Traveling on an airplane is forced personal time--you have no choice but to sit quietly for hours. People who fly often develop efficient ways to pass the time and be productive. Of course, the types of things you can do on an airplane depends a great deal on the length of the flight and the amenities provided by the airline.
Meals are usually served on flights longer than four hours. Eating fills time and keeps passengers occupied. Unfortunately, airline food service has diminished in recent years. The food isn't very good and airlines are cutting meals from flights that used to have them. Some sell expensive snack boxes. If you want to eat something good on an airplane, bring it with you. Non-alcoholic drinks are free on airplanes. You can buy alcohol, but drinking heavily is not a smart way to pass the time, as alcohol dehyrates the body, which at a high altitude can cause severe discomfort. Plus, intoxicated passengers are sometimes taken off airplanes in handcuffs for unruly behavior.
A flight can be a great time to catch up on some sleep. However, many people find it difficult to sleep sitting up. Other passengers and flight attendants can also be a distraction. If you want to sleep on a plane, come prepared. Wear comfortable clothing and bring a blindfold and ear plugs if you are easily disturbed. Ask for a window seat so you can lean against the wall and no one will disturb you if they need to go to the bathroom. If there are empty rows on the plane, claim one and stretch out.
Airplanes provide an array of entertainment features to distract passengers. All flights offer several channels of music. Longer flights show TV clips and full-length movies. This can be fun if the programming is something you like. If you want to guarantee that you will like the entertainment, bring a portable DVD player or laptop computer. Make sure you have enough battery power to last the entire flight.
Several hours of quiet time is a great opportunity to get some work done. The key is to be prepared. Have all your work materials easily accessible in your carry on luggage. Keep materials to a minimum since you only have your tray table to work with. Drinks and food will be handled near you on potentially bumpy flights. Keep important documents and laptop computers shielded from these things. Be realistic about the kinds of work that you can do in a small seat with people sitting around you.
You meet all types of people aboard airplanes. If you are friendly and curious, you can meet someone you would ordinarily never have contact with. This can be fun, educational and fortuitous. Many business dealings and personal relationships develop from random encounters aboard airplanes. Strike up a conversation. You never know where it might lead.
Time on an airplane is an opportunity to be alone with your thoughts. Bring a book and quietly read. Thumb through the magazines the airline provides. Close your eyes and ponder all the things you never have time to think about. Bring a pad of paper and jot down creative thoughts and spontaneous ideas. Many eureka moments occur on airplanes.
It is important to move around and get the blood flowing on a long airplane flight. Long periods of time sitting has been known to cause blood clots in the legs. Every hour or so, get up and walk around. Do some light stretching and take a few deep breaths.