When you travel across the United States or span the ocean to another continent, long flights demand preparedness to avoid boredom. Technology can offer portable amusements and in-flight support for productivity, providing entertainment or the ability to complete work-related tasks. With some exceptions imposed by government regulations and airline restrictions, you can occupy yourself during the hours from takeoff to landing.
The 10,000-Foot Rule
As of September 2013, most airlines allow the use of smartphones and cell phones only during the boarding process or while passengers deplane. At altitudes of 10,000 feet or higher and with the permission of the flight crew, you may be permitted to use your laptop, camera, tablet device or media player.
Some aircraft provide inflight Wi-Fi® access through special networking connections that don't interfere with onboard avionics. These rules are due to the possibility of electronic interference with aircraft equipment. A U.S. Federal Aviation Administration advisory committee voted in September 2013 to recommend relaxing the altitude-based portion of these restrictions, which would require FAA approval for a rule change.
Long flights can provide opportunities to catch up on work or enjoy an entertaining diversion. In some cases, however, you may need a fallback position in addition to the work or fun you planned. As Warren Chang, vice president and general manager of Fly.com points out, "I sometimes can't even open my laptop all the way when the person in front of me has reclined his or her seat." He plans ahead to assure that he can enjoy what he listens to or watches. "For entertainment, having a good set of headphones is key," he says, "to block out the background noise and to clearly hear the music or dialog from the entertainment system."
Some people pass flight time with greater ease when they keep themselves occupied. Chang notes that "The biggest challenge is finding the right activities and entertainment to make a ten-hour flight seem like a two-hour flight," adding that, "Flights seem to pass quickly when you are on a work deadline." If you know that work keeps you engrossed more readily than amusements, plan accordingly. Bryan Batten, founder of eReatah, an e-book subscription service, tries to "tear through my never-ending 'to do' list when in flight. On the flip side, sometimes it is time to turn off the productivity switch," in favor of his favorite entertainment.
Books & Magazines
Batten welcomes the chance to catch up on his reading in the air. "If I have been on an exhausting road trip, one of the things I most look forward to is settling in my seat and getting lost in a book," he says, adding that, "Nothing is better than starting and finishing a book on a cross country flight." Load your tablet device with e-books and digital magazines before you leave home, choosing reading material that you know will last you long enough to match the length of your trip.
Music & Movies
Your laptop, tablet or media player can offer hours of entertainment. To keep from loading yourself down needlessly, avoid bringing DVDs and other media along. Instead, preload your movies, TV series episodes and albums on your devices. Many flights include outlets you can use to recharge entertainment technology and laptop computers, but an extra battery, fully ready to use, can make a useful addition to your carry-on bag. So can a sleeping mask and ear plugs for the part of the trip during which you want to take a nap.
Snacks & Toys
Flying with a young child prompts the seasoned traveler to plan for her youngster's amusement so she can enjoy the devices she brought with her. Once you reach cruising altitude, your child may find games or music engrossing on a tablet device or media player. Small toys may help break the in-flight monotony, but avoid favorites that prompt your child to raise his voice in active play that could annoy other travelers. Likewise, skip items with multiple parts that can get lost or fall underfoot. Snacks that lend themselves to slow nibbling, such as raisins, can help combine nutrition and diversion.
Avoiding Device Loss
Both Chang and Batten know that entertainment devices can't help you pass the time if you leave one behind as you deplane. Chang puts his gadgets in the seat pocket in front of him, especially his phone, "as I'm one of those people who check their phones immediately upon landing." After losing a few tablet devices, Batten keeps his in his lap when his flight goes below 10,000 feet. "That way if I forget about it, at least when I stand up to deplane, it flies out of my lap and I know where it is."
Photo Credits: Anne Dale/Demand Media
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