Here are 7 common holiday travel nightmares, solved

If you're hitting the road or the skies this holiday season, use these tools to make your journey less of a headache.

Sarah Mitroff Managing Editor
Sarah Mitroff is a Managing Editor for CNET, overseeing our health, fitness and wellness section. Throughout her career, she's written about mobile tech, consumer tech, business and startups for Wired, MacWorld, PCWorld, and VentureBeat.
Expertise Tech, Health, Lifestyle
Sarah Mitroff
5 min read

Travel can be stressful no matter the time of year, but the holiday season is particularly awful. There are more people passing through airports and hitting the road, creating increased congestion. Throw in bad weather in some parts of the world and you're looking at delays.

Some reports suggest this year will be the worst for traveling around Thanksgiving and beyond. That's because gas prices are low, leading more people to travel, and storms are poised to halt travel in major hubs. To get through the stress of it all, you'll need to be prepared.

Whether you're heading to the airport to waiting in long security lines or stuck in a car for a few hours to visit friends and family, there are ways to make the experience less awful. CNET's rounded up the best tools to make traveling a breeze.

Screenshot by Sarah Mitroff/CNET

1. Organizing travel reservations

If your inbox is overflowing with confirmation emails for flights, hotels and rental cars, you need TripIt (iOS, Android and Windows Phone). The service corrals all the dates, ticket numbers and other vital information from your upcoming reservations and turns them into an organized travel itinerary. All you have to do is forward your travel-related emails to TripIt's address, and the service figures out the rest. TripIt can even automatically pull in your travel emails if you let it.

All the information you might need as you make your journey from airline counter to hotel check-in, including flight times and confirmation numbers, is stored in the Android app -- and you can even view it when you're offline. You also get weather reports, directions and turn-by-turn navigation for the hotels and destinations listed in your itinerary.

The app is free, or you can pay 99 cents for an ad-free version (iOS, Android). With a TripIt Pro subscription ($49 per year), you'll get real-time flight updates, track your seating info, get gate-change alerts, and even see alternate flights when your trip doesn't go according to plan.

Screenshot by Sarah Mitroff/CNET

2. Forgetting something at home

PackPoint (free, iOS and Android) makes sure you pack everything you need for the length of your trip and the weather conditions at your destination.

Tell the app where you're going, how long you'll be there and which activities you plan to do, like skiing or going out for a fancy dinner. It will then build a list of clothes, accessories and essentials (like medication) that you should pack. You can add or hide any items you need to customize your list.

There's a free version of the app, but the $2.99 premium version (iOS, Android) lets you sync with TripIt to build new lists and edit the packing templates for recurring trips.

Screenshot by Sarah Mitroff/CNET

3. Missing your flight

FlightView (free, iOS and Android; 99 cents for the ad-free version) helps you track your flight's status and saves your trips for quick access later. It will tell you if your flight is on time, plus estimated departure and arrival times from the runway, weather conditions at home and at your destination, and the terminal and gate numbers for your trip. You can track your plane in the air on a map, so either you can view your trip, or friends or family who will be picking you up from the airport can see where you are.

You can also search for airports to get information about delays, local weather conditions, a seven-day forecast, and map directions. Like TripIt, you can forward emails about your flight to FlightView and the service will automatically create a new trip for you and track your flights for delays.

Screenshot by Sarah Mitroff/CNET

4. Waiting in long lines at security

Put out by the Transportation Security Administration, MyTSA (free, iOS and Android) is good for two things: Checking the often-changing rules of air travel, and getting an estimate of wait times at the airport. The app acts like a guide, outlining what you can and cannot bring through airport security, what rules apply to checked luggage, and helping explain TSA programs, such as TSA Precheck. It's a useful tool when you have questions and I find it's faster than just searching online for the answer.

MyTSA also offer information on delays at the airport and wait times for security checkpoint lines. However, the wait times are all reported by other users, so they aren't always reliable or updated.

Screenshot by Sarah Mitroff/CNET

5. Picking up relatives from the airport

For picking up someone from the airport, Just Landed ($2.99, iOS only) is the perfect tool. It uses your GPS location and current flight schedules to help you pick the exact time to head to the airport so you're not late and your friends and family aren't left waiting.

Just Landed sports a well-designed, minimalist interface with only the tools you need for picking up a person at the airport. Once you have your friend's flight information, you can enter the flight number into the app to get the latest info about their flight on travel day, including whether the flight was delayed or will arrive early. From there, you can simply go about your day until the app notifies you (you'll need to keep notifications on) when it's time to leave for the airport in time to pick your friend up, keeping in mind current traffic conditions.

Screenshot by Sarah Mitroff/CNET

6. Getting stuck in a traffic jam

If you're driving anywhere this holiday season, Waze (free, iOS, Android and Windows Phone) is a great tool to have. It turns driving into a game and helps you find the fastest route between point A and point B.

At the core of Waze is a community-driven traffic map, which shows traffic backups, accidents, road hazards, closures, police presences and more reported by drivers and passengers on the road. You can get turn-by-turn directions, and the app will route you around traffic issues when possible. The app also helps you find the cheapest or most convenient gas stations for when you need a pit stop. You can also connect with friends and family in the app, to see their location or get an ETA on when they'll arrive at a location.

Screenshot by Sarah Mitroff/CNET

7. Finding a last-minute place to stay

Hotel Tonight (free, iOS, Android and Windows Phone) is essential for when staying with the in-laws isn't working out, or if you're stuck at the airport after a canceled flight and don't want to sleep in the terminal. It has an elegant design which makes it easy to find a nearby hotel room on short notice. And many of the rooms listed are discounted, so you'll likely get a deal.

There's no need to worry that you'll be staying at a dive -- Hotel Tonight vets all the accommodations that it lists in the app. You also get access to Hotel Tonight's 24-7 customer service, which can help you with a booking.

CNET editor Jason Parker contributed to this story.