Airport delays, flight cancellations, long waits in the security line—those are some of the not-so-welcome gifts that we get during the holiday season. This year we can expect a few extra surprises on this front thanks to the expected surge in travel that the TSA says will bring the number of fliers to near pre-pandemic levels. Though we can’t avoid all holiday travel snafus, we can be prepared. This list of apps and other services will help.
Your airline’s app
Flight status, gate changes, alerts, nearby lounge info, and your mobile boarding pass—you’ll get all of these through your airline’s app.
Airsiders Health Tool for Covid-related services at the airport
Airsiders is a German B2B company that builds software so that airline work together on complex travel itineraries. What that means for us travelers is that it ends up with really useful airport data for our trips. You don’t need an app for this, just go to their website’s Health section, type in any airport, and see all the Covid-related rules and services available there, including masking policies, on-site testing centers, airport disruptions, and whether shops and restaurants are open as usual.
Cranky Concierge for emergency airline assistance
This one isn’t an app, it’s a website and (gasp!) a phone service, but none of us at WendyPerrin.com ever book complicated flights without it, because when your flight is canceled or delayed, and you really need to get where you’re going, this is the help you need. Sure, you could choose to spend frustrating hours on the phone with unhelpful airline customer service centers, trying to reroute your own trip—or you could let the experts at Cranky Concierge handle it. They have knowledge of and access to information you won’t be able to get on your own, and they can research and rebook you with the best possible option while you get a drink at the airport bar. Their urgent assistance service starts at $100 and is accessible through the website and via phone (U.S.: 888-747-1011 x9; global: +1-74-200-4200 x9).
Twitter for real-time updates from your airline
This one may seem obvious, but make sure you have Twitter on your phone: Following your airline’s feed can be one of the quickest ways to find out about delays or cancellations. It can also be an effective way to get in touch with an airline rep fast: Tweet your question or complaint to the airline, and they’re incentivized to give you a speedy answer.
A TSA app for monitoring the wait at security lines
The line at security used to be one of the most unpredictable pain points in your journey. You could guess how busy the checkpoint would be, but you couldn’t know for sure until you got there. Luckily, that has changed, and a few apps can now show you what to expect. The TSA’s official app, MyTSA, shows you estimated wait times, provides tips on what you can and cannot bring through security, and has a handy “Ask TSA” live-chat feature. MiFlight has real-time info crowd-sourced from fellow travelers using the app (available on iPhone only). App in the Air crowdsources wait times too, but it’s more of an all-around travel tool that also does everything from booking hotels and flights to providing notifications about your fight. You can also check the website of the airport; some (like JFK, EWR, and ATL) offer real-time waits at security and customs.
FlightStats for tracking flight delays and cancellations
This app tracks flight status and can alert you to delays or weather cancellations, sometimes more efficiently than the airline will. If your flight does get cancelled due to a storm and you want to do what I do—which is to find alternate flights that connect in cities that are having no weather issues—it can tell you which large hubs are unaffected by the current weather situation.
LoungeBuddy for finding an airport lounge
You no longer need to hold special status or specific credit cards to access certain airport lounges—just pay a fee and you’re entitled to all the comfy couches, free Wi-Fi, and complimentary snacks the elite travelers get. LoungeBuddy (available for iPhone only) will help you find these pay-for-the-day enclaves, show you photos and reviews posted by other travelers, and let you book a spot in advance when possible. And if you do have special access via a credit card or frequent-flier program, LoungeBuddy can store your info and let you know when those free-access lounges are nearby too.
FLIO–The Global Airport App for reserving airport lounges and parking
This multi-function app has info on more than 5,000 airports around the world that will make your time on the ground as smooth and stress-free as possible. Although it can’t do anything about the actual delays, it does provide real-time flight tracking, a lounge-booking feature, an airport parking reservation system, airport maps, and discounts at restaurants and shops.
Google Translate for communicating when you don’t speak the language
Whether you’re stuck in a foreign airport or struggling to communicate with a taxi driver, a good translation app is a must. Google’s app lets you speak right into the phone, and then it can translate, out loud, into the selected language. Pass the phone back and forth and you can have a complete (albeit slow) conversation with just about anyone. The app also has dozens of downloadable language dictionaries, so that you can use it offline.
HotelTonight for last-minute hotel stays if your flight is delayed
Sometimes things don’t go as planned (or maybe you didn’t plan at all) and you need a hotel room right now. HotelTonight is made for those times, offering last-minute discounts on hotels of various star levels. The app doesn’t cover every destination in the world, but it does include a lot of big cities and popular travel spots in the U.S. and overseas.
Uber and Lyft for getting to or from the airport, or anywhere else
When you need a ride and you don’t want to drive (or shouldn’t), these are still the go-to rideshare apps every traveler should have in their phone. Uber is also useful in many other countries around the world.
What other apps have saved you during holiday travel? Tell us about them in the comments below.
We’re Here to Help
Right now is a remarkable opportunity for global travelers who are vaccinated. When your friends say that travel is problematic as a result of the pandemic—rental cars aren’t available, service even at 5-star hotels is shoddy—the problem is they’re not planning their trips right! Travel can be spectacular now if you choose the right destination, know the savviest local fixers, and approach them the optimal way. Check out these recent trip reviews to see the difference that Wendy’s WOW approach to trip planning makes.