a few urgent work tasks before nodding off to your favorite classic movie or the latest new release. Then you board—and to your shock and horror, there's no outlet, Wi-Fi, or entertainment system.
This dilemma is a sign that many people have gotten so used to technology being readily available on flights that it's turned them into lazy travelers. So on the off chance that your next flight is technology-free, take these tried-and-true tricks to keep you entertained. Don't sweat it if your entertainment system is nonexistent—we've got 24 things to do on a plane when you're bored.
To Keep You Distracted
Bring a book. Whether it's a random paperback bought at the airport, a fully charged and stocked Kindle, or a carefully chosen novel, you'll be happy to have the backup if your entertainment system fails.
Watch a new series. Pick one TV show you've been meaning to watch and download the first season to your iPad.
Listen to a podcast. Sync up a few TED Talks or download your favorite podcasts. You'll enjoy listening to them as you gaze at the clouds outside your window.
Play a game. If you're traveling with someone, bring a compact game to play in-flight. When traveling alone, make sure you have a few brain game apps downloaded to your phone to keep you entertained at takeoff and landing.
Have a cocktail. Yes, flying is a lot more fun with a cocktail. Make your own or order a glass of wine—just don't overdo it. Dehydration on airplanes is real.
Find shapes in the clouds. Make a Spotify playlist before leaving so you can listen to it while finding fun shapes in the clouds. Just make sure you download the playlist to play offline.
Write postcards. Why not spend precious time on your trip to write postcards? Write them on the plane on the way back, and then mail them from the airport when you land.
Plan your next trip. Because it's never too early.
To Be More Productive
Make a pros-and-cons list. Chances are you've got a dilemma that's preoccupying your thoughts. Take your flight time to write a pros-and-cons list about it and try to make a decision before you land.
Learn a language. Heading to a country where you don't speak the language? Take your flight time to learn a few key words and phrases.
Organize your bag. If you left in a rush, chances are your carry-on or handbag is a jumbled mess. Take the time to go through the contents of your bag and get everything organized.
Get online and unsubscribe to email lists. Do you have access to in-flight Wi-Fi? There are a million things to do on the internet, but only a few are actually productive. Take the time to answer all your emails and, while you're at it, unsubscribe to all those mailing lists that are clogging your inbox.
Try coloring. You know you want to try it. Bring a small set of pencils and a coloring book on your next flight—you'll never want to land.
Plan something. Plan the décor of your next home, a dinner party, a surprise birthday, or a work project. You'll be surprised how productive you can be during a few uninterrupted hours.
Edit your Instagram photos. If you took hundreds of photos on your trip, use an app like VSCO to edit and make them picture-perfect. Then drop the photos into Planoly to create the perfect Instagram grid.
Try journaling. Write down your thoughts about the trip and keep the memories forever.
To Stay Healthy
Do a sheet mask. You may be embarrassed to prance around the plane with what looks like a ghost's face, but you'll be radiant upon exiting the flight.
Stretch your legs. Get up and take a walk around the plane to avoid all sorts of health issues that arise from being seated for long periods of time. Get an extra bottle of water from the flight attendant while you're at it to stay hydrated.
Learn to meditate. There's no better time to give meditation a try than when you're stuck seated for hours.
Write a heartfelt letter or email. Take the opportunity to express your gratitude to someone, write an apology, or let someone know you care.
Eat a healthy snack. Bring your own snacks on the plane to stay healthy. That way you won't worry about missing the dinner cart, either!
Start a gratitude journal. Start small: Write down three things for every day of the past week you feel thankful for. Keep the habit when you reach your destination.
Try desk-side exercises. You can't exactly work out on a plane, but you can try desk-side exercises that you can do with very little movement.
If all else fails, sleep. If you're all out of things to do on a plane, have a snooze-worthy playlist ready, pop in your noise-canceling headphones, wrap yourself up in a blanket, and drift off to dreamland. You'll be happy you did when your jet lag is nonexistent.