Blue Skies: Don’t Worry, Fly “Happy”

The other day I had some time while the coffee brewed, so I counted all the flight-finding apps and websites in existence: four billion and twelve, it turns out. Probably enough to last us a while right? Wrong. Which explains last Friday’s arrival of Routehappy on the scene.

“Find the happiest flight,” the tagline says, and that’s indeed what the search mechanism attempts. Rather than simply looking for the best price and schedule, Routehappy weighs other factors, too: seat comfort, entertainment, Wi-Fi, in-seat power, trip duration and more. After typing in the standard information — destination, origin, dates, etc. — you’re given a list of flights ranked from happiest to least happy. (You can re-rank them along more conventional criteria, if you prefer.) It’s a handy feature, I had to admit, having spent more than a little time over the years trying to gauge whether a given flight would suffer from intangible lack of happiness.

My mind deep in the bulging universe of helpful travel sites at this point, I decided a small roundup was in order. Below, a few more tips on how to make travel happen a little easier, and with a little more happiness:

  • Need to book several plane tickets at the same time? Airfare guru Rick Seaney hips us to an oddity about airline reservation systems “that requires identical prices for all tickets on a single reservation or transaction – even if there are a few cheaper seats than the total party.” The money-saving workaround:


Step 1: When the airfare shopping site asks for the number of passengers, go ahead and enter “5.” See what price you’re quoted per ticket. But don’t purchase yet!

Step 2: Start over and enter the number of passengers as “1.” If you’re quoted the same price as in Step 1, you can go back and buy all 5 tickets in the same transaction. But sometimes you’ll be quoted a lower price when you request less than your total party. If that’s the case, keep adding passengers until you see the price jump to the figure you were quoted in Step 1.

  • Gadling, meanwhile, wades through the sprawl of travel apps and finds some that actually do something. The Hertz app lets you upgrade your rental while you’re on your phone. Word Lens translates foreign street signs so you don’t crash that rental.


  • The Dauntless Jaunter offers tips for staying fit on the road. Get to know the local scene and eat healthy with a visit to the farmer’s market. Combine exercise with a get-to-know-the-natives activity — salsa class, for instance. The article includes a chart listing the calories burned by various vacation activities, for various weights. Finally, if you’re going to drink, choose your liquor wisely.


  • Amy Farley at Travel + Leisure lays out the options for finding a good seat, once you’ve got your flight. There’s no secret industry glitch to exploit, alas, but Farley notes that good seats sometimes open up within the last 24 hours, when upper-tier loyalty program members vacate theirs for even better ones. Check online a day before your flight, and at the airport when you arrive, and at the gate. Or let ExpertFlyer do the work for you; you’ll get an alert when better seats come along.


Chris Colin is the award-winning author of “Blindsight,” published by the Atavist and named one of Amazon’s Best Books of 2011. See his work at

Chris Colin
Chris Colin is the author most recently of What to Talk About, as well as What Really Happened to the Class of '93 and Blindsight, named one of Amazon's Best Books of 2011. He’s written about chimp filmmakers, ethnic cleansing, George Bush’s pool boy, blind visual artists, solitary confinement, the Yelpification of the universe and more for the, the New York Times Magazine, Outside, Pop-Up Magazine, Wired, Smithsonian, Mother Jones and Afar, where he's a contributing writer. Email him at [email protected]
Chris Colin
Chris Colin
Tags: Downtime,Mobile Apps,Tech Culture