Your suitcase may be packed, but that doesn't mean you're fully prepared for your holiday travel. No one can fully prepare for the stress that comes with it.
But thankfully, there are simple things you can do to take some of that stress off your shoulders. No, you can't change the long lines and crowded airports, but you can change how you navigate through them.
That's why anyone who's planning on traveling this year needs these three crucial apps. We're assuming you've already found a great deal on a flight, so these apps will help you steer clear of those headache-causing zones until you've arrived at your destination.
1. Get gate information and status updates
If you're stuck in an unfamiliar airport and don't know where to go, you'll need some help getting around.
Maybe you're just hanging out between flights. Or maybe you're killing some time before takeoff. Either way, you don't want to risk getting lost.
Before your trip, download GateGuru on your phone (Apple, Android; free). Besides offering real-time flight status reports, security wait times and other gate information, GateGuru offers a complete look at airports themselves.
View a list of airport restaurants, or check out the airport's shops and services. The app even includes more than 35,000 reviews and tips with 10,000 photos from fellow travelers.
Need help finding something? You can find your way around with airport terminal maps for more than 200 locations across the world. Not only that, you can use GateGuru to reserve airport rental cars at a discount.
2. Prevent jet lag using light from your phone
While traveling from one time zone to another, it's a good possibility you'll arrive with jet lag. This common side effect of traveling is caused by a disrupted circadian clock or the "internal clock" that keeps us all on a day-night cycle.
But what if you could trick your body into thinking it was in a different time zone already? Actually, you can.
Download the Entrain app (Apple, Android; free) if you hate feeling exhausted after traveling. Entrain was developed by the University of Michigan, and it simulates your circadian clock using light settings on your cellphone.
It works by setting a "light schedule" for you. This schedule then uses mathematically optimal lighting recommendations to help you adjust as fast as possible to new time zones and schedules.
Before your trip, simply "schedule a trip" to get a light schedule. Then, follow the recommended schedule to avoid jet lag.
3. Don't waste time at baggage claim
When your flight lands, you might think that the worst part is over, but it's not. Unless you only packed a carry-on, you still have to navigate down to that crowded baggage claim area.
Under normal traveling conditions, baggage claim isn't that bad. But, with the extra traffic caused by winter travelers, grabbing your luggage can be a nightmare. Everyone is anxious to get out of the airport and be on their way. Plus, they're probably cranky and have short tempers.
This is why we recommend the Trakdot Luggage Tracker app (Apple, Android; free). The app is paired with a device that goes in your luggage and uses GPS to track its location.
Although Trakdot was primarily designed to help travelers locate lost luggage, it also comes in handy in this situation.
The Trakdot device uses micro-electronics and ground-based cellular telephone technologies to report the position of your luggage. It also has a built-in sensor that automatically puts the device into "airplane mode" when the plane takes off and shifts it back into "normal" mode when the plane lands.
Using the associated app, travelers can monitor their luggage from the point of landing and know when it's on the move. This means, while everyone else waits anxiously at baggage claim, you can swing by Starbucks for a coffee. When your bags start moving, you'll know that it's finally time to head down.
Speaking of holiday travel, check out the best time to get the lowest airfare for Thanksgiving and Christmas travel
Like every year, many people will be traveling over the holidays. Whether your children or grandchildren are coming home from college for a long Thanksgiving weekend, or you are traveling across the country to spend time with the in-laws over Christmas, there's a good chance that you're going to book a flight.