If you’re like me, you’re doing a whole lot of traveling this summer—some of it for fun, some of it for work, and some of it with the whole family in tow (better pack the corkscrew). I’m hitting three countries to boot: Taking the kids up to Canada for a summer at camp, then down to Mexico with my husband for a much-needed just-us vacay, with some US jaunts to both coasts sprinkled in. If you’re traveling by airplane to somewhere fun this summer, there are apps that I consider absolutely essential. People are always asking me, “What are you favorite apps for…” and with all the flying I do, I have a well-curated list that I love to share. Here’s my must-have arsenal of must-download travel apps, for before, during and after the trip. Bon voyage!
When I’m booking air travel, I have a few secret weapons for making sure things are set up right. If I’m booking in advance, I hop over to Hopper to see if it’s a good time to buy tickets. Hopper analyzes billions of flight prices daily, and over time has developed some smarts about when flight prices change, and whether or not you should buy now, or later. Always worth a look.
When I’m plotting out logistics, there’s no better dashboard than Hipmunk— it’s not a travel booking site, but it searches through thousands of them, making it effortless to sort all options by airline, departure time, and even by “agony”, their unique sorting mechanism that ranks travel based on annoyances like number of stops, flight duration and high prices.
Once I have my flights identified, I glance at SeatGuru before I choose my seats. Type in your flight number and date and this app will show you a map of the plane, accounting for perks like laptop outlets (planes that have them don’t always have them for every seat!) proximity to bathrooms (ew.) and seats that don’t recline (the worst).
Sidebar: I’m always paranoid about paying to check my bags because they’re too heavy. I feel like my bags are heavy before I even put anything in them (just me?) and I never want to be that girl, throwing things from one bag to the other on the floor of the airport. There are some digital tools that can help: If you’re in the market for a new suitcase, Raden (pictured below) makes beautiful, lightweight models that have a scale built-in— check the companion app to see if you’re under or over. To weight your existing suitcase, a digital scale like this one from Dunheger can take the guesswork out of whether you can afford to lug along that pair of boots.
Before I head to the Airport
You may have noticed the enviably short TSA Precheck line at the airport, and been thoroughly annoyed at the smart travelers who breeze through security while you snake back and forth in long lines. TSA Precheck has changed my traveling life (I mean, not having to take my shoes off or my laptop out is priceless), so I highly recommend it as an investment (it’s about $100 for domestic travel and lasts for 5 years— apply here). Along with those perks, you tend to find yourself in line with savvier travelers, which cuts back on further annoyances in line. I consistently breeze through security in 5-10 minutes. Enough said.
Whether you have TSA Precheck or not (but especially if you don’t), you’ll want to download an app called MiFlight (iOS) and take a gander at it before you head to the airport to see how long the security lines are, so you aren’t caught off-guard by a crazy line you don’t have time to wait in.
With the snarled lines at TSA security behind you, it’s time to figure out how to pass the time before your flight. GateGuru (iOS, Android) lets you check which restaurants and shops—sorted by terminal—are worth bothering with, via user-generated reviews. Whether you’re hoping for a salad in Terminal 3, or trying to figure out which McDonalds is closer to your gate, this app has you covered. I once used it to discovered a massage and manicure kiosk in an unfamiliar airport on a miserable business layover. It was like Christmas in July.
If you’re at the airport earlier than you had planned to be and curious if there’s an earlier flight home you could catch, Flightboard (iOS, Android) turns your phone into an arrivals and departures board for any airport in the world. It’s designed to look just like the screens at Charles de Gaulle in Paris, showing airline names, destinations, gates and time of arrival or departure. Unlike in an airport, thought, this screen allows the user to narrow a search to just one airline (and you don’t have to search high and low for the darn thing while dragging your luggage around).
Lastly, and I can’t recommend this enough— download the app for whatever airline you’re traveling on. Some airlines’ apps allow you to track your bag (Delta, US Airways), while others grant you access to in-flight entertainment (United). Many can come in handy if you are bumped from a flight and need to rebook, though this can vary depending on how flooded an airline’s system gets. Many apps help you track flight or gate changes (GateGuru is one of them, actually) but having the airlines app downloaded as well is a bit of extra insurance I like to have in my pocket.
Once You’re Back
Make gorgeous mementos of your trip using Impressed (iOS, Android) to create everything from photo books to square prints to even wall-decals, No need to even download your pictures to a desktop— pull photos from your smartphone and order directly from the app.
Swap tales of where you’ve been and share what you’ve loved at Findery (iOS, Android and Windows). This crowdsourced travel guide lets you leave little “notes” on a map, such as advice, memories, videos, photos, jokes—whatever you want to express about a destination. You can leave recommendations for users, from your favorite taco discovery to that bed and breakfast that was too crazy to stay a minute longer. Then, start working your way through your bucket list, using the recommendations from other Findery users to plot your next trip. After all, the world’s a pretty big place, and you’ve got plenty of summer left!