Looking toward the upcoming travel season with Christmas just around the corner, one could easily be frustrated with or daunted by the disaster-inducing adventures of airport antics and travel tomfoolery. Honestly, I am right there on my knees with you, begging to skip all the holiday travel pain and magically spawn on the front steps of family members’ houses throughout the holidays. Without the ability to teleport to our final destination, we are reduced to security lines, overweight checked baggage, overpriced Starbucks, and traffic.
Traveling is a pain, but using the right equipment can help keep you sane until you do finally get to your favorite family member’s couch. Having travelled on my Honeymoon over the Thanksgiving holiday with my now-wife, we used our MACcessories – iPhones, apps, and bags – to navigate the perils of airport travel, capture photographs, carry our necessities, and even choose seats on our flights. The following is an expose of how our trip was simplified and made more enjoyable with the right items – forget the TalkBoy, you are going to need a lot more excitement than that!
Before heading to the airport, my wife packed up her Incase compact backpack, designed to hold a 15″ MacBook Pro. The laptop slot in the main compartment, if not actually holding a laptop, is perfect for magazines or small books, which are both important time distractors on a long flight or when stuck in a room of family you would rather ignore. The soft-lined top pocket is large enough for your iPhone/iPod or sunglasses and offers adequate protection. The front pocket is a great size for passports, wallets, or other quick-reach items of similar size. Most importantly, the bag is compact, but large enough for the essentials and an extra change of clothes in case the airline loses your checked baggage. Ladies – my wife wanted to report the bag is short enough to wear while in the restroom, which is important if you do not want to set it on the floor!
While on the plane, I used a Rokform Folding Rokstand to watch a movie on my iPhone. The stand is perfect because it collapses and comes with its own travel bag. Headphones are a must in this situation and I prefer a quality pair of earbuds, which offer excellent noise isolating. Keep in mind, noise isolating is not noise cancellation. Well fitting earbuds will fill your ear canal, limiting much of the excess noise of an airplane cabin. My earbuds of choice are the Ultimate Ears 500 by Logitech. At times, I have placed them in my ears just to get some shut-eye. The UE 500s work perfectly for travel, especially when the crying baby in the back just won’t shut up.
Of course our iPhones were the pivotal point of our journey, which utilized the following travel-related apps to ease our pains.
Fly Delta (free), our most used app, allowing us to receive push notifications about our flights. In addition, Delta Airlines allows passengers to use electronic check-in via the app and will even produce an E-boarding pass, which you can use en-lieu of a printed gate ticket. If that wasn’t enough, you can request a seat change from the app or see your current seating arrangement on a diagram of your plane. Amazing. In addition, the app provides the ability for multiple people to watch your flight status; if you give friends and/or family your Delta booking number, they too will receive the push notifications (assuming they have the app installed).
iFly (free, or iFly Pro $6.99) is an airport guide app that indexes over 700 airports. The app allowed us to find restaurants and view terminal maps. We used the free version, which is decent for the information, but personally, I would rather use an actual terminal guide located in the airport. It is not the most beautiful app I have ever used either.
ESPN Scorecenter (free) was the only way we could keep up with our Virginia Tech Hokies, as they played in the ACC Championship (LET’S GO!….). Once we got situated at the gate, we watched the entire first half of the game on Watch ESPN (free). The game was HD quality when my 3G network was firing on all cylinders. During bowl week after Christmas, this app is your life-line if Aunt Rose insists on watching It’s A Wonderful Life for the fifth time.
FaceTime (native to iOS) helped us get in touch with my parents from the airport in St. Lucia. With the free airport WiFi connection, we were able to make a free international call from my iPhone to my parent’s iPhone. This is also possible with Skype (free), which can be used to make free international voice or video calls to others who are logged in.
Find My Friends (free) allows your followers to GPS locate your iPhone. Now, this is quite a scary proposition, but temporary monitoring is an option. I allowed my parents to track my phone for the duration of our flights. This enabled them to check the app to see if we had landed and where we might be, if on the road. Sharing your location during holiday travel season might ensure mom doesn’t keep calling you wondering when you will arrive- love you mom!
Starbucks (free) has an excellent app that will locate the nearest Starbucks location on the road. If you are feeling board or curious, for that matter, the app will let you build your own drinks from the in-app menu – I found a lot of coffee options I did not know Starbucks had by using this app. Most conveniently, you can register a Starbucks card on the app and pay from your phone at the register (demo). To reload your card, simply input your credit card information and the app will add money to your account before your order comes up!
For quick fixes while waiting at the gate or in any other holding pen used for travelers, we played games including: Angry Birds ($.99); Doodle Jump ($.99); Whirly Word (free); Bejeweled ($.99); Cut the Rope ($.99); Jetpack Joyride ($.99); and, Bump Four (free), allows two people to play against each other via bluetooth. On the flight, longer games may be necessary to keep your attention away from the two strangers you are wedged between. Puzzle Agent ($4.99) is a great puzzle game with an excellent story line. You will need to keep that in-flight napkin to jot notes on if you want to solve any puzzles.
Final Words of Encouragement
The holidays are stressful enough and traveling only makes things worse. If you plan accordingly and grab the right gear for the job, you will at least have a more enjoyable experience. The included list of items, accessories, and apps are only a short list of the items we used during our travels. Good places to find other travel apps include the travel section on the App Store, individual airline web pages, and AppShopper.com, which boasts its own app (link, free).
Lastly, nothing beats having the right backpack. It is best to pick one out at a store where you can try it on, make sure it has a lot of little pockets for your travel needs, and, most importantly, has a convenient way to grab those headphones!