Everything You Should Download Before Your Next Flight

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 has passed, but holiday trips will be here before you know it, 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. If the airline you’re flying with publishes their entertainment offerings, make sure to compare lists. No point in downloading a movie if they’ll have it available on the flight. Save the space for something else to make the most of your travel time. 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. Just make sure that your batteries are charged!
This article first ran June 2, 2015, but has since been updated.
1 of 31
Photo: Courtesy Apple.

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.
2 of 31
Photo: iTunes.
Eighth Grade

Follow Kayla as she navigates her last week of a particularly disastrous eighth-grade experience before starting high school. It will warm your heart and make you cringe as it brings up memories of your own adolescence. Download it here.
3 of 31
Photo: iTunes.

An award show favorite, Ladybird will make you laugh, cry, and want to call your Mom (once you can take your phone off airplane mode) in less than two hours. Greta Gerwig excels at portraying genuine and relatable relationships between women whether they are best friends or a mother and daughter.

Download it here.
4 of 31
Photo: iTunes.
Sorry To Bother You

If you enjoy the surreal and slightly macabre, Sorry To Bother You, explores the ideas of corporate greed, social dynamics, and capitalism through the lens of a struggling telemarketer, Cassius Green.

Download it here.
5 of 31

The critically acclaimed Martin Luther King biopic Selma just landed on iTunes. The movie details three months of King's life in 1965 as his campaign for equal rights in Selma, AL finally leads to the signing of the Voting Rights Act.
6 of 31
Photo: Courtesy Spotify.

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 WiFi 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. It's a little more spendy, but you'll own that album forever. A few picks, up ahead.
7 of 31
Photo: Spotify.

If you’re craving a modern take on ‘90s R&B, Gallant is the first person you should add to your playlist. He recently collaborated with Noah Cyrus on “Mad At You,” but his singles “Gentlemen” and “Haha No One Can Hear You!” will become quick favorites.

Listen to him here.
8 of 31
Photo: Spotify.
Lily Moore

There’s something inexplicably soothing about a raspy, soulful voice and Lily Moore has that in spades. If there’s ever a time we want music to be soothing and soulful, it’s while we’re waiting to board at the airport. Start with “Not That Special” and you’ll be hooked. Bonus: she just released a new EP, I Will Never Be, so there's even more to listen to.

Listen to her here.
9 of 31
Photo: Spotify.

If you are a fan of catchy, synth-pop that is perfect for long drives and car dance parties, take a listen to Nightly. Their music is perfect for the drive to and from the airport.

Listen to them here.
10 of 31
Photo: iTunes.
Kesha, Rainbow

It's been years since Kesha released a new album, but the first few singles available from the upcoming Rainbow 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.
11 of 31
Photo: Courtesy Amazon.

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.
12 of 31
Photo: Amazon.
Moonglow: A Novel by Michael Chabon

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.
13 of 31
Photo: Amazon.
Game of Queens by Sarah Gristwood

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.
14 of 31
Photo: Amazon.
The Essential W.S. Merwin by W.S. Merwin

Poetry might be an unexpected choice for a plane book, but poems are much more digestible than a longer read. Merwin’s poetry is lyrical and visual and his collective works give you a smattering of various points in his career spanning 60 years. You’ll be at your gate and the next thing you know you’ll be emersed in the mind of a great American poet.
15 of 31
Photo: Amazon.
To Capture What We Cannot Keep: A Novel by Beatrice Colin

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.
16 of 31
Photo: Courtesy Cross Road.

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).
17 of 31
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.
18 of 31
Photo: 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.
19 of 31
Photo: App Store.

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.
20 of 31
Photo: Courtesy 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.
21 of 31

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.
22 of 31
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.
23 of 31
Photo: Courtesy 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.
24 of 31
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.
25 of 31
Photo: Courtesy Triposo.
Triposo (free on iOS and Android) is another way to start scoping out your destination before you get there. You can explore interesting sights and activities, including restaurants, nightlife, and even local festivals and wildlife. Use it to track down the best street food in Thailand or pinpoint secret beaches in Majorca. It has a helpful, easy-to-use search feature, and many reviewers found its restaurant recommendations “spot-on.”
26 of 31
Photo: Courtesy Overcast.

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.
27 of 31
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.
28 of 31
Photo: iTunes.
My Favorite Murder

My Favorite Murder is hands down the funniest podcast about murder. This may sound contradictory, but listen to an episode and you’ll know exactly what I mean. Co-hosts, Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark, each pick a murder to walk listeners through each week. Listen for the fascinating stories, stay for the hilarious banter.
29 of 31
Uncover: Escaping NXIVM

This set up for this podcast sounds straight out of a psychological thriller. Uncover: Escaping NXIVM is about Canadian Broadcast Channel journalist, Josh Bloch, reconnecting with an old friend who happens to have just escaped a cult.
30 of 31
Slow Burn

If you love history, investigative journalism, and podcasts that make you go “Wait, that happened?!” Slow Burn will make a great in-flight listen. The first season covers the Watergate scandal and the second takes a deep dive into Bill Clinton’s presidency. It’ll keep you on the edge of your plane seat.
31 of 31

More from Tech


R29 Original Series

Watch Now
Five love stories behind diverse, multicultural marriages.
Watch Now
Life experiments, 5 days at a time.
Watch Now
The style of subculture.
Watch Now
Viral trends, tried and tested.
Watch Now
From vibrators to lipstick, learn how your favorite products are made.
Watch Now
Extraordinary, one-of-a-kind individuals
Watch Now
The latest stories to watch.
Watch Now
Inside the homes of millennial women — & what they paid for them
Watch Now
Let's talk about sex, baby.
Watch Now
Female artisans around the world
Watch Now
Made by and for smart, opinionated women.
Watch Now
We helped 12 female directors claim their power.