A couple of weeks ago, my editor at FareCompare found herself wandering around a parking garage at Los Angeles International Airport. At midnight. Looking for her car.
"I am a total idiot," Anne McDermott later told me, "but I'd been up real late helping my daughter pack for college and we'd only had about two hours sleep before we left for the airport. Where'd I leave the car? I had no clue."
If only she'd had the new American Airlines iPhone app that allows you to set a parking reminder. Her response? "If only I had an iPhone."
Well, you don't need an iPhone (though it can help) but fliers do need technology. In fact, I'd go so far as to say, ignoring technology is the dumbest thing you can do, because it can save you time and aggravation.
Mostly though, using technology can save air travelers money.
You say you're not much of a techie? Not a problem. We are not talking about terribly sophisticated technology from the user's endpoint. In fact, the smartest tech tool an air traveler can use to save money, is one of the simplest.
I'm talking about tools to set airfare alerts, so you know when the price drops on a trip you want to take. Yes, my air travel site has such alerts, but others do, too.
Tip: when you do get alerted to a price you like, pounce on it. These cheap seats don't last, and you're not the only one smart enough to set an alert. And it is smart: why spend more on a flight if you don't have to?
Twitter is another great technology tool, and no, you don't have to be a tweeting maniac like, say, Justin Bieber in order to rake in the deals. In fact, you don't have to tweet at all or do much of anything, really. Just open an account and follow your favorite airline.
And look to see if your airline has a special account you can follow like @JetBlue Cheeps, which is dedicated to deals and specials (that's cheeps as in "cheaps"). And the airline doesn't advertise these special sales anywhere else. If you like JetBlue, or any airline for that matter, it's just dumb to ignore this money saving technology tool. Follow your favorites (and I have lists of airlines and airports on my twitter account @rickseaney).
Now let's talk about apps (short for applications), and no, you don't need an iPhone -- apps work with the iPod Touch and iPad, too.
Apps are part of the landscape today -- when they say, "there's an app for that" they're not kidding. I was just reading in one tech blog that there are more than 300,000 apps currently available and thousands more coming every month.
Many of these have completely eliminated some of the aggravations of travel. For example, Lonely Planet's Mobile Audio Phrasebooks can literally translate and speak foreign phrases for you (a boon to the shy traveler, or for someone like me who speaks French phrases with a noticeable Texas twang).
Looking for a restaurant in unfamiliar territory? You might like the apps from Yelp or Urban Spoon (a review for the latter noted, "Shake your iPhone and the Urbanspoon slot machine will pick a good restaurant for you to try").
And when it comes to airline ticket prices, more and more airfare sites now have apps (including, yours truly's, which sends airfare price alerts to your mobile device.) A lot of airlines are introducing apps, too.
For instance, American Airlines' app includes the aforementioned parking reminder plus it allows you to monitor upcoming flights, track your standby status as well as your frequent flier miles for elite status and much more.
Airline iPhone Apps
There are similar functions on Delta's new app, Southwest's app and Alaska's app, too, and it wouldn't surprise me in the least if more airlines join in the app-craze before year's end. And this sort of technology is nothing to be nervous about -- hey, we all learned how to use email didn't we?
Of course, some of us are less technologically-inclined than others. Speaking of which, I asked my editor what her favorite app would be, assuming she ever breaks down and gets an iPhone; I braced myself for her response.
"I like that flashlight app," she said. "You know, the thingie that turns your phone into a light? Strikes me as very handy."
Well, at least she eventually found her missing car in that LAX parking garage.
This work is the opinion of the columnist and does not reflect the opinion of ABC News.
Rick Seaney is one of the country's leading experts on airfare, giving interviews and analysis to news organizations that include ABC News, The New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Reuters, the Associated Press and Bloomberg. His website, FareCompare.com, offers consumers free, new-generation software, combined with expert insider tips to find the best airline ticket deals.