Want to hear a funny story? Even if the answer is no, I’m still going to tell you because I’m writing this article so I’m the boss. When I was around seven or eight, I developed a persona on family vacations: “Trixie the Tour Guide.” I excelled in my tour guide duties. I made sure everyone was hydrated. I frequently redirected attention to the front of the group, where I was putting on an educational-yet-charmingly-enjoyable presentation on whatever historical landmark we had landed in front of. I ensured everyone knew to call me Trixie, even though my name was (and still is), definitively, not Trixie.
The point of this hilarious and adorable story is that I have always excelled at steering my fellow humans toward a better travel experience. Allow me to demonstrate with this exhaustive list of everything you need to download before your next flight. Now sit back, cradle your free drink in that little plastic cup, and enjoy the ride.
The airline’s app
I always download the airline app for checking in/boarding pass reasons, even though sometimes they make you go through the entire form process and then tell you that for some reason this specific flight you’re on can’t be checked in over mobile and you must go and stand in line like this is 1992 even though you didn’t choose this life. Anyways! App is always good to have just in case.
A playlist to chill out to once you’ve popped that melatonin
Last year, on a flight to Finland, I listened to the Nancy Meyers’ Kitchen Spotify playlist approximately 84 times all the way through. This playlist is MOOD with a capital everything. There is Amy Winehouse, there is Leon Bridges, there is JOSS STONE everyone. Whenever I listen to this I feel like that scene in It’s Complicated where they make the croissants. Just utterly relaxed and happy in every way.
Other playlists to consider
You will chill so hard you’ll resemble a bit player in Pineapple Express.
My lovely friend and deskmate, Abigail, created this playlist and sometimes we listen to it in The Everygirl office and FEEL ALL THE GOOD FEELINGS. Please conclude from my rampant capitalization that I feel strongly this should be in your ears immediately.
The omg-this-plane-doesn’t-have-movies solution
Planes are so random (amiright ladies). Sometimes you get the ones with 84 million movies and a USB plug and mood lighting and sometimes you get the ones that smell like cabbage. To combat this dicey plane lottery, I like to load up my first generation iPad 2 (ballin’) with several options lest I am stuck with nothing in the form of back-of-the-seat-distraction and reading is giving me a headache (adult onset motion sickness can I get a hell yeah).
The classic movie you know you’ll watch (…probably more than once)
You’ve Got Mail
I could watch this movie every day for the rest of my life. I know every single line and yet I’m still absolutely drawn in by Nora Ephron’s perfect, snappy dialogue. The sound of dial up internet gives me a pleasurable shiver due exclusively to watching this movie during my formative years as a tween, teen, and baby adult. This is still my favorite scene in all of cinema. I have watched it on many a plane and let me tell you: it’s a damn delight every time.
The wildcard movie
I like to be prepared with a film I may absolutely loathe but may become the best thing I’ve ever seen in my life. It’s always something I haven’t seen yet and it has the high potential to be turned off within 15 minutes or to be the precursor to an epic snooze. The last movie this happened with was Kingsman: The Secret Service, which I was very unsure of and then ended up LOVING and then subsequently developed a debilitating crush on Taron Egerton that persists to this day!
This year I feel The Hustle is a STRONG contender for the wildcard title. Anne Hathaway’s accent alone has rocketed this to the top of list.
Exactly three episodes of your favorite hour-long drama
I have honed this system for years and definitively proved three is the perfect amount of episodes to have downloaded of any hour-long series. One is not nearly enough, two will leave you slightly wanting more, and three will leave you pleasantly full and ready to move on with your in-flight entertainment schedule. I prefer watching dramatic TV when I fly (rather than comedies) because I find I can get more wrapped up in the story and forget about the person sitting next to me who took off their shoes and socks like a lunatic. For your consideration:
The Vampire Diaries
This show has absolutely everything you could ever need. A sexy soundtrack. Sexy actors just going to town on each other’s necks (vampires okay it’s not weird). Sexy clothes. Sexy atmospheric shots of fog and crows. The point is: it’s really sexy and will make you feel less like you’re on a plane and more like you’re speared in the searing gaze of Damon Salvatore.
Being trapped in a floating hunk of metal might not be the best time to examine the worrisome effects of technology on the human psyche but we’re all risk takers here! Black Mirror is perfect for travel because each episode stands alone and you’ll also be completely engrossed — you won’t even notice how long the flight is, you’ll be too worried about someone implanting a chip in your brain that monitors everything you do. Fun!
There is nothing I love more than subtle shade from fancy British people. Give me allllll the long, lingering looks. A serious plot point in season one of The Crown is that Princess Margaret accidentally revealed her secret love affair by — I kid you not — picking a piece of lint off the man in question’s sweater. Everyone was AFLUTTER like “that is the most intimate act.” This is the sort of programming I want.
Podcasts, podcasts, way more podcasts
Think of podcasts as the gum of entertainment. You’ll always want some and you can really never have enough on hand.
I have a ritual the night before a flight where I just go to town in the podcast app, downloading everything in sight like a shopaholic with an unlimited credit card. I specifically bought the phone with the most storage (it’s an insane amount, my parents were legit concerned like “why do you need all this what are you keeping on there”) in order to have every podcast I could ever need downloaded and ready to play at a moments notice. I have a Pavlovian response to the word “podcast” and will immediately whip my head around and start babbling about Reply All. I’d like to stress here that I do, in fact, have friends. My recommendations:
How Did This Get Made?
This is the first podcast I ever listened to and my OG ride or die. It’s three hilarious comedians (and my one day best friends) talking about bad movies and it makes me laugh harder than watching people accidentally slip on ice (am I a bad person? will think on this later). The Twilight: Breaking Dawn episodes are a non stop thrill ride of quality content.
This podcast feels like it was made specifically for me. I mean Game of Thrones, Harry Potter, nerdy stuff, and lots of sex puns?! COUNT ME IN.
I stan (are people still saying this?? youths report back) a shade-drenched podcast built exclusively on the idea of telling people: “can you not.” From the podcast powerhouses at Crooked Media.
As previously mentioned, Reply All is my podcast nirvana. Alex and PJ are a damn delight and explain things on the interwebs that make absolutely zero sense in a way that is hilarious and not condescending in the least. There is stellar reporting, great banter, and excellent production value.
Want more? OF COURSE YOU DO.
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All the books
Pull a Rory Gilmore and over-prepare with distinct types of reads so you’re ready for the wild scope of your moods. I usually bring one actual book on the plane, both to appear as a whimsical relic from another age and also to have something to do in that weird in between time during takeoff and landing when you’re not supposed to have iPads or laptops out. The rest I load up on the ol’ Kindle app for perusal at various points during the flight.
A steamy romance
I would die for a good romance novel, as I have espoused many a time. I frequently read them on planes because they are engrossing but also make you feel happy and joyful and that all is right with the world, which is a truly weird sensation to have while trapped in an airless cabin with 100 other grumbly humans. Here is my romance novel starter pack:
French Twist by Roxanne St. Claire
RomSusp (Romantic Suspense you’re welcome for the lingo)
This book is like Ocean’s 11 only with more pencil skirts and France.
Wallbanger by Alice Clayton
The book for anyone who has ever fantasied about having a hot neighbor prone to answering the door in a low-slung towel.
Again the Magic by Lisa Kleypas
Lisa Kleypas is the queen of historical romance and this is my fave of her enviable backlog. She writes a strapping, tan, dark haired, tall drink of water like nobody else. Hello, Netflix? It’s me, Kelly. Please make this into a movie. Thanks for taking this call from a rando.
A book my brother recommended
Yes, this is specific to my brother, Dan. He — like me, siblings! — is a voracious reader and in a happy coincidence reads a lot of things I don’t normally pick up/gravitate toward and then recommends them to be and I’ll be damned if I don’t enjoy every single one. And now, I’m handing down this magic to you.
I like to have these on planes because they are great for bite-size snacking aka reading a few paragraphs at a time while waiting for your travel companion to wake up from their nap.
Basketball (and Other Things) by Shea Serrano
I’d like to stress that I do not care about basketball. I like the tear-away pants and those terrycloth armbands players sometimes wear on their biceps and that about taps me out. But I really enjoy the way Serrano writes. He’s hilarious in a very understated, just-talking-to-you way that makes me feel like I’m happily ensconced in a really good dinner conversation. I read everything he writes and follow him religiously on Twitter because I’m an obsessive person. Join me!
But What If We’re Wrong? Thinking About the Present As If It Were the Past by Chuck Klosterman
Trippy but highly readable. Fun to discuss with seatmates while drinking your free soda in one gulp for fear of putting it down and then spilling it all over yourself and everyone else.
The 7 ½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton
I bought this for Dan (my brother, haven’t you been listening) for Christmas last year and so, naturally, I immediately downloaded it to my Kindle app. I read it on the flight back from Ireland this past March and it’s honestly unlike anything I have ever read in my life — twisty, deliciously dark, and unexpected at every beat.
The one everyone’s talking about
There is inevitably one book that is circulating around all your friends at the same time. You see it artfully draped over messy covers in at least three Instagram stories per day. Everywhere you go, someone casually sidles up to you, a light gleaming in their eyes with the express purpose of going “So! Have you read ______ yet?! I just finished and hoo boy let me tell you something.”
Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens
I have heard literally nothing but good things about this book. Everyone who read it loves it to pieces. Reese Witherspoon has endorsed it. If that doesn’t get it on your TBR list, I don’t know what will.
After I Do by Taylor Jenkins Reid
Taylor Jenkins Reid is a genius. That is all.
Normal People by Sally Rooney
I cannot possibly count the number of people who have recommend this book to me. Some people like it, some people don’t care for it, but everyone has read it. It’s #1 on my read-this-next-on-a-plane list because I hate not being able to discuss things in depth with my signature wit and charm.
A long-form article (preferably spooky) you’ll want to text someone about immediately upon landing
There are so many articles I have bookmarked for the express purpose of reading them on planes, because honestly who has the time elsewhere? If you’re going to start anywhere, I cannot recommend this article enough — which so thoroughly freaked me out I was actually glad to be on a plane because at least there where a lot of other people around to commiserate with if a murder decided to spree.
Any work you can do offline (hey… you might get around to it)
I usually make a list of any design work I can do without wifi and then don’t get around to any of it on the flight, but always handy to have in case of sudden inspiration or if literally every other form of entertainment listed above has somehow failed you.