I Learned to Build a Gallery Wall, Take Photos, and Care for Houseplants All While on a Plane — Here’s How You Can, Too

published May 20, 2022
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As someone who is travel-obsessed — it’s part of my job as a freelance travel writer — I find myself flying a lot. Although my first activity of choice is to sleep (primarily because I don’t mind red-eye flights), getting some zzz’s isn’t always feasible. 

On a recent flight, I decided I had just enough time to catch a short movie or watch a few sitcom episodes to whisk my brain away for a few mindless moments. While I was checking out the in-flight offerings, I stumbled upon a section filled with experts giving their take on how to do things. I soon found myself watching a series of videos on how to enhance my travel photography, which was extremely helpful as I on my way to explore the quaint town of Todos Santos in Mexico.

Credit: Jennifer Prince
Putting my new travel photography skills to good use in Todos Santos, Mexico.

On subsequent flights, I learned how to build a gallery wall and care for my houseplants. Instead of mindlessly consuming reruns, I was learning without even realizing it, which all got me thinking: Without paying for in-flight WiFi, how else could I maximize my time while sitting idle? Armed with earbuds, reading glasses, and a cell phone or tablet, here are a few things I suggest.

Peruse your airline’s in-flight offerings. 

I made my recent discovery on an American Airlines flight via their Skillshare offerings (bonus: AA also offers language learning via Rosetta Stone). If I had clicked on something other than the lifestyle section, I wouldn’t have come across the mini-lessons available on my flight. The hosts were informative and engaging and delivered content through multiple bite-sized videos of less than 10 minutes. Depending on what airline you’re on, dive deep into what your particular flight offers. You may find exciting documentaries, how-to’s, or decorating shows to satiate your desire to learn while on the go.

Credit: Getty Images / Luis Alvarez

Stock up on episodes of an enriching podcast.

Like many, my go-to genre for podcasts is true crime. However, there are so many other types that can teach you something or open your eyes to a different viewpoint, and all you have to do is download your choices before your flight. Love writing and language? Listen to “Grammar Girl’s Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing.” If you’re traveling with a child, consider listening to “But Why: A Podcast for Curious Kids” together. Decorating Tips and Tricks, meanwhile, is perfect if you’re looking to up your interior design game.

Download a Masterclass.

Although you have to be a member of Masterclass in order to download lessons — not all are available for download, so check here for a complete list — it’s well worth it if you want to dedicate your flight time to learning. Experts teach topics like cooking, thinking skills, and floral design. You can even learn the basics of singing from Mariah Carey or channel your inner middle schooler and watch Bill Nye teach science. 

Credit: Andrii Kobryn

Go old-school and take a book.

Ditch the fiction novel, and do some educational reading instead — and no, I’m not talking about boring textbooks. Head to your local library or score a good used book from a site like ABE Books. Select anything from “OM for the hOMe,” which teaches holistic design, to “Urban Jungle: Living and Styling with Plants” to become a better plant parent. If you still seek a page-turner, select a real-life story, such as Suleika Jauoad’s memoir “Between Two Kingdoms: A Memoir of a Life Interrupted,” or another biographical tale to pass the time easily while learning something new.