10 Things to Do on a 10-Hour Flight

Jessica Peterson

10 things to do on a 10-hour flight

The only person I know who loves flying is a pilot. The rest of us globetrotters simply view it as a means to an end, and that includes me.

Living in the middle of the Pacific Ocean means I’m regularly on long-haul flights. (New York to Tokyo is 14 hours, and I still have four more hours to get home to Guam!) Living half-a-world away for the last five and a half years, I’ve challenged myself to master the art of traveling, and especially flying. That means being ultra prepared for long flights, while still packing light. But beyond packing, there’s the mental challenge of being in a plane for half a day. Obviously, you can occupy time watching TV, sleeping, and reading. But wait, there’s more! Read my 10 things to do on an 10-hour flight.

Catch up on thank-you cards

There’s always someone to thank and a simple note goes a long way between family, friends, neighbors, and even business associates. Thank-you cards take up less than a pound in your carry-on, so bring a stack and get writing!

Write someone a personal letter

If a card won’t suffice, write a letter. I cannot remember the last time I received a handwritten letter in the mail. It’s one of the few gifts that is truly unique and personal. Bring nice stationary, a pen, and your deepest thoughts. You could even type out the letter first, then pen it in your best handwriting.

Start that novel

If you’re like me, you’ve been starting and stopping your novel for years — both on paper and in your head. A long flight is the perfect time to unleash your creativity. If you’re not sure where to begin, start with a character outline. If you’re really ambitious, create a spreadsheet, and follow these directions to flesh out your ideas.

Write a screenplay


Want to skip the paperback section and go straight to film? Write a screenplay! If you have WIFI during the flight, create a free account at Celtx to get started. This software allows you to format your script easily and to industry standards. I used Celtx to write my Cairns documentary script.

Create a movie

Global Girl Travels girl in Macao

You’ve probably got a hard drive full of travel photos. Bring them on your next flight and create a slideshow or film in iMovie. If you haven’t used iMovie, be assured it’s very easy, even if you’re not a filmmaker. Be sure to bring your headphones and if you want to add your favorite music, load up your laptop before you take flight.

Balance your checkbook

A little less glamorous than all that creative stuff, there are just some chores we put off. If money management is one of them, be a big boy or girl and get to work on your next flight. Most of us are banking online these days, so if your flight doesn’t have WIFI, simply download your bank statements before you jet. A word of caution, don’t pull up account numbers on your device as other passengers may see your screen.

Read a travel guidebook

I love travel guidebooks, but I don’t always read them from cover-to-cover before I head out. That’s because I usually have a long flight ahead where I can continue to plan my trip. (I typically only book a hotel for the first night or two, so I can keep my itinerary open to wandering.) I’ve found that Lonely Planet books are the most reliable and realistic, so if I’m going somewhere new, I’ll download the ePub to my iPad or iPhone.

Practice photography from 20,000 feet


It’s not only safer to bring your camera on-board, it’s also more fun. I’ve kicked myself a few times for not having my camera poised to capture sunstreaked mountains or colorful coastlines. Sure, a phone can suffice, but if you own a DSLR, pack it in your carry-on. You might not get National Geographic quality shots from a tiny airplane window, but aerial footage is aerial footage and you’ve already paid for the flight!

Edit your photos

brandon li on guam

I’m most proud of myself when I return home from a trip with a folder full of edited photos. I force myself to buckle down and edit in my downtime at the hotel, airport, and on the plane. I make sure my Photoshop software is up-to-date on my Macbook and that I’ve got plenty of hard drive space to back-up and save my photos. If you’re not going for pro-level photography and you have WIFI, use Google+ to edit your photos. There are actually quite a few cool settings to give your phone snaps a filmic quality, like the one above.

Plan your next trip

jessica peterson tanguisson beach, guam

I almost always have the post-vacation blues. Having another trip to look forward to helps with that! Even if you’re still saving money, it can’t hurt to start planning your next weekend getaway or cross-country adventure. Download travel guidebooks for destinations on your bucket list and start dreaming!

How do you occupy your time on long flights?


  1. Lo {Travel the Unbeaten Path}
    April 23, 2015 at 12:28 am

    Pre-baby I always caught up on my reading; it’s the best way to finish a book, uninterruptedly! Now, I’ve got my own personal entertainment center with my little guy!

  2. amanda @burgerabroad
    April 23, 2015 at 12:49 am

    Great ideas! I always like to remind people to bring stuff to do when traveling, you’ll never regret it! Personally, I like to read travel-inpired novels or novels about the designation I’m en route too. It adds a bit of magic to the journey. 🙂

  3. Megan MacNee
    April 23, 2015 at 1:54 am

    I love the idea of using the time to write thank you notes and personal letters. It is something I am horrible at keeping up with and hoping to get better at. Most of my flights are much shorter than your but I still think I’m going to try and make that a habit. Thanks for sharing!

  4. Adventurous Appetite
    April 23, 2015 at 11:10 am

    Nice list! I HATE all the 10+ hour flights I have to take, as an expat living in China. But, as you said, it’s a necessary evil. I love editing my photos on planes and taking advantage of the uninterrupted movie time 🙂


  5. supal {chevrons & éclairs}
    April 25, 2015 at 7:40 pm

    SO SMART! I love this list. I have a crazy long flight in the end of May and I’m literally going to take all these tips along with me…

  6. Adelaide
    April 25, 2015 at 11:34 pm

    I was on a 14 hour flight from Dubai to Sydney and that was horrible! I was hungover and I watched about 5 movies. Definitely the worst 24hours of my life.

    Good tips! https://aworldlyaddiction.wordpress.com/

  7. Stephanie Rogers
    April 26, 2015 at 5:51 am

    I can already sense this list is going to be a lifesaver for my long flight to India… I normally just watch countless films on end but I’d rather spend my flight time productively! Thanks for the tips!

    The Student Traveller

  8. Emma @ AdventuresofaLondonKiwi
    April 27, 2015 at 3:09 am

    I’m usually dreaming up my next trip too!

  9. Eric Gamble
    December 7, 2016 at 2:53 pm

    great post, I especially like the writing letters and thank you cards to people. It’s a lost art but everyone loves getting REAL SNAIL MAIL these days. Plus if you mail it form your travel spot they get to receive a cool foreign stamp if they are into that stuff.
    Personally I also use as a good time to learn. I often bring a small pack of blank flash cards and write out foreign words and phrases I need to know how to say and then study them.

  10. marriott435342@mail.ru
    February 8, 2017 at 6:11 am

    Actually this very difficult for us to do long journey with air plan. So i am sure your ten suggestion should be help us to get more help from here and we can apply these in our life.

Leave a Reply

Your message*

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>