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.
Flickr 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?