5 Ways how Technology has revolutionized Travel in the last 10 years!
Having started traveling extensively around 15 years ago, I can still remember what traveling was like before the spread of the smartphone.
Whether you happen to be an iOS or Android fan, we need to pay homage to the dissemination of the smartphone. It has quite simply transformed travel by lowering the costs, simplifying the process and opening up a new dimension of communication possibilities. 🙂
Here, I’ll give an overview of the 5 areas where I think developments in mobile technology have transformed the travel experience.
As you will see there is a lot of overlap as the developments have feed off each other as the phones and their software integrate new applications and functionality.
10 years ago looking for accommodation when traveling was limited to pre-booking a hotel on a website such as booking.com. Now a plethora of new possibilities have been created with sites like couchsurfing.com (where you can stay) to Airbnb (where you can rent a furnished apartment).
I love to stay in furnished apartments over hotel rooms as they provide more space, better wifi and a more local experience in general. I am not a fan of the hosteling crowd (read more on that here) and now there is an even cheaper alternative to that which is free and introduces you to local people called couchsurfing.com.
The biggest development is how you can find your accommodation. The apps on your smartphone now allow you to view the details of your options on the go so you can spontaneously do it (no necessity to pre-book, look for an internet cafe or wander the streets looking for available rooms). This affords the traveler an extra boost of freedom.
Once you’ve booked a place to stay, the next step is arriving at your destination. Again smartphones have revolutionized this with apps like GoogleMaps, which allow you to plot out the quickest route by foot, public transport or car and plan your arrival accordingly. You never risk losing time lost (as long as you have the correct address), which used to be a frequent problem in pre-smartphone era.
Maps used to come in paper. They were cumbersome. They tore. They made you stand out as a tourist. I never liked paper in general so I love the map apps on my iPhone. 😀
24 minutes to the airport – will that be enough time? 😮
Now everything from looking for laundry services to finding the nearest cafe can be done nearly instantaneously from the palm of your hand. It also reduces the risk of arriving late for your flight at the airport or missing friends who are waiting for you because you arrive too late.
Sharing your location is now also easy. Just click a button in IM (instant messaging) apps like Facebook chat or Whatsapp and your friends can see where you are and come join you. 🙂
3. Researching Restaurants/Bars/Clubs
Arriving in a new city used to mean a dearth of information about the best restaurants, bars and clubs to suit your tastes. This partly explains the popularity of guide books. With no local friends to ask for recommendations, how do you know where to go?
But guidebooks only give you a tiny selection of the options, are biased towards the preferences of the writer, can become quickly outdated and the places mentioned tend to attract a huge number of tourists reading the same guidebook.
A backpacker holding the paper version of the Lonely Planet at the central train station in Florence, Italy
Now smartphones allow to access a litany of located-based restaurant and nightlife guides with reviews from locals and other travelers. This gives you so much more valuable information on which to make your decision to suit your personal tastes.
For example, recently I was out on a Saturday night in the city center in Vienna, Austria. Not finding the bars there to be my scene, I got on my iPhone and started to search for clubbing options and voilà! 20 minutes later my evening was transformed as I grooved to my favorite music, sipped on great cocktails and chatted with new found friends. 🙂
It used to be the case that communication was a luxury. It was difficult and expensive. Now with a local SIM card (see my article here for more on that), you can speak, write and send photos etc for almost no marginally cost all while traveling.
Just as with sharing location, most IM apps now allow you to conduct video or phone calls, write messages, shares documents (including photos) from wherever you are in the world. This truly makes the world smaller!
This allows the traveler to stay in touch with family and friends so they know that all is well. It makes it so much easier to maintain contact with acquaintances from your trips.
Moreover, apps like Tinder or Happn help you meet new people either for friendship or romance (read more about my experience with Tinder here) so that you don’t have to spend your time alone (if you don’t really want to). 🙂
Smartphones allow travelers to snap on the go, edit and publish on social media within seconds, like I did here in Grenoble, France
Another huge advantage is the ability to post in real time my photos and videos to social media. In the past a traveler had to wait until they got home and developed the photos in order to create a slideshow so that they could share their trip with friends. Now this is done instantaneously! As a blogger and vlogger this clearly has huge benefits for Language Tsar where I communicate daily with my followers (especially on Instagram where I typically post daily).
GoogleTranslate and similar translation software now improve communication in other languages that you might be struggling with. I find this an indispensable tool as I combine my travels with learning the local languages. You can whip out your smartphone and resolve a basic communication problem in a foreign language. A godsend! 🙂
It’s often happened that old friends have reconnected with me having seen a post showing them that I was nearby. The advantages this brings are simply amazing! 😀
As you will know from my YouTube channel, one of my least favorite things about traveling are dishonest taxi drivers (watch my video below for more on the taxi mafia). Smartphones are a superb development for thwarting such miscreants from ripping you off as a traveler!
This is because taxi apps or other car services like Uber allow you to keep track of your itinerary and the real price plus have a review system where you can give both positive and negative feedback to other travelers.
Not only taxis easier to find but also public and intercity transport, as well as, flights are now much easier to handle. You can often bus your tickets for public transport on your phone, checkin on an app and buy your train tickets there. This is cheaper and more importantly, saves you a huge amount of time that would otherwise have been spent standing in a queue, perhaps with a lot of stress if you need to travel immediately.
Bonus Reason – Entertainment
Traveling used to mean having to forego watching your favorite shows, keeping up with the latest developments in your home country and often sitting idly while traveling over long distances. Now ou can access all your usual news and entertainment resources while traveling and there’s more.
Your library now fits onto your iPad, same with your film collection. Moreover, I can work pretty effectively from anywhere (vital as a digital nomad) so long journeys do not mean time lost at all. I normally prefer trains over buses where possible as it’s more comfortable to type my laptop.
Any other technological improvements?
Here I’ve outlined 5 significant changes I’ve noticed about how traveling has been revolutionized by technological advancements, primarily by the ubiquitous smartphone in the last decade. Have you noticed any other significant changes? Are you happy about the rise of the smartphone (and the demise of the paper guidebook, for example)? Write your answers in the comments section below! I love reading about your travel experiences. 😀