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10 Tips to Stay Productive in Flight

If you are a frequent flyer, making good use of your time in flight can have a big impact on the overall productivity of your business trip. Unfortunately, to stay productive in flight we have to overcome some challenges: We are often relegated to tight quarters, over sized neighbors, and screaming babies. Even under the worst of circumstances, however, you do have some control. Follow these travel tips to boost your productivity on your next business trip:

Your Laptop Computer:

  1. Streamline Your Laptop: If you don’t believe in desktops, consider having two laptops: one for travel and another for in the office. Whether you or your company supplies your laptop, make sure that you keep the travel laptop as clean as possible (not the outside, the inside). You want to make sure all software is up-to-date and your laptop is as virus free as possible. Also, minimize programs and files that require heavy memory usage (E.g., iTunes, video and photo editing programs, and video, MP3 and image files) on your travel laptop unless you NEED them for work. Viruses, outdated software and large memory users slow down your computer processor, making it difficult to be “speedy” when working in flight.
  2. Laptop Batteries: This probably goes without saying, but set your battery life to “maximize” to ensure longest battery usage in flight. If you take particularly long flights, I highly recommend that you purchase an extra laptop battery. I used to travel cross country almost every week, and in order to stay productive, I packed two extra batteries for in flight work. Packing extra batteries can also help your eyes. If you’ve ever turned your laptop’s screen brightness setting to the dimmest level possible in order to save the battery, you know the strain it puts on your eyes. If you have an extra battery (or two), you can keep your screen brightness at a more comfortable level.
  3. Jump / Flash Drives: There is nothing worse than turning on your laptop, only to realize that the files you need are on the desktop computer in the office and/or at the client site. Always carry jump and flash drives so that you can easily transfer files from computer to computer.
  4. Broadband Card: This is particularly helpful in the airport. My AT&T Broadband card saved me a lot of time on layovers and during delays. Whether or not an airport offers wireless internet, a broadband card allows you to access the internet, virtually anywhere you go. There are a wide variety of broadband cards available, but basically, you purchase the card and a monthly contract with the service provider, just as you would with your cellphone. You may even be able to get on a bundled plan with certain providers.


  1. Block Out Noise: Although this may sound harsh, I strongly believe that there should be airlines specific to families traveling with small children. There is nothing worse than trying to sleep or work in flight and having a screaming baby next to you the entire trip. Your most non-confrontational and politically correct solution: Noise Canceling Headphones. There are a wide range of types, everything from Bose to Panasonic. You don’t have to spend a fortune, but you do get what you pay for, so it pays to invest wisely. Some noise canceling headphones require batteries. If you choose to use these, make sure you pack extra batteries for the business trip.
  2. iPod and Hand Held Devices: To save battery life on your travel laptop, bring an iPod or iPhone or other type of hand held device. Today, iPods (and iPhones) as well as other brands of hand held devices can store and display photos, as well as play music and videos.

In Flight Comfort:

  1. Select Your Seat Wisely: If you aren’t fortunate enough to fly first class, then opt for seats that have more space. Personally, I prefer aisle seats in exit rows. When planning your itinerary, check out to find out what seats appeal most for your business trip.
  2. Eye Care: Dim lighting in the airplane cabin and dim, small laptop screens can strain your eyes when you’re in flight. Not only can this be painful, but you can develop headaches and become very tired…neither of which are particularly good for productivity. If you don’t wear glasses already, buy a pair of light reading glasses for business travel to help ease eye strain. Also, keep eyes well lubricated with lubricating eye drops. Personally, I love Systane Lubricant Eye Drops. They are long lasting and do a great job. Finally, if you wear contacts, bring an extra pair and/or a pair of eyeglasses so that you can switch out contacts if they become uncomfortable or eyes get especially dry.
  3. Dress Comfortably: Temperatures in flight can vary greatly. Dress comfortably and layer so that you remain at a comfortable temperature. The more comfortable you are, the more you will stay productive.
  4. Get Up: When our bodies and environments are stagnant, our brains can go on auto pilot. Further, when we don’t give ourselves the time we need to release excess energy, we can become easily distracted. Take breaks and get up while in flight so that you can refocus when you come back to your seat.

How do you stay productive while in flight?

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