Ryan Irelan

is a publisher, author, developer, husband, and father. At 6'5" he can't dunk a basketball but he sure wishes he could.

What I do: Happy Cog & Mijingo

Traveling Like it's 2014

This is Part 1 of the 2014 edition of my tips on traveling. Part 1 covers apps.

There is a lot more information available than a typical airline employee will share or know. But I like to travel with as much information as is available. The apps I use are all geared toward this. Here are my favorite apps and some tips for traveling in 2014.

Airline Apps

Before a trip I always download the app for the airline on which I’m traveling. Yes, most of the apps are terrible but they offer functionality I can’t get with a third party travel app; I can easily change seats, buy upgrades, and get flight updates (but those apps aren’t always the best for flight status—more on that in a minute).

Travel Apps on iOS

On my last trip, as I was walking through the Atlanta airport to my gate for my flight home, I opened Delta’s iOS app and quickly changed my seat from an exit row aisle seat right side to an exit row aisle seat left side after I noticed that the three exit row seats on the left side were empty. It was more likely that the middle seat would remain empty and I would have even more room than the typical increased leg room (that little hunch was right, by the way).

This was about 90 minutes before my flight left and didn’t require me to stand in line or talk to anyone.

Other Travel Apps

A couple other apps that I find critical to a saner travel experience:

FlightTrack Pro

There is a new version of this app in the App Store called FlightTrack 5. Up until writing this article I’ve used the original version of FlightTrack (FlightTrack Pro, no longer available) but the new version is nice and I’ll switch to it. It does not, however, offer TripIt sync like its predecessor.

FlightTrack Pro

Before each trip I enter my entire flight itinerary into FlightTrack Pro. The app sends alerts prior to the flight and for any changes like delays or gate changes. FlightTrack Pro gives you a bit more detail, like that your flight will leave the gate 5 minutes late but is still on-time.

It can be angst-inducing at first but once you realize the airlines pad their schedules you’ll be fine. I like the extra information because I like to know as many details about my flights as possible.

FlightTrack Pro and FlightTrack 5 let you easily look up alternative flights based on your itinerary. This is particularly useful when you’re standing in line trying to get rebooked after a cancelled or missed flight.


I used the FlightAware website before I downloaded the app. Its main function is live (with a short delay in the US) flight tracking. FlightAware takes multiple data outlets and combines them. It offers, I think, the best way to track flights. You can also browse flights, see plane tracking photos, and read the latest airline news (aptly called “Squawks & Headlines”).

FlightAware App

FlightAware has a great mobile website and a decent iOS app. While traveling I use FlightAware for one purpose: to track the actual status of my outbound flight.

Many delays are caused by inbound aircraft that are coming from another region with their own weather problems or air traffic congestion. The airlines are slow to post a delay for the outbound flight. If I look at the status of the inbound flight (the aircraft that will handle my flight) I can easily tell my chances of facing a delay on my flight. I usually know about a delay well before it is announced or even posted on the airline website.

I do this by first pulling up the flight in FlightAware. Then, I scroll down to the bottom of the page (you can do this in both the app and on the website) and choose “Track Inbound Flights.” You can even track the inbound flight of your inbound flight and trace any delays further back.

This comes in handy if you are running late on a connection and want to see if a inbound flight delay will work in your favor.

More in the next part of Traveling Like it’s 2014 where we’ll talk about luggage, gear, and more.

Tech as a Means to an End

Jon Yongfook in an article about bootstrapping his SaaS business.

I’m a programmer. But I hate conversations about what “stack” I’m using. I love programming because it is a means to an end – creating a product that customers love. I’m not the kind of tech guy who experiments with new stuff for the sake of it. I view tech through the lens of customer benefits – can a piece of technology improve customer experience somehow (e.g. make the app run faster etc)? If so, great – I’ll check it out. If no, but it’s whizzy and new – I’ll pass thanks.

This isn’t just a problem in the programming/development world but we can definitely miss the product for the tools quite often.

Work Only Sucks When You're Not Doing It

How often are you stressed by the work you have to do or project you’ve committed to? Weekly? Daily? Hourly?

And when you sit down and do that work what happens? Relief. Confidence starts bubbling to the surface. Happiness, maybe. Fun.

You Decide Who the Enemy Is

Even an irreligious man such as myself is open to a bit of wisdom from a Roman Catholic saint:

The enemy often tries to make us attempt and start many projects so that we will be overwhelmed with too many tasks, and therefore achieve nothing and leave everything unfinished. Sometimes he even suggests the wish to undertake some excellent work that he foresees we will never accomplish. This is to distract us from the prosecution of some less excellent work that we would have easily completed. He does not care how many plans and beginnings we make, provided nothing is finished. — Saint Francis de Sales from Finding God’s Will for You

Impatiently Grazing On Music

Last year I quit Rdio. I made a few comments about it to co-workers (okay, maybe more than a few; sorry) but otherwise kept quiet. Part of this was because I knew people that worked at Rdio and I didn’t want my personal decision to somehow be a judgement of their work (it is not).

The reason I quit Rdio is because I was unhappy with how my music habits had changed in a world of the all-you-can-eat buffet of songs and albums. I found myself impatiently grazing on music, popping from one album to the next. I would blast through several albums in a day and never go back.

The idea of music as an investment (of time, money, emotional energy) was gone. Rdio had no boundaries and I had no limits. I just grazed and grazed. I was never full because I never stopped to really listen.

John Roderick of The Long Winters was recently interview on the Cmd+Space podcast where he talked about the work behind writing, recording, releasing, and promoting an album. In classic Roderick fashion, John had an honest (perhaps poignant) take on the state of music (transcript excerpt from Marco Arment’s post on the same topic):

When a Marvin Gaye record came out 40 years ago, presumably, you went and spent your record-buying allowance on it, and you brought it home and listened to it exclusively for 2 weeks. It was an investment. This was it! You’re going to listen to this, or you’ve got an AM radio and a newspaper.

Now, we’re just clicking through songs. “How does this one sound? Oh, that’s good. How does this one sound? Pretty good. This one’s good.”

We’re just flipping through index cards.

That was me with Rdio. Even in the age of iTunes, where music costs much less than it did when I was a kid, the act of paying per album forces you to consider the music you listen to. Switching back to iTunes, direct artist purchases, and vinyl + mp3 releases, was how I broke myself of the habit of mindlessly grazing on music.

I’ve spent a lot more on music in the last year than I ever did on Rdio but the result is a collection I adore because I listened to every album dozens of times. Just like I used to.

Currently indulging in:

Recent Entries