Movies, Music and TV in the Air

I find myself spending much too much time on airplanes. This past year
I earned status on one airline, and almost on a second. My fiancee is
travelling so much that she is going platinum on multiple airlines.
With all this time spent in the air and on the road we’ve gone through
quite a few of the many options for taking media in the air. Technology
continues to evolve and provide a never ending supply of ways to
entertain yourself on the plane. I find myself carrying far too many of
them, with a laptop (or 2), an iPod Video, a Nintendo DS, and my
phone. Today, I thought I’d just try and capture a few of the many
options out there for consumption while flying the friendly skies. 

Laptop – Something almost every business traveler drags along, as do many others. Good screen size. Plenty of storage space for media. Plays DVDs/Blu-ray. Heavy option, if media playback on the plane is the only point in bringing it. Crappy battery life for long trips. I feel like if I get to watch the whole movie than it’s a good day.

Portable DVD Player – Take your DVD collection with you…literally. This option offers a nice screen size depending on model you choose, and potentially decent battery life. Smaller than a laptop. But you have to actually bring physical discs with you, so decide what you want to watch before you leave the house. There are a few ways to work around bringing your own.

Buy DVDs / CDs at the airport – Seems every airport now has a stand or store where you can select from a horrible selection of overpriced DVDs and CDs. Personally, I’m not a big fan of this option.

Rent DVD & return at destination – Never actually participated in this. I am always slightly concerned there won’t be an easy place to drop the disc off on the other end, and/or I won’t have time to go hunt it down.

The new disposable rental – I’ve noticed this popping up all over the last few months. The disposable DVD rental. For something like $5.99 you can rent the movie, and watch it as much as you want inside a 24-hour period. Then throw the disc out. The green side of me thinks this is wasteful. However, for busy travellers definitely more convienent than the rent and return option.

Watch whatever Netflix just showed up – Often times this is the route I go. It just doesn’t require any thinking, planning, or cash.


The Portable MP3 Player
– Pretty good choice for music consumption. Battery life should be plenty for any day of travel. Most players today have enough storage for huge music collections, so you never have to worry about leaving your ABBA Gold behind. 

The iPhone/iTouch – Music, Movies & Games all in one. There is certainly something to be said for that. Most people can handle adding movies/music via iTunes. You can add your own with just a little bit of effort. I’ve heard that by reducing brightness and disabling the phone portion 6+ hours of video can be enjoyed. That’s not too shabby. Should do for most flights, especially since you can’t watch during takeoff and landing. Gaming leaves a little to be desired. iGames tend to be OK, but lack in depth what you might get for a real portable gaming system.

The Blackberry
– I have one. I put a couple songs on it. For some reason I haven’t really done any more than that. I love my phone, but I’ve never really had the urge to load it full of stuff. Maybe I’ll try that for my next flight. The phone’s battery life is exceptional, so I guess I’ll give this a go next time and load up my microSD card. There’s an issue…limited by microSD for storage.


The Nintendo DS – Great selection of games. Can buy game cartridges that allow microSD cards for video/audio playback extending the capabilities of console. Smaller screen than most phones for video viewing. Battery life is amazing. I can charge the DS, game a little every day and not have battery issues for a week. Not sure about battery life during video, have not personally tried it.

The Sony PSP
– Bigger screen than the DS. Easier to load media on than the DS. UMD is stupid. IMO, gaming not as good as DS. (Worldwide sales numbers would probably support that conclusion)


DirectTV – This is nice, a full lineup of 40 or 50 stations that you can tune in anytime during your flight. The only thing is, when you’re on those mid-day flights you are reminded of how bad daytime television is and find yourself praying you’ll stumble upon a rerun of any of the crime dramas. Or maybe just indulge that guilty pleasure reality show you can’t even set to record on your DVR, but hey, if it’s the only thing on… Free on JetBlue, $5 on Frontier.

On Demand Movies – I had this once, flying first class. A large selection of recent releases, hot food, silverware and free cocktails. I strongly recommend this avenue.


Don’t forget the headphones!!!

Noise Cancelling Headphones – These can make flying much more pleasant by filtering/drowning out ambient sounds. There are tradeoffs in size and quality of noise cancelling between the two pairs we own.

Sennheiser PXC250 – Smaller, foldable, easy to travel with. Smaller ear pieces and less effective noise cancelling. Enabling it does seem to bump audio volume a couple db. $100ish.

Bose QuietComfort 3 On Ear – Good noise cancelling, I prefer over ear but my fiancee likes the on ear fit of these. Larger, and when packed in travel case occupy a bit of space in the bag. $300ish.

I’d really love to find a great pair of tiny buds with noise cancelling. Or maybe try the custom fit buds.


So what do you bring on the road when you travel?