Everything You Need to Do Before a Flight with Bad Wi-Fi
As Wi-Fi slowly becomes a standard airline perk, many of us have become dependent on an in-flight internet connection to be as entertained and productive as possible for as long as we're confined to the the glorified dog crate that passes for a modern-day seat in coach.
But, as with terrestrial Wi-Fi networks, the ones on airplanes can be unreliable, so it's wise to plan accordingly.
Here's what to do before your next long-haul flight to ensure you can still watch, listen to, and read everything you want on your device(s) of choice should your connection go poof.
Stockpile a personalized library of podcasts
If you're a podcast person (or even if you haven't fully embraced the medium) keep your phone/tablet/laptop flush with fresh episodes. Whether you want to listen to something that'll make you smarter, feel like sampling some of the greatest podcasts that've come out in the last coupleyears, or want to binge-listen to the follow-up series from the team behind Serial, you have your pick of literally thousands of different titles in every imaginable genre and category, and can easily browse and download them via apps like Podcasts, Podcast Addict, and Stitcher.
Rent (and make sure you download) a movie from iTunes
If you prefer more options than the limited catalog of newish flicks streaming on the impossibly tiny screen tucked into the headrest in front of you, consider renting something you'll actually want to watch ahead of time.
You can virtually rent tons of new releases and older fare via the iTunes Store for as little as 99 cents apiece. Once you start watching, you'll have 24 hours to finish before the file disappears from your device (the rental period is 30 days otherwise).
Pro tip: Figure out what you want to rent and "download" it on a speedy Wi-Fi connection before you leave for the airport, making sure it's fully downloaded onto your machine by clicking the Cloud download icon once you confirm the rental. By default, iTunes sets rented movies to stream from the Cloud when you hit "play" (which presumes you have an internet connection), so double-check your rental is fully downloaded onto your device ahead of time or you'll get an error message when you try to watch at 30,000ft sans Wi-Fi.
Use Pocket to catch up on the articles you've been meaning to read
While you can't cruise your Twitter feed for breaking news, being stuck on a internet-less plane is a great excuse to catch up on the pileup of New Yorker profiles, BuzzFeed longreads, and US Weekly confessionals you've been putting off. If you haven't already, download Pocket, the browser extension and its companion app, which allows you to squirrel away articles to read later offline.
Before you enable Airplane Mode, launch your Pocket app, let it refresh with the latest cache of reading material you've saved, and boom, you've got yourself a nifty little custom digital magazine for your trip.
Watch movies and shows from Netflix and Amazon Prime Video offline
Although you won't be able to browse the catalogs for Netflix or Amazon Prime Video without Wi-Fi, both streaming services offer the ability to "save" select content for offline viewing, which means if you plan ahead and pick a few shows and movies to watch, you can easily download them to your device before boarding.
Netflix makes it easy to search and sort downloadable titles via the mobile app, and most of Amazon Prime Video's library is up for grabs. Just bear in mind that this offline feature is only compatible with devices (Amazon supports iOS, Android, and Fire, while Netflix supports iOS, Android, and Windows 10), meaning you may only be able to watch on a screen that's smaller than you'd prefer, but that's still a hell of a lot better than twiddling your thumbs until landing.
Keep an offline stash of new releases and all-time favorite tracks
The perks of paying for premium versions of music-streaming services like Spotify, Apple Music, Tidal, and others are pretty well-established (there's only so many times you can be told to build a beautiful website with Squarespace), but the ability to listen to content offline may be the greatest.
Not only does this feature cut down on how much data you're eating up while streaming without Wi-Fi, it's also a game-changer for underground commuters and Wi-Fi-less flights. Before you board, set a handful of your favorite playlists to be available offline, and consider doing the same for some of the year's best new songs and albums.
Another worthwhile safeguard: Pack a backup pair of earbuds in your carry-on in case yours conk out mid-flight, because second to crashing, nothing ruins a plane ride like being forced to listen to the dull roar of the engine and your sleeping seatmate for hours on end.
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