Between speaking at IT conferences, training, and personal travel, I spend a lot of time in the air. In fact, when people ask what I do for a living, my wife often jokes that I am a professional airline passenger. My Surface tablet is my go-to resource for avoiding boredom during long flights, and this article lists five apps I like to use when I travel.

Note: This article is also available as a screenshot gallery.

1: VLC Media Player

VLC Media Player (Figure A) is an open source media player that’s by far the best option I have found for playing videos. There are three things that I really like about VLC Media Player.

Figure A

First, it will play almost any video format. I have been able to play files on VLC Media Player that I wasn’t able to play using anything else. Second, VLC Media Player can correct aspect ratio problems on the fly. I have occasionally downloaded videos that were filmed in 16:9 and then saved in a 4:3 aspect ratio. VLC can convert these videos back to 16:9 while the video is playing. Finally, VLC can fix a variety of really weird video problems. For example, one of my GoPro cameras was once set up incorrectly and filmed a video upside down. VLC Media Player allowed me to watch the video right side up.

2: Fairway Solitaire

Fairway Solitaire (Figure B) is, as the name implies, a golf-themed solitaire game. I have to confess that I am not a gamer. Even though I used to write about console gaming for one of the gaming sites, I have never been good at video games and really don’t have much interest in them. Even so, I really like Fairway Solitaire. The game is loosely based around the story of an evil gopher who wants to get revenge on the golfers. Gameplay is simple, but many of the levels are deceptively difficult. For whatever reason, I find this game to be completely addictive… and I’m not even a golfer. I have spent many flights trying to beat the gopher.

Figure B

Fairway Solitaire’s price varies by platform, but a free trial version is available for download.

SEE: Five apps to get more from your GoPro camera

3: Smarter Battery

Smarter Battery (Figure C) isn’t exactly an entertainment app. But let’s face it: When your battery dies on a long flight, the entertainment stops. Sure, some planes have in-seat chargers, and there are also charging packs you can use on your devices. However, neither of these options seem to be available when I need a charge. This is where Smarter Battery comes into play. It helps you keep an eye on power consumption and can put your device into a low power, “green mode” when you really need to stretch a charge.

Figure C

Smarter Battery sells for $14, but a free trial is available for download.

4: Free YouTube Downloader

Free YouTube Downloader (Figure D) is exactly what the name suggests. It’s a free tool for downloading YouTube videos for offline viewing. Free YouTube Downloader isn’t as feature rich as some of the other video downloader apps, but it’s free and it works. I have spent many flight hours watching YouTube videos thanks to this app and a few other downloaders I use from time to time.

Figure D

5: Kindle

Kindle (Figure E) is so well known, I considered omitting it from this article. Even so, it is one of the best ebook readers on the market. Three things make Kindle so great for use while traveling. First, it’s tied into a huge content library. Second, it lets you import PDF files for reading. Finally, it doesn’t require constant internet connectivity, as some other readers do. Kindle requires internet connectivity to download a book, but books can be read while offline.

Figure E

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Other boredom-killers?

What apps do you rely on to occupy yourself on a long trips? Share your recommendations with fellow TechRepublic members.