In today’s fast-paced, modern world, our vacation time often seems more precious than ever before. Technology has a long history with leisure; inventions like flight changed the scope of vacations, and the emergence of computing technology created a sea change in the way that we arrange and execute our trips. Now, the ever-present forward march of technology has continued to alter the travelscape, leading to new and different (and maybe even better) ways to get a change of scenery. Here are some of the most important recent trends in travel.
The fast-growing ubiquity of mobile devices is probably the quickest change to modern life since the spread of computing in the ‘90s. Modern mobiles like the Samsung Galaxy line put a previously unimaginable amount of computing power in the pocket of the average traveler. Companies have adapted by creating apps specialized for making the most out of your trips. One example would be the Hostelworld app. This program allows the user to find budget-friendly accommodations on the go, making sure that no traveler, whatever their finances, is left without a bed at night.
The nature of mobile has brought out new services that take advantage of the easy access offered by apps. One of the most famous is Lyft, the taxi-substitute. A regular citizen picks up people in their own car and gives them a ride for a much cheaper rate than taxi cabs. Lyft has already taken a serious bite out of taxi profits in many areas worldwide. For the more upscale traveler, AirPooler is a website seeking to make ridesharing and private airplanes work together. They have yet to launch an app, and face challenges from the FAA, but one imagines that some form of private-jet sharing will eventually win out.
For a mere $99, you can avoid pricey internet when traveling with the Airport Express from Apple. This handy little device is essentially a way to connect to the internet for free, especially in places that use a hardwired connection. To implement the device, simply plug it into the ethernet cable. The Airport Express then takes this signal and transfers it to a Wi-Fi signal, enabling you to use the web for free.
Biometrics is the kind of science that seems custom-built for spy movies and other high-tech thrillers – a careful profile of your personal physical data becomes a means of confirming your identity. Although the technology has been around for a while, it has taken its time in spreading. The travel industry has just recently begun to embrace it. Biometric kiosks allow for easier check-in, identity verification at passport checkpoints, and even payment for goods and services through new services like PayTouch.
Radio Frequency Identification is another technology that is catching on at certain travel destinations. An RFID device broadcasts an identifying radio signal, and the Disney chain is planning to roll out wristbands incorporating the tech to make travel through their resorts easier than ever. A single simple bracelet could replace the need for a room key, an amusement park ticket, and even your credit card.
This is the meta-trend at work: technology serves to make the travel experience easier for both travelers and the companies that provide for them. Mobile apps make reserving and confirming a breeze, and take away the panic of being trapped in an unfamiliar place if arrangements fall through. In the cockpit of airplanes, tablets compile the information required to keep the plane in flight. Biometrics and RFID take the difficulties out of confirming identity and reduce the amount of cards the hotel has to ask visitors to cart around. It all adds up to easy travels.
Mankind has always traveled, always wondered just what lies over the next ridge, across the ocean, on the next continent. Perhaps one day soon the march of technology will take us into even farther frontiers. In the meantime, we should feel content that new devices and processes make our existing forms of transit and accommodation easier and more accessible than ever before.