Maybe your child is flying alone for the first time, or your spouse is finally coming home after a long trip. Maybe you're nervous about whether your own upcoming flight is likely to depart on time. Or maybe you're an incredibly cautious traveler who likes to see how often particular flights are delayed before you book yourself onto one of them. Whatever the reason, tracking a flight is one of those modern-day possibilities that would have seemed like magic to your grandparents, but today is so easy today that it takes only seconds.

Track Airline Flights via the Airline

Every major airline provides flight checker information on its website. Look for a button that says "flight status" near the top of the airline's homepage. You'll need to know either the flight number or the departure and arrival cities to find updated information. Flight status information will tell you when a flight is expected to take off and land, but not all airlines have a real-time flight tracker that lets users see a plane's geographical location.

Some carriers, like American Airlines, also allow travelers to track incoming flight information. That's especially useful for passengers taking afternoon or evening flights. If you can see that the plane scheduled for your flight took off an hour late from the previous flight, you can expect your own departure to also be delayed.

Finally, airlines also commonly let users sign up for email or text alerts for a given flight. Anyone who signs up will get alerts with flight information.

Tracking via a Third-Party Site

Several websites provide tracking information for flights all around the world. Visit FlightStats, flightview, FlightAware or a similar site to access more detailed information about a given flight than you'll find on the airline's website. These sites use maps that show the real-time locations of planes in the air and provide data about winds, plane identifiers and on-time performance stats for individual flights.

This is also a great option if you're looking for big-picture information about upcoming travel. For example, FlightStats lets users check the current weather and delay status for a particular airport. The site also appeals to flight enthusiasts who want to analyze the minute details of a plane's movements using the timeline feature. FlightAware has similar features and the "Misery Map," an interactive map of the United States that lets you visualize the current on-time vs. delay ratios of major airports.

Tracking via Apps

A lot of the same features that are offered on third-party sites can also be found on a variety of flight tracking apps. Apps come and go from the marketplace all the time, but Flightradar24 and The Flight Tracker are popular, established versions. Some flight tracking apps have free and paid versions. Upgrading to the paid version gets you access to features like live weather maps and 3D images of a pilot's point of view.

Some apps, like Flightradar24 and Plane Finder, even allow users who have compatible phones to use their phone cameras to identify planes flying overhead. Simply pointing your camera into the sky is all it takes to find out what kind of plane is flying over your home, and where it's headed.

It's also worth downloading your airline's app before a flight. Not only do these apps include flight status information, but having your carrier's app is useful if you need to quickly access an airport map, get delay information or reach customer service for help.