There are inevitably times when travelling where there’s time to kill. I find airports and flying are the main places this happens to me. Here’s some suggestions of toys to take with you to keep yourself going out of your mind with boredom
Books, Notebooks And Ebooks
I combat airport boredom by always carrying a selection of books and my notebook for scribbling stuff in. I also always try to find the English language version of any local newspaper. You can learn a lot about a country from its newspapers, as much by what is left unsaid as to what appears in their pages. There’s also always a bit more of a guidebook that needs reading, and I’m fond of taking other books about the country I’m visiting too.
This sort of downtime is also a good time to take stock of photos on my digital camera or catch up on my travel journal. I prefer 20 baht ring spiral notebooks with plastic covers to the pricey Moleskines favoured by Bruce Chatwin, Hemingway and the like, but whatever works for you. The only drawback of taking books travelling is that they’re bulky – something perhaps the Amazon Kindle ebook reader, which can carry 100s of books in one paperback sized handheld computer, can solve, although there’s a lot of heated debate about whether it’s actually any good. The Kindle is certainly pretty ugly – it definitely lacks the beauty of a book.
iPods And Laptops
The iPod is of course the almost universal way now of listening to music on the go, and pricey-but-worth-it headphones like Sennheiser can completely block out airplane noise and everything else around you. (I wouldn’t recommend wearing these when trying to cross the road in Hanoi though). If you have an iPod Touch and access to a wireless internet network, you can surf the web – or you could go the whole hog and travel with a laptop, which provides an entire entertainment system in one box for games, movies and music, albeit quite bulky and expensive. (See my article Travelling With A Laptop for more tips on how to maximise the fun and minimise the grief of taking a laptop on your travels). You can watch movies on your iPod too, although it may be somewhat difficult to download new stuff to it while travelling.
Playstation PSP and Nintendo DS
Other boredom busters I regularly see in departure lounges are the much more portable game machines like the PSP and Nintendo DS which I’m personally ambivalent about, only because I rarely play games but when I do, I rarely do anything else. (Civilisation IV wiped out weeks of my life, ). The PSP has a nifty travel case to protect it too. I suspect if got to play with one of these I wouldn’t want to give it back. (If anyone wants to buy me one, feel free ;-)
To bring it back to being a bit more low tech – a pack of playing cards is a great investment, and cheap and light to carry too. Handy for playing Patience on your own and also teaching others the joys of Shithead. A useful icebreaker and if you’re feeling really slick, you could even learn some magic tricks which might entertain a few people along the way. Certainly trying to become the next David Blaine will keep you occupied in numerous airport lounges.
What toys do you take with you to combat boredom on the road?