With so much travel advice saturating the web, I’m always struck by how little focus there is on what to do while in the actual act of traveling.
Big trips — whether with family, with friends, or on solo adventures — tend to involve long flights, country-spanning train rides, and the like. And the innumerable travel bloggers across the internet seldom touch on how they occupy themselves during these long, in-between hours.
In a way, I get it. We don’t like to equate basic, everyday hobbies and entertainment with travel, because travel is supposed to be about new experiences. Modern nomads cultivate an impression that they spend every waking minute soaking up new culture and enjoying new scenery. And this is an excellent mindset to have when embarking on a new journey! But there are still in-between hours — sometimes quite a few — and it can’t hurt to plan a bit of entertainment for them.
With that in mind, I want to share some of my own tips for self-amusement on those long train and plane rides abroad.
“I figure it’s a good time to make myself read something a little longer.”
My first suggestion may be entirely predictable, but it’s still one of my favorite ways to occupy time during those spare hours traveling. Of course, what you read is up to you, and figuring out your journeying reading list is half the fun. Naturally, many gravitate toward cultivated lists of the best books to read while traveling: engaging series like Tolkien’s The Lord Of The Rings, or books about travel, like Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love. Others grab the latest page-turning mysteries off of bookshop front shelves. As for me? I have a bizarre habit of opting for classics while traveling. I figure it’s a good time to make myself read something a little longer that requires a little more patience, and most of them are quite good once you get into them. My last transatlantic flight took me much of the way through Crime And Punishment!
“Invest in a writing tablet that allows you to write on a touchscreen and save the content digitally.”
Writing isn’t for everybody, but if it appeals to you at all it makes for another great travel hobby. It might be a journal of your thoughts and experiences; it might be a series of poems or song lyrics that come to you out of nowhere; perhaps you’ll even get into writing a short story or two. Whatever the case, it’s another excellent way to pass the time if it’s something that appeals to you. Pro tip: Invest in a writing tablet that allows you to write on a touchscreen and save the content digitally. They’re not that expensive, they wont’t drain your computer battery, and they’re easier to travel with than physical journals.
Play An Old Game:
This will likely only appeal to travelers of a certain age. But one of my favorite travel tricks is to pull out my old GameBoy Color, grab a few nostalgic games, and stash a pack of batteries in my bag. When I was a child, the GameBoy was a must on plane rides and long car trips, and it’s every bit as helpful today when I need to pass the time. And even if you don’t keep an old GameBoy around, you can still find this and other handheld devices for sale online. They give you access to plenty of fun games you won’t need to drain your phone battery for.
Play Poker Online:
This isn’t an option everyone has access to online. But while traveling, there is often an opportunity to get into online poker games with relative ease. So long as you have an internet connection on your plane or train, you need only find a site you like, make an account (it only takes a few minutes), and start playing. This idea was originally something of a novelty for me, because I hail from a state where online poker is essentially prohibited, and travel offered a chance to try it out. But now I recognize online poker as a fairly effective way to pass the hours and have a bit of fun during that travel downtime. (And if you have trouble getting online or accessing a site, there’s always the option of an offline PC poker game as well!)
Fill A Crossword Book:
“Before you know it, you’ll have gotten through a few hours of a long plane or train ride.”
It’s old-school, and it’s fairly self-explanatory, but I still love filling in a book of crosswords while on vacation also. Particularly if you can find a book full of topics that interest you, it can be a lot of fun to get lost in. Before you know it, you’ll have gotten through a few hours of a long plane or train ride, and if you’ve completed some puzzles in the process you’ll have a nice sense of accomplishment too!
Dive Into The Criterion:
Streaming films and TV shows is another popular option for those looking to fill travel downtime. Personally I don’t like to take the TV route, because it’s too easy to get hooked and want to keep watching episodes during your trip. Films can be ideal though, and again I recommend catching up on some classics. Specifically, the must-see films of the Criterion Channel make for excellent travel activity. If you’re not familiar, Criterion is basically a streaming platform for iconic films (as opposed to just what’s new or popular). It’s a wonderful place to check out films you might not ever get around to otherwise, as well as a place to expose yourself to legendary directors from eras past.
Sketch Your Plans:
Last but not least, consider sketching out aspects of your trip! We’ve discussed maintaining a digital diary of photos while traveling before, but if you like to sketch or draw, this is another great way to preserve scenes, memories, and ideas. That may mean drawing what you see out the window of a train as you speed along, or it may mean sketching your vision of an activity or destination you’re on your way toward. It’s a fun way to occupy your time, and it can result in another sort of visual diary to look back on (or share with others) after your trip.
Hopefully some of these ideas will help you to fill those long, spare hours next time you’re out in the world. Even with a focus on experiences and destinations, there’s always a bit of downtime to manage.