Even if you like flying, it is easy to get bored on an airplane. There are only so many times that you can flip through the in-flight magazine and marvel at the cost of the sandwiches and perfumes. And, games of I Spy tend to get wrapped up quickly when all you can see is uncomfortable businessmen and crumpled copies of the Guardian.
Long haul flights can be especially daunting. As a passenger, you know that your only entertainment is you. Sure, there might be a Disney movie or an action flick on offer, but it can only take up so much time. What if you're on a 9-hour flight? How many back to back episodes of Breaking Bad can one brain take?
This is why it's so important to pack smart. If you pack a whole range of fun things in your hand luggage, you can keep yourself entertained for hours. They don't have to be overly heavy or bulky items. Nor do they have to be things that the sophisticated grown up you wish you could be would choose. If you know you're not going to read that postmodern novel, swap it for something more useful.
This guide to the top ten essentials that you need in your hand luggage will help you to stay entertained even on the longest of flights.
1. Reading Material
A lot of travellers make the mistake of bringing along a brand new book. This is a great opportunity to start that Tolstoy novel they tell themselves. What they choose to ignore is the fact that same novel has been collecting dust on a shelf for months. If you wouldn't read it at home, a long haul flight is not going to be any different. Whether you prefer books, magazines, newspapers, or holiday brochures, give in to your guilty pleasures and stay entertained.
If you want to listen to music or watch a movie, you absolutely must bring a pair of noise-cancelling headphones. This is not the back of the night bus, on your way home from the club, you must keep your tunes to yourself. While you can never be quite sure that the man in Aisle 3B doesn't share your love of obscure drum and bass tracks, it is always best to assume he's a jazz fan.
3. Mobile Phone
These days, it's more absurd to imagine that anybody would fly without their mobile phone to hand. Nevertheless, it is worth pointing out that that Candy Crush or Farmville addiction could come in handy on a long flight. For bonus points, pretend that you're at your desk at work and the air stewardess is your boss. Can you beat the level before she reaches your seat and asks you for the midweek numbers?
4. Colouring Book
No, really. There's a good reason why adult colouring books are currently all the rage. They help you to relax, bring your blood pressure down, and they improve hand-eye coordination skills. If you slip a cheap colouring book and some sturdy pencils into your hand luggage, you could be entertained for hours. It doesn't even have to be a grown-up book. Just pick up a regular one and bend the rules. You're an adult, of course you can make all the faces green.
Despite being almost weightless, earplugs often get overlooked when it comes to hand luggage supplies. If you're the kind of person who can easily tune others out, you might not need them. Most of us, however, are a little fussier. That toddler might be smiling now, but what happens when the crisps and sweets run out? If you pack earplugs, it's not your problem.
On longer flights, snacking can be a good way to break up the hours and keep yourself entertained. If you are looking to save money, packing some crisps, nuts, granola bars, sweets, and other bites will keep you well stocked. All food items do have to pass through customs checks, so make sure that they are unopened or stored in a suitable container. So, don't make a scene if that half-eaten banana has to be binned. You'll find another one.
7. Phrase Book
If you look in the right places, you should be able to find an inexpensive phrase book at the airport. Or, if you are super prepared, you can pick one up from your local bookshop. You don't have to spend a lot of money on one of those miniature books will do. Pop it in your hand luggage and brush up on your lingo during the flight. You'll be feeling worldly and cosmopolitan before you even get off the plane. Omelette du fromage, s'il vous plait? Yes, please.
8. Travel Sized/Pocket Games
You would be surprised at how many classic games you can get in travel sized form. Whether it's Scrabble, Connect Four, dominoes, or chess that gets your synapses firing, treat yourself to a little competition. If you are traveling alone, make sure that your neighbour is keen to get involved. If they are wearing headphones or reading a book, they probably don't want to be disturbed, no matter how widely you grin and thrust your Scrabble tiles at them.
9. Travel Planner
For those who like to start their travel adventures as soon as they hit the sky, a little pocketbook or mini notebook can be a valuable asset. It gives you the opportunity to jot down some itinerary ideas, list some of your favourite attractions, and makes notes on handy phrases, directions, dates, times, and telephone numbers. And, if your impending trip brings out the artist in you, it's the perfect place to write your first short story. E.L James - Eat your heart out.
10. Laptop Computer
For a long time, the general consensus was that you shouldn't really take your laptop computer abroad unless you need it for work. These days, things are very different. More people do rely on their personal computers for work, even while traveling, and lots of people fly with them simply for entertainment. If you are going to carry it in your hand luggage, make sure that it is easy to slide out of your bag, does not encroach on the space meant for your neighbour, and that you always use earphones.