Traveling during the holiday season is not generally a very relaxing experience thanks to crowds and flight delays—but there are ways to make the ordeal a lot less stressful thanks to handy little things called flight tracker apps. These pieces of software—easily downloadable on a smartphone or tablet—not only track your flight and alert you to delays, they’ll often go above and beyond, allowing you to pinpoint your exact location at 40,000 feet, and even giving you a rundown of the best places to eat during your six-hour layover. With scores of flight tracker apps to choose from, we’ve picked 10 of the best.
1. FlightAware Flight Tracker
(free; iOS, Android)
In addition to tracking the real-time flight status and location of any commercial flight worldwide, FlightAware can give you the whereabouts of those lucky enough to be cruising on a charter or private plane. With a GPS system that lets you determine your own whereabouts, see which aircraft are in your nearby vicinity (and where they’re headed), and zoom and pan around a map of the world, this free app is an aviation geek’s fantasy.
To call this free app “comprehensive” would be an understatement. In addition to real-time flight status reports, TripTracker delivers up-to-the-minute itinerary push alerts, weather reports, and even hotel and car rental information. The app becomes an all-in-one, handheld itinerary as all of your travel details—including flight info, hotel confirmation and car rental details—are automatically updated to your phone.
($4.99; iOS, Android)
A recent report by DePaul University’s Chadwick Institute for Metropolitan Development indicated that a growing number of airline passengers (more than 35 percent) are utilizing portable devices in flight, but only 10 percent are using WiFi service. Which makes FlightTrack’s offline capabilities—including real-time updates on delays, gates and cancellations for more than 3,000 airports and a zoomable map—practically a necessity.
(free; iOS, Android)
As part of the TripAdvisor family of travel products, GateGuru aims to take the guesswork out of your travels and customize your door-to-door adventure. It offers all the basic flight tracking capabilities, but where GateGuru really exceeds is in customizing your travel day plans. Once the details are set, input your itinerary and GateGuru promises to “connect the dots,” spitting out detailed info on where to check in, current airport weather conditions, estimated security wait times, airport amenities (with more than 35,000 reviews from TripAdvisor users), and last-minute deals on car rental rates.
($3.99; iOS, Android)
Sometimes all you want is a simple flight board—the kind you can find in any airport that lists all arrivals and departures in a simple, easy-to-digest design. Which is exactly the kind of straightforward information that FlightBoard offers for more than 1,400 airlines traveling to and from more than 3,000 airports, with updates made every five minutes. If the app’s appealingly old-school design looks familiar, that’s probably because it’s based on the flight board of Paris’ Charles de Gaulle Airport.
More from Condé Nast Traveler