I’m OK at technology writing. But I’m amazing at air travel. I do it so doggone much that I can’t help but become an expert.
Technology has a lot to do with it, though. In this video, I’ve distilled all my tricks for painless, speedy plane travel into a brisk, illustrated three minutes. For your reference, here are the sites and apps I’ve come to rely on:
Before you fly
Hipmunk. Visual flight schedules. By far the easiest way to plan your trip.
FlightAware. See where every flight is in the sky. Maps of altitude and speed. The high and low prices paid for tickets on that flight. And, most useful of all: Its average for being early or late.
SeatGuru. Don’t choose a seat online until you’ve checked it here! You’ll find out if your seat doesn’t recline, doesn’t have a window, has a broken TV, and so on. No ugly surprises.
SeatAlert.com. When you book your flight and find that only middle seats are available, what should you do? Panic? No — go here and ask to be notified if an aisle or window opens up. They often do, so you can swoop in and snag them.
The day of the flight
Your airline’s app. Use the airline’s app to check in — while you’re still at home. That way, you buy yourself a lot more time. You don’t have to be at the airport an hour before the flight; you’ve already checked in. Every major airline except Virgin has an app (and Virgin is working on one).
Passbook. If you have an iPhone, add your electronic boarding pass to the built-in Passbook app. Every time you have to show your boarding pass — at TSA and at the gate — you don’t have to unlock your phone or hunt for the right screen.
TSA Precheck. A lot has changed with this program, which lets you breeze through security without taking off your belt, shoes, jacket, or underwear — and without taking your toiletries and laptop out.
Ear protection. I’ve tested all the noise-canceling headphones. Bose’s are expensive, but they’re still better than their rivals. Or, for something more compact, use Flents foam earplugs. They’re four bucks for 10 pairs, and they do wonders for your ears and your sanity.