How Technology Has Changed the Way We Travel

Posted on October 24, 2012 by

For someone who loves traveling, I’m not entirely good at it. I have no sense of direction, speak only two languages, and have a tendency to forget essential items (like passports and underwear) when packing my bags. Luckily for me, I have an internet connection at home, and even when I travel, my smartphone is usually close at hand, complete with handy apps and pop-up reminders to pack my toothbrush.

I know I’m not alone in this technology era. Millions of travelers around the world are now making full use of the conveniences that technology has brought us, whether it’s planning a trip or connecting with friends and family while on the road.

Just landed at a new destination with no where to stay? A hotel room is just a click away. Hungry for some local chow but don’t know where’s the best place for it? Search for reviews on your smartphone. Can’t communicate with the locals? Google translator comes to the rescue. We’ve long ditched the thousand-page paperback guidebook for our lightweight smartphones that are loaded with everything from ebooks to GPS.

Ease of booking flights/hotels

Long gone are those days of booking trips through a local tour agency. With thousands of online search engines in the market, finding good deals has become increasingly easy and convenient (and comes at no cost). There are many airfare comparison websites out there that will let you punch in your destination details and then fetch the lowest possible prices from different airlines for you. Our favorite site is Skyscanner, which compares airfares from every airline in the world (including budget airlines), as well as other flight search engines. For hotel deals, we find Trivago very reliable for hunting the cheapest hotel prices (it compares 148 websites).

Planning trips through recommendations

Travel planning no longer just involves taking out a map and vaguely drawing up an itinerary. Smart travelers these days go online and suss out hotels and museum recommendations, reading reviews from travelers and finding out what others enjoyed – and did not enjoy – about a place. There are many websites and forums dedicated to such discussions. Our favorite forum site is Lonely Planet Thorn Tree, be sure to also check out Wanderfly and TripAdvisor for recommendations.

Chinese New Year SmartphoneFlickr photo by Mr. T in DC

Connecting with locals

If you’re traveling solo and don’t speak the language, don’t fret. Many people are happy to meet with travelers and show them around, chat, or even provide them with a couch to crash on. My brother and his roommates have hosted many travelers at their house in the past couple of months, and have made friends from around the world thanks to Couchsurfing.

If sleeping on someone else’s couch isn’t quite up your alley, you can still use sites such as Meetup to meet new people, make friends, and join gatherings with like-minded people (they organize meet-ups based on interest as well). Make sure to take a look at Mingle Trips, mmMule, and Eat With a Local.

Using technology while on the go

Once you are actually traveling, it’s easy to keep a smartphone in your back pocket for a quick snapshot, translating a sign you don’t understand, or looking up directions. However, consider using technology as a last resort on a few of your travels after you’ve done your planning – it can open an entire new range of experiences.

A Canadian friend of ours visited us in the Dominican Republic once and when we ran out of eggs for an omelette, she ventured out on her own to buy more. When she was unable to find any at the local store and couldn’t recall their Spanish translation, she theatrically mimed the action of a chicken laying an egg (complete with wing-flapping and squawking) to the storekeeper – and came home with a roll of toilet paper thanks to the error in translation. Despite her other adventures in the country during the visit, this story has endured the test of time.

Using technology is a personal choice while traveling, and different people will be comfortable with using varying amounts of it. Personally, on my next few trips, I’m planning on doing research before takeoff, then using technology only in moderation while traveling (my camera being the exception!). I want to plug into the possibility of unexpected adventures. Because after all, isn’t that what traveling is about?

Do you use technology when planning your travels? Does your technology travel with you?

 

Comments

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About Kenza Moller

Kenza is WildJunket's editor. She is originally from the Dominican Republic and currently wrapping up a writing degree in Victoria, BC. She ran a non-profit foundation for animals and also interned at Canadian Geographic, and is happiest when traveling, scuba diving, writing or running. Check out her blog at www.kenzamoller.com.

77 Responses to “How Technology Has Changed the Way We Travel”

  1. anakhronismos October 25, 2012 5:33 am #

    I may very well be a freak of nature – but we rarely use tech beyond a camera on the go during travels. We don't have smartphones (they cost as much in India as they do in the US, and we make an Indian middle-level wage – meaning an iPhone is absurdly expensive), *maybe* the wedding-present iPad comes along, but I have deemed it a waste of money and had buyer's remorse – its only purpose has been for playing go, and for watching movies enroute. We do all our travel leg work online before we leave, and if we don't have it when we get there — we ask people; we don't often have tech to just pop online.

    I contribute to TripAdvisor when I can, and otherwise… for all that we love tech, it just doesn't always cram itself into our travel.

    • Kenza October 26, 2012 11:28 am #

      I'm thinking of leaving most of my tech behind on my next trip and relying just on pre-trip research (as well as anything that crops up in person while I'm there). :) I hope the iPad does turn out to be a good buy!

      • anakhronismos October 27, 2012 3:29 am #

        The iPad is what I have buyer's remorse over. I just think it's a dreadful waste of money, especially with all the paraphernalia people buy that basically turns it back into a laptop. I'd sell it if my husband didn't use it to teach his students how to play the game "go" with.

  2. adam November 21, 2012 1:40 am #

    I cannot imagine picking up a book to get travel advice or going through a travel agency to book hotels now. It's just so much easier just typing what i need to know into google and browsing through the results instead of picking up books at a library which may be outdated anyway! Guilty of being glued to my gadgets 24/7 even when I'm travelling though, and I find it so much easier travelling in more developed areas that allows me to use my phone and laptop (WIFI is a lifesaver!). I stopped by Singapore a few months back for business, and felt right at home. The entire country was covered with free wifi! Even the serviced residence I stayed at, Capri by Fraser, was equipped to the brim with all kinds of smart devices! I was checked in via iPad! haha..I probably wouldn't survive in a country without internet.

    • @WildJunket December 29, 2012 1:24 pm #

      haha good to know that you're as much of a technology addict as we are! Life definitely has changed with technological advancement. Honestly without the development of internet and wifi, we wouldn't be able to travel permanently!

  3. Eva December 11, 2012 3:29 am #

    Well, I think as technology bring changes to our whole life, so we can't don't use them while traveling

    • @KenzaMoller February 27, 2013 5:33 pm #

      It definitely does affect the entirety of our lives! Getting offline is equally hard at home ;)

    • Patient Attender April 27, 2013 7:38 am #

      I am Not Agree With You if You are saying Don't Use Technology while Traveling,Then Can You Please Tell Me Bus or other Vehicle Is not a Part OF Technology????

  4. outlet December 12, 2012 12:31 am #

    Just proves the old adage. Its an ill wind that blows no good. – No computer has ever been designed that is ever aware of what its doing; but most of the time, we arent either. Attributed to Marvin Minsky

  5. IT articles December 12, 2012 1:47 pm #

    This is really great. Technology has involving in all way of our life. People can't hang around with technology. I just thing what will be happened after 10-20 years…

    • @KenzaMoller February 27, 2013 5:34 pm #

      Glad you enjoyed it! It'll be interesting to see what changes we get in a couple of decades – I'm sure we'll have tons of apps making traveling even easier by then.

  6. @MsMegStone December 12, 2012 2:41 pm #

    The egg story was hysterical and such a great real life example! Technology has woven its way into almost every aspect of our lives so it's a given that it would impact our travel adventures. Never again will we have to search for a restaurant or a gift shop because we don't know the area when we can easily look up information on our phones, tablets or computers for the best choice. This opens up so many possibilities! Thanks for this great post!

  7. chinese holiday visa December 12, 2012 9:21 pm #

    Technology brings lot of changes in our life and even make easy the travel to travellers. Now we can get everything online.

  8. Reena @ Wanderplex December 13, 2012 6:26 pm #

    Technology definitely makes planning and booking travel easier, but it also makes it harder to unplug and unwind once you're on the road. It definitely takes some discipline to shut off the phone and computer and just enjoy the vacation!

    • @KenzaMoller January 25, 2013 2:01 am #

      I know, unplugging is so relaxing, but it's definitely hard to kick the habit!

  9. Suzzane December 20, 2012 8:48 am #

    Yes I always use my gadgets and gears while traveling. People call me crazy when I tell them that I was carrying my 15.6 inch laptop while traveling solo in some of the most insecure and stealthy places.

    • @KenzaMoller February 27, 2013 5:34 pm #

      Agreed! Carrying around a laptop, two cameras, and a cell phone in a single bag can be a little worrisome…

  10. Anita Mac December 20, 2012 8:51 am #

    I think I am a hybrid – love that I can plan my trip as I go…didn't have a smart phone through Europe, but my iPad fit the bill for picking up cheap flights and new destinations on the fly. Can't stop with the paper version of guide books though. Love thumbing through them while planning and scribble in them while on the road! Have downloaded a few lonely planet chapters onto the iPad in the past but find it not as easy as pulling out the book! Luckily, it is a case of to each their own!

    • @KenzaMoller January 25, 2013 2:03 am #

      Definitely a case of to each their own. I think I'm a bit of a hybrid too – I use technology when I need it or when I need to get in touch with people, but can put it away after that.

  11. Migration Expert December 20, 2012 11:44 pm #

    I always bring my DSLR with me and my notebook laptop because I felt I need them on my travel.

  12. Just One Boomer December 23, 2012 9:59 pm #

    In some ways, being plugged in actually relieves work stress when vacationing as long as you don't overdo it. In today's world, not checking work email for 2 weeks can mean a nightmare upon one's return. We find it less stressful to just maybe devote an hour a day to it to keep up and to put out any embers before they turn into fires. This way, we don't devote any psychic energy to wondering what awaits upon our return. We definitely use all the sources you mention for trip planning and usually one of us has a smart phone with 3G which has come in very handy as a GPS device and as a translator in countries where we don't speak the language and where English speakers are hard to find. It's hard to pantomime, "We don't want horse meat sukiyaki." (The egg story is great, BTW.)

    • @KenzaMoller January 25, 2013 2:04 am #

      Pantomiming "we don't want horse meat suriyaki" would have equally interesting results, I'm sure :). I'm glad you enjoyed it!

  13. Salva - Trip We Love January 1, 2013 10:21 pm #

    We have found technology to enable our travels and to reach a wider audience with our stories. We probably travel with to much gear (2 computer, 1 ipad, 3 cameras, 2 cell phones etc) but we find it necessary to stay in touch with our loved ones and to make some income while on the road.

  14. Jasper Events January 9, 2013 12:46 am #

    Honestly. Technology really change the way people travel. With technology travelling becomes more easy,convenience and fast. We now can capture adventures- Our adventures, share it with our friends and let the whole world know. And with technology we seem to see more of the beauty of the mother earth behind lenses.

  15. Chris |GRRRLTRAVELER January 13, 2013 8:34 am #

    I feel like technology is more important than clothes when I travel! lol. It's obvious the thing that weighs my backpack down most of the time. I'm not sure if it's a good or bad thing for me though. I can't remember the last time I didn't take a mini-power strip with me for all the things I need to charge. Technology made my travel simpler, but not my luggage weight.

  16. Hindustani January 19, 2013 5:01 pm #

    Technology is fine. But sometimes the pressure to click photo or have such other things (Facebook updates), blog, kills the fun, as you focus more on these aspects rather than the real thing.

  17. Aditya January 28, 2013 3:46 am #

    Nice and very useful post Thanks a lot:)

  18. Tom Miller January 31, 2013 8:39 am #

    Using the Internet has indeed been very helpful for us when we plan to travel. We can search for recommendations especially on good hotels and restaurants. Plus, we are able to equip ourselves with the right info on local cultures and traditions before going to a particular place.

    • @KenzaMoller February 27, 2013 5:37 pm #

      Technology is definitely essential for pre-trip research – I'd be lost without it!

  19. Jade February 3, 2013 2:10 pm #

    Technology has made traveling easier and it has also made people travel less and use technology more

  20. paulkristoff February 6, 2013 7:14 am #

    Very interesting thoughts discussed here, and all very true. To think that the days when we went to see the travel agent, got a bunch of brochures and then sorted it out with their help were not that long ago is quite scary.

    The great thing about travel and technology today, is that it really has put the power of travel into the hands of those who are travelling. It allows us to have much more personal experiences I think.

  21. free directory list February 7, 2013 4:43 am #

    I am very pleased to see this article. It gave me a great help. Appreciate your sharing.

  22. jacson February 15, 2013 1:23 pm #

    Informative post.Technology has changed many things in our life's like shopping online and more.But many people don't no how to use technology while traveling.Due to this reason the mediators will take more money from strangers.

    • Joseph March 28, 2013 8:22 pm #

      Of course. i go with my technology with me when I travel like smartphones, laptops, cameras, tabs and etc.. That's how i managed to communicate with my clients too even if when i am traveling.
      Thanks,

  23. Vinnie February 19, 2013 3:28 am #

    One thing is sure that technology has made you spoilt for choices, there are so many airlines, hotels, resorts and hostels who might be vying for your attention and Wallet. I think features like GPS and translation can make your trip a lot more stress free.

  24. polo duffle bag February 19, 2013 3:52 am #

    This is really great. Technology has involving in all way of our life. ..
    Nice article. Good to see this…
    Thank You Very Much for posting this.. :-)
    Keep up the great work, I’ve bookmarked for future reference.

  25. Kevin James February 19, 2013 11:28 pm #

    Technology makes the life of bloggers easier, specially for those who loves to travel. Thanks to Steve Jobs they can update their blog anytime they want.

  26. adamsonbenard February 20, 2013 11:59 pm #

    nice Article , Technology has made travelling easy

  27. Christie February 21, 2013 1:00 pm #

    Loved reading this! Your blog is awesome!!

    Just thought I'd share a cool gadget I found this week- its called the Skyview- a device that clamps ipads, iphones and other tablets to the airplane seat in front of you. figure it will save my hands next time i fly!!

    check it out…
    http://store.griffintechnology.com/skyview-travel

  28. John Martin February 27, 2013 4:43 am #

    you should write a separate Article on how your friend end up buying a toilet paper.. i genuinely find it amusing !

  29. TammyOnTheMove February 28, 2013 8:40 pm #

    I have never heard of Eat with locals before. That sounds great. Must try that out. Excellent post!

  30. Chinese Holiday Visa March 3, 2013 2:06 am #

    Travel without technology? No way. In fact laptop, mobile, camera and many other items are most important while you are planning for travel.

  31. Pam Fat March 6, 2013 3:33 am #

    I am a very techy person, in fact my phone is also my journal. I post articles using my cellphone, this is the convenience brought by technology, and I believe there's nothing wrong with this. Travelling and blogging made easy because of technology, let's admit that! :)

  32. Anthony March 11, 2013 7:40 am #

    Technology has changed everything! And only in a short time too! I wrote a satirical post about this, but it's close to the truth! See more at http://www.thetraveltart.com/travel-2010-versus-t

  33. Audiostory.com March 12, 2013 10:46 am #

    Hi Kenza!
    Loved this article, great tips for travelling, thank you! I completely agree, technology is absolutely helping. At audiostory.com we offer free mp3 tales in English, French and Spanish so that people can listen to them while travelling. It definitely helps people to learn those languages faster while listening to a beautiful and intriguing tale. Hope you enjoy them in your next trip!
    http://www.audiostory.com/en/

    Keep having fun!
    Regards

    Elena

  34. Mo March 13, 2013 5:41 am #

    So true, traveling today is much easier than it used to be. I just bought a smartphone for my mom (70 yrs old) before they travelled to Costa Rica and Cuba.

    She said that she never belived that she will use it so much and that it will make such a big difference.

    It also helped me a lot to stay in touch with her and see that she is OK.

    • Kenza April 14, 2013 2:46 pm #

      Hi Mo, thanks for stopping by. Nice to hear that the smartphone worked so well for your mum! Hope she enjoyed the trip to Costa Rica and Cuba!

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  42. Daniel March 27, 2013 8:21 am #

    I coulden't go anywhere when I'm at home without my laptop and smart phone. Let alone to another country without them. Our lives are so technology orientated these days I feel I can't operate without a mains supply.

  43. Lance March 30, 2013 12:36 am #

    Technology can be a great asset in our travels, but it can also isolate us from the experiences we're trying to have – the very essence of travel. Sometimes you just need to be put down the electronic device, unplug and go out for a walk and explore!

    • Kenza April 14, 2013 2:48 pm #

      100% agree! It's all about finding that ideal balance. :)

  44. Emily April 1, 2013 5:12 pm #

    When we started traveling full-time 6 years ago, our objective was to simplify. We had a shared laptop and no cell phone. It was heavenly. We got internet at coffee shops every so often and kept up with friends back home via email twice or three times a week. We built a popular website and lived without an electronic tether.

    Now, two moveable homes later (an RV and a sailboat), we have full-time internet on our boat via a USB modem, two laptops, an active blog, several social media accounts, and it's crazy. I love being "connected" because the world is moving so fast. But sometimes I long for those ancient travel days of 2007 when we could go without internet for several weeks and still be "ok."

  45. Neetuagarwal April 9, 2013 6:55 am #

    Social media platforms like Twitter/Facebook/ and communities like AirBnB have made it possible to help and receive help from absolute strangers. Say for example you are travelling to The Hague and would like to know where to stay and eat. So, while AirBnb can help solve your accommodation headaches, your tweets/messages asking people for best eatery suggestions will surely solve your where-to-eat issues.

  46. Alison April 11, 2013 5:37 pm #

    I have thought about this so often while traveling. It is a whole different ball game these days with all of our technology. If something goes wrong or doesn't work out, I just get online and figure it out, whether that means booking a new place to stay or traveling to another area. I personally think it is a good thing as it makes the whole process of being somewhere new and different far easier and more comfortable.

    • Kenza April 14, 2013 2:50 pm #

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Alison! As someone who is definitely prone to getting lost or having plans go awry, I agree – Google Maps and a quick email can solve many problems. At the same time, I like being able to put the technology away when things are going well so I can enjoy the experience itself.

  47. maximuz04 April 13, 2013 4:04 am #

    I often use my phone. My country (South Korea) offeres wifi anywhere in the world for 10 dollars a day. This is super expensive, but if I am meeting someone in another country, I am willing to activate if for a day so I can quickly find them. I also use google lattitude to track exactly where they are. Im telling you, sometimes, it is the difference between an easy meet up, or being lost for hours.

    It also helped me in kyoto. I didnt plan (because I was lazy) so I just went. When I realized there was a castle, I quickly used my phone and found a route through local buses in no time.

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  49. James April 24, 2013 10:18 am #

    I like your article for its quality content you have. I personally enjoyed your post and would love to disseminate.

  50. Canyoning Wales April 25, 2013 3:23 am #

    I don't think anyone planning their travels these days without using technology? My technology travels with me everywhere (I sound like a robot), I get computer-sick (the equivalent to home sick) when I'm away from it for too long. And unlike most people I use my mobile more for its features, internet, email etc, than its main intended usage, calling & texting.

  51. Tom Miller April 26, 2013 3:49 am #

    I can actually say that technology had helped ease things when I am traveling. It also helps connect me with people I left behind. Plus, it is a good way to do a bit research.

  52. Terrie Exley April 28, 2013 11:46 pm #

    Haha! You had me at the first line! I love to travel, but I have always had a horrible sense of direction. GPS saved my traveling life more than once, before then, I was just as lost as any new baby bird freshly kicked from the nest. I can't say enough for what technology does for travelers today. It's fair to say it saves lives, too!

  53. wedding packages May 17, 2013 5:56 am #

    I will return here guys for i have great experienced. And when i come back i will bring my group to enjoy reading for your updates. ..

  54. Trekking Guide May 22, 2013 5:36 am #

    Really, technology made easy for traveler, if you have right apps in mobile or internet connection in Laptop then you find everything nearby you. great article

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  55. Zubi Travel June 3, 2013 2:36 pm #

    I agree that traveller recommendations revolutionized the way we travel.
    I think nobody cares now about the number of stars a hotel has, it's all about opinions from other travellers.

  56. bruisedpassports June 17, 2013 11:24 am #

    We always use technology to look up local gems (street food or otherwise) but don't mind going without technology for a week or two occasionally :-)

  57. Anja Medenica December 22, 2013 5:51 pm #

    Technology has changed everything, and I would say – evolved to something much better. Now you can find real reviews and opinions of other travelers, compare prices for hotel rooms and flights from many sites at once, book excursions, purchase rent a car services even before your airplane lands, etc – all from comfort of your living room or even from the smartphone. It's great, isn't it ?

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