Technology has radically altered the landscape of travel planning in recent years, creating a profusion of websites, apps, and devices designed to book trips better—making it significantly more difficult to cut through the noise in the process. The solution is a carefully edited mix drawn from the hundreds of available services, which in combination can smooth out a potentially rocky odyssey into a seamless journey tailored for efficiency or pleasure.
Naturally, much of the innovation in this field is happening on a handheld scale. Silicon Valley companies are competing fiercely to crack the next killer smartphone or tablet app to find flights more cheaply and quickly. The new app Hopper sorts through the data behind billions of flights to tell you when to fly and when to book. Plug in your route, select “Watch a Trip” and you’ll receive push notifications when prices are expected to drop or rise. Supplement your options with FLYR an up-and-coming data science startup that had a $3.7 million seed round this spring and uses a proprietary algorithm that’s designed to predict airfares.
Once you’ve booked your flight, use the popular app SeatGuru—which grants access to 700 seat maps from roughly 100 airlines—to pinpoint the best seats (proximity to restrooms, most legroom) on a given plane. Airlines like Delta® are getting in on the game too. The Fly Delta app offers options like the Today feature, which collates all your trip information in one place and offers instant updates on gate changes and delays.
Another travel hack that’s recently caught on with seasoned travelers is enrolling in the US Customs and Border Protection program, Global Entry. After paying $100, undergoing a background check, and a brief in-person interview, you’ll be able to bypass immigration lines and skip paperwork when reentering the country. Simply press your fingertips on a screen at a Global Entry pass kiosk and be on your way.
Not only does the program reduce wait time by a reported 70 percent on average—it also automatically qualifies participants for the TSA Pre-Check. With Pre-Check, you are allowed to walk through a separate, faster line at airports, keep your shoes on, and leave your laptop in your bag. And if you are traveling in Delta One™, First Class or Business Class on Delta, or you are a Diamond, Platinum or Gold Medallion® member, you will enjoy the exclusive services of Sky Priority® such as faster check-in and expedited baggage.
No discussion of how technology is changing travel in 2015 would be complete without including the Apple Watch. The Passbook feature makes boarding passes and tickets accessible at the flick of a wrist. The keyless entry function, formed in collaboration with Starwood Hotels, lets you breeze through the check-in process and gain access to your hotel room. When you’ve got your hands full of bags, using the dictation feature allows you to vocally compose texts or emails to update colleagues or friends on your status once you’ve landed. You can even hail an Uber straight from the Apple Watch.
Once you’ve found the right personalized mix of digital tools for planning travel, you’ll save yourself plenty of time and grief. Gretchen Rubin, the author of Better Than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives and The Happiness Project, travels often when promoting her books. She uses FlightStats.com to check the status of flights and terminal locations. Once she arrives, she checks Twitter to pass the time. “I like to get to a flight with plenty of time to spare,” she says. And she keeps in mind that when traveling, even for business, in the end it’s often more about the journey itself than the destination. “I find it very energizing to be in a new place, talking to new people,” she says.
This article was produced on behalf of Delta Air Lines by the Quartz marketing team and not by the Quartz editorial staff.