There are a lot of things that can make going to the airport stressful and frustrating: bad weather, long lines, mediocre food. Fortunately, solving (at least some of) these problems and improving your airport experience can be as easy as downloading an app. From finding a lounge to retreat to during a long layover to bypassing the lines at customs—for free!—your phone can help you in many unexpected ways. Here are the eight airport apps to download before your next trip.
1. Mobile Passport Control
Mobile Passport aims to cut down on the time we spend waiting in line at Customs and Immigration by streamlining the entry process back into the United States. Like Global Entry, it does not replace the need for a physical passport, but lets passengers join a dedicated (and faster) line for clearing customs. Unlike Global Entry, it’s completely free and focuses on speeding up passport control by having travelers complete entry forms on their phone (rather than on paper or at a kiosk). Currently, the app is only eligible for U.S. citizens and Canadian B1/B2 citizen visitors.
“Some airline apps, like Delta’s, are good about keeping you updated if your flight is delayed and where your plane is coming from. And others aren’t. That’s why I consult FlightAware’s mobile app whenever I have a delay. Just put in your flight number to see where your plane actually is by clicking over to ‘Track Inbound Plane.’ That way you can see if it’s on its way to your airport and adjust your expectations accordingly.” —Lyndsey Matthews, senior commerce editor
No one likes spending a three-hour layover sitting at the gate. While the best alternative may be hanging out in a cushy airline lounge, it’s not always clear how to find one—especially at an affordable rate. LoungeBuddy has you covered, with its ability to spit out information on lounge areas near you; it uses information like your elite status with an airline (or lack thereof), lounge memberships, and itinerary details. The app also allows you to post photos of and review a lounge for the sake of fellow travelers—and future reference.
4. App in the Air
App in the Air helps travelers simplify their travel journey by keeping all your flight information across all airlines in one place. Departure date, time, airport terminal, gate, and the type of aircraft can be accessed in one app. You are even able to keep track of all your boarding passes and airline alliances and rewards.
If security checkpoint lines are always 100 times longer than your patience, download MyTSA. Get the scoop on the delays in your airport before you even arrive. MyTSA gives travelers an estimate of how long they can anticipate waiting in line at security checkpoints from data collected from the past two hours. Bonus: You’ll never second-guess what will make it through security screenings with TSA’s guidelines for what you can and can’t pack in your carry-on or checked bags.
Developed by University of Michigan researchers, Entrain keeps jet lag at bay by mapping out your sleep schedule according to your body’s circadian rhythms. It relies on your reported light data to recommend the best sleeping and waking hours for you in your new time zone. This helps your biological rhythms kick back into gear, minimizing your jet lag. For the app to work, you have to enter the following data correctly: your current time zone, your destination’s time zone, and the brightest light you can tolerate during your trip. Enjoy the jet ride more and lag a little less.
Trippie takes the guesswork out of deciding where to eat on a long layover. This app shares the map layout of 22 airports around the world along with all the places to eat in them. Tracking your location in the airport, the app will allow you to know how far from your gate all the food spots are and make navigating any huge airport a breeze.
Use SpotHero to reserve your parking space at the airport or nearby lots in advance. Since long-term parking can get a little pricey, the app also allows you to browse lower rates at nearby off-airport lots with shuttle service. Don’t stress yourself the next time you have to park your car at the airport for a week-long trip.
This article was originally published in 2019. It was updated June 9, 2022, with new information.