You're at 20,000 feet, and you realize your flight doesn’t have WiFi — which wouldn't be a big deal, except you forgot your book at home, and none of your Spotify playlists are available offline. The summer travel season is upon us, and we just can't let this nightmare happen to you: Here's how to prep your phone so your next cross-country jaunt is time well-spent.
A couple days before your flight (or better yet, right now!), take an inventory to see what you’re missing. Perhaps it’s time for some new podcasts to tickle your brainwaves, or maybe you need a new, addictive puzzle game that will make your hours in the air simply fly by.
We’ve rounded up a handful of the best new apps, games, podcasts, and more that you should pre-load onto your phone before you step through security. These options will help you kill time in transit
and plan what's ahead once you land. Armed with these options, you’ll be able to handle any layover — even a (god forbid) unexpected extra three hours at Newark.
This article first ran June 2, 2015, but has since been updated.
Photo: Courtesy Apple.
TV & MOVIES If you’re unimpressed by the in-flight movie selection, or you just prefer watching something on your phone or tablet at your leisure, download some shows on Google Play, iTunes, or Netflix, which finally introduced offline streaming, before your trip.
Atomic Blonde Charlize Theron stars as a kick-ass secret agent in this big-budget action flick, the perfect movie to distract you from craziness at home during the holidays.
Wonder Woman Watch Gal Gadot become the superhero Hollywood needed in Patty Jenkins' summer Blockbuster hit.
La La Land The movie that tied Titanic for the most Oscar nominations of all time is finally available to watch outside of theaters. Download it now to watch the adorable love story and Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling's impressive dancing and singing chops.
MUSIC Spotify and other streaming music services won't work on your flight unless you've downloaded items or synced them to your phone for online listening. To do this on Spotify, make sure you're on a Wi-Fi network. Then, at the top of a playlist, switch on "Available Offline." A downward-facing green arrow will pop up when that playlist is ready for offline listening. Choose playlists that will get you hyped for your destination, or help you relax into a deep slumber. Or, download a new album or two. Our pick up ahead.
Kesha, Rainbow It's been years since Kesha released a new album, but the first few singles available from the upcoming prove that it's been well worth the wait. The full album is expected to come out August 11, but until then, download "Learn To Let Go" and "Woman" to tide yourself over.
Imagine Dragons, Evolve Imagine Dragons' latest album is finally out, packed with songs such as "Believer" to keep you going on that eight-hour road trip.
Blink-182, California Relive your high school years (ah, the days of listening to "All The Small Things" on repeat) with a deluxe edition of Blink-182's long-awaited 2016 album.
Photo: iTunes Store.
Feist, Pleasure The songstress behind indie favorites like "1234" and "My Moon My Man" is back with an album that's part pop, part blues — and all worth listening to.
Photo: Courtesy Amazon.
BOOKS If you’re one of those people who doesn't get motion sickness reading on flights (don’t mind us while we pop some Dramamine), immerse yourself in another world with a digital download of some fresh literature. Don’t have an e-reader? You can use the Kindle app to buy and read titles on your phone. It offers a number of convenient features, including the option to turn the background dark (or a more natural sepia) and adjust the font, its size, and the screen brightness. You can also buy books through Google Play if you’re on an Android device, or through iBooks on iOS.
by Michael Chabon Moonglow: A Novel Have you ever sat with your grandmother or grandfather and listened for hours as they told incredible stories about what life was like when they were growing up? Michael Chabon, the bestselling author of The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, captures the marvels of such stories in his latest fact-based novel about his grandparents.
by Sarah Gristwood Game of Queens You've seen the movies — now go further into the worlds of Europe's ahead-of-their-times female rulers. This biography explores the 16 century's most formidable women, from Anne Boleyn to Mary Queen of Scots.
by Beatrice Colin To Capture What We Cannot Keep: A Novel A love story in the City of Love: Beatrice Colin's novel imagines a romance that occurs as the Eiffel Tower is constructed in the background. There are the standard issues of class and status, but Colin presents them in new and magical ways.
Photo: Courtesy Cross Road.
GAMES Tease your brain and delight your eyes with some beautiful new mobile games. You’ll get sucked in and before you know it, you’ll be landing. We’ve got three options worth checking out, whether you’re looking for something simple and free or aiming to drum up all sorts of childhood nostalgia. Pictured, the Frogger-style Crossy Road. A classic (free on iOS, Android, and Windows Phone).
Photo: Panda Pop.
Panda Pop Panda Pop is the kind of game that's so fun you will get sucked into playing it for the entirety of your flight. The game's different levels require you to match and pop bubbles to save baby pandas. So yes, it's cute and addictive — the ultimate combo.
INKS This app is a combination of pinball and artwork. Your "canvas" is the pinball table and the more you hit the color blocks at the top with the ball, the more beautiful the table becomes. You'll quickly get as addicted to creating unique patterns as you will to hitting the ball.
Photo: App Store.
Reigns This new game is part Game of Thrones, part Sim City. As a medieval ruler, you'll have to answer the demands of your court and kingdom while fighting your enemies.
Photo: Courtesy Silk.
Silk Silk ($2.99 on iOS) is one of those apps that you can play for hours and hours...and hours (i.e., it's perfect for long car rides and plane trips). Pick a color and start drawing with your finger — beautiful geometric shapes will appear and regenerate on screen. Don't blame us if you can't put it down.
APPS No worries if games aren’t your thing: There are plenty of other offline apps to help you plan activities at your destination or learn something new. Just remember to download these apps before your trip, so you can access the information anywhere, at any time, without worrying about data rates or Wi-Fi access.
Photo: Courtesy TripAdvisor.
TripAdvisor Offline City Guides It’s exciting to explore a new city, but your adventures may be more fruitful if you have some idea of the hot spots you want to hit. Use TripAdvisor’s Offline City Guides app (free on iOS) to peruse the restaurants, attractions, and hotels at your destination. You can plan your days while you’re crammed in seat 24E, and once you land, you can use the app’s guided audio tours to learn the history of neighborhoods and landmarks as you walk around. Plus, it has a huge library of national and international cities — from Tel Aviv to Stockholm to Portland.
Photo: Courtesy Pocket.
Pocket We’re constantly favoriting tweets, saving articles on Facebook, and bookmarking websites to go back and read later…but we hardly ever do. If you use an app like Pocket (free on iOS and Android), you can save all those links you’re meaning to read in one handy location. Download articles before your trip (or set the app to only download them when you’re on a Wi-Fi network) and you’re ready to go. The app lays out webpages into a clean, distraction-free interface with adjustable brightness, and you can organize what you save using tags or by favoriting items. This app is handy for catching up on reading while you’re traveling, but it may end up helping you read more during your daily commute, too.
Photo: Tablet Hotels.
Tablet Hotels Tablet Hotels brings its hotel-finding expertise to your phone with its latest app (free on iOS). You'll find special upgrades and deals, plus the app makes it easy to find a well-reviewed hotel at the last minute, no matter where you are.
Photo: Courtesy Overcast.
PODCASTS Travel days are the perfect time to catch up on all those podcasts you’ve been meaning to listen to. You can use an app like Overcast (which dynamically boosts and normalizes volume for consistent listening) or Apple’s built-in Podcasts app, among other services. Here are three shows that you can learn from, laugh at, and be inspired by.
Photo: Courtesy Refinery29.
Strong Opinions Loosely Held If you're looking for something brand new to listen to, try Refinery29's podcast, Strong Opinions Loosely Held. New episodes come out on Mondays, and it covers topics ranging from what it's like being woman on death row, to why the Kardashians are important to modern culture.
How I Built This This NPR podcast centers around entrepreneurs discussing what it's like building a business and, in particular, the challenges they faced in their company's early years. The episodes include interviews with Angie Hicks of Angie's List and the founders of Instagram.