If you’re looking for travel tips and mobile apps to make your airport experience better, you’ve come to the right place. For many travelers, the holiday season wasn’t exactly merry and bright due to thousands of flight cancellations. While bad weather was a factor in mass delays and cancellations, Southwest Airlines canceled nearly 75% of its flights on December 26. Despite the notion that the worst may be over, you might want to take more precautions in 2023. After all, winter weather will last for at least a few more months. With all that in mind, here are some helpful travel tips and mobile app recommendations to better help you get to your destination.

MyTSA and Flight Aware apps on an Apple iPad: Travel Tip: Use the FlightAware app
MyTSA and FlightAware Apps (credit: Randy Yagi)

Travel Tip 1: Use An Airline Flight Tracking App

If you’re like most travelers, you’ll want to know if your flight is on schedule prior to departure. While you can always use your airlines’ app or website for information, you can support it with an airline flight tracking app. In fact, flight trackers provide valuable information on your flight status, along with timely updates. What’s more, these apps provide flight information on flights worldwide and real-time data is quite accurate. Since airline flight tracking apps have been in wide use for over 10 years, you have several apps to choose from. However, the most popular are FlightAwareFlightradar24. and Flighty. Once you download an app to your smartphone, you can check on your departure by flight number, airline and so on.

Related: Thanksgiving Airport Travel Tips

Tip 2: How To Track Your Luggage

During the holidays, weary travelers didn’t have just flight delays or cancelations. Indeed, many of these travelers had to deal with lost luggage. Furthermore, Southwest Airlines had such a meltdown, some luggage took off on a flight without their owners. If that wasn’t enough, in many instances, Southwest would not release luggage without a reasonable explanation. One solution that’s more popular than ever are luggage tracking devices. This includes Apple’s AirTag and Tile, the early provider of these types of gadgets.Of course, your airline may also have a luggage tracking function on its app. As popular as AirTag is, it’s not compatible for Android devices. In spite of this, you will have no problem with Tile Mate, Tile Pro or Samsung Galaxy’s SmartTag or SmartTag Plus. As much as these gadgets can provide you some peace of mind, it won’t help if your luggage is already enroute.

If You Do Have To Check In Luggage

In addition to a luggage tracking app, there are some other things you should do. Specifically, take a few pictures with a timestamp of the exterior and interior of each piece of luggage. If your airlines causes damage to the luggage of its contents, you’ll have photo evidence to back up an insurance claim.

TSA PreCheck entrance on a slow night at San Francisco Airport - Travel Tip: apply for TSA PreCheck to avoid long lines
TSA PreCheck Entrance (credit: Randy Yagi)

Tip 3: Get TSA PreCheck or GlobalEntry

If you already have TSA-PreCheck or Global Entry, you can bypass this travel tip. However, if you plan to fly more than a few times in 2023, you should consider one or the other. By using either service, the benefits are obvious. For one, you’ll likely be in a shorter line for going through the airport screening process. For another, you won’t have to take your shoes off or remove your laptop. What’s more, the price for TSA PreCheck actually went down from $85 to $78 in November. All you have to do is apply online and make an in-person appointment at a TSA PreCheck enrollment center. Once you get approved, you’ll have this trusted traveler status for five years before renewal.

GlobalEntry

While TSA PreCheck applies only for domestic flights, you can also consider applying for GlobalEntry ($100) for international flying. By the way, GlobalEntry is valid for five years and also includes TSA PreCheck. By the way, if you are flying internationally, another mobile app to consider is Mobile Passport Control. Although it’s only accepted at select airports, this app can streamline the process of going through passport control when you return to the United States.

Related: Book Your Thanksgiving Airfare Before Halloween

A long line of people waiting to get into a restaurant to order food
Travelers Waiting for Food (credit: Randy Yagi)

Tip 4: Apps for Airport Food and Ordering

Whether you’re waiting for a connecting flight, a delay or just plain hungry, try using a travel app to locate airport restaurants. In like manner, you can also order food in advance at whichever spot you choose. In other words, you won’t have to wait in long lines to place your order then wait more to pick it up. Instead, you simply place your order then walk up to the counter when it’s ready. Equally important is that an app like Grab can show you which restaurant is closest to your departing gate. Grab is free and available for Apple iOS or Android mobile devices. That’s not to mention food apps like AtYourGate that take it a step further by delivering food for a fee to your gate. Like Grab, AtYourGate is available for both Apple iOS and Android devices.

Related: Visit Merced, California, Gateway to Yosemite

Tip 5: Don’t Overlook Hotel Booking Apps

Whether you already have reservations or staying with friends or relatives, you should have a hotel booking app. After all, what will you do if you do experience a flight cancellation and need a place to stay? Instead of calling a hotel directly, hotel booking apps can help you search and book reservations. Of course, many travel/hotel booking apps are obvious, like Booking.com, Expedia, Hotels.com and Trivago. But you should also consider using last minute hotel booking apps like HotelTonight and One:Night. In addition to hotel booking apps are vacation rental apps you can consider, like AirBnB, Vacasa and VRBO.

Tip 6: Apps For Short Term Hotel Stays

Did you know about travel apps and websites that allow you to stay in a hotel just for half a day? One site for you to visit is Dayuse, that allows you to search for hotels near your airport or city. This can be particularly helpful if your flight has been delayed or canceled with a much later rebooked flight. If you use this service, you simply choose a hotel and length of stay. Some participating hotels offer rooms for up to eight hours while others offer blocks of four hours or longer. According to Dayuse, you can save up to 75% as compared to an overnight night stay. The mobile app is available on the Apple App Store and Google Play.

A Delta Airlines plane parked at a boarding gate at an airport
Delta Airlines Plane (credit: Randy Yagi)

Tip 7: Compare Airlines Customer Service Plans

Like many travelers, you may already have an airline that you prefer to fly with. However, wouldn’t you like to know how your airline measures up with its competitors? If that’s the case, then you should look at the Department of Transportation’s new Airline Customer Service Dashboard. By visiting the website, you compare your airlines amongst others for its commitment to controllable cancellations. In more detail, you’ll see how helpful airlines is for issues like rebooking, meals, complimentary hotel accommodations and ground transportation. You’ll notice that low-cost air carriers like Allegiant, Frontier, Spirit and even Southwest do not set the same standard as major carriers. In other words, if your airlines of choice doesn’t measure up with the competition, maybe you should switch carriers.

Tip 8: Compare Airlines On-Time Performance

Airline flight tracking apps are certainly useful for any destination you fly to this year. However, aren’t you curious to know which major airlines had the best on-time performance? According to leading airlines analytics company Cirium, the leader in on-time performance last year in North America was Delta Airlines. While the Atlanta-based airline had an on-time performance of 84.1%, Alaska and United Airlines also had on-time performance of 81% or better. That was followed by American Airlines at 78.77% and Southwest Airlines at 74.68%. On the other hand, that information from Cirium was released during the holidays. To put it differently, the on-time performance for Southwest was horrible in December. If you’re curious to know, Frontier, JetBlue, Allegiant and WestJet followed behind. Surprisingly, the last entry on Cirium’s list of airlines was Air Canada, with a dismal 55.56% on time performance. In all, this travel tip may help change your airlines preference.

Tip 9: Car Rental Apps

Just like a hotel app, you might want to have a car rental app or two on your iPhone or Android. At this point, the reason why you should have B one should be obvious. In a worst-case scenario, a flight is cancelled and you can’t get another airline to fly you to your destination. This was a typical scene during the holidays in multiple airports due to bad weather or poor technology. Just as typical in December was a surge in demand for rental cars from travelers whose flight departures were cancelled. On the other hand, in a best-case scenario, you won’t need to use this travel tip, unless you already have car rental reservations. However, it doesn’t hurt to have that extra resource to fall back on in case of another airline meltdown. Besides, if you book that last minute car rental in advance, your wait in line won’t be as long.

Public Transportation Apps

Because of bad weather, flight delays and airport technical problems, car rentals were in high demand. But on the contrary, because of the demand, car rental companies raised their prices. If there is public transportation connecting to your airport, consider using it to keep your travel expenses under budget. Because of this, you might want to download your destination city’s public transportation app for affordable travel.

Travel Tip 10: Travel Insurance

One travel tip that’s often overlooked or not used is travel insurance. With all the trouble that airlines had during the holidays, travel insurance might be worth the expense. Sure, it will add another 5-10% towards your travel expenses. But with insurance purchased from your airlines or an aggregate like Squaremouth, you’ll better handle an emergency. Not only can a travel/airlines insurance plan cover for cancelled flights and missing luggage, it can also reimburse you for medical expenses and more.

Related: Squaremouth Travel Trends for the Holidays

About The Author

Randy Yagi is an award-winning freelance writer who served as the National Travel Writer for CBS from 2012-2019. More than 900 of his stories still appear in syndication across 23 CBS websites, including New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and San Francisco. During his peak years with CBS, Randy had a reported digital audience reach of 489 million and 5.5 million monthly visitors. Additionally, his stories have appeared in the Daily Meal, CBS News, CBS Radio, Engadget, NBC.com, NJ.com and Radio.com. He earned a Media Fellowship from Stanford University in 2012.