Today, it seems like everyone has at least one complaint about his or her travel experiences, be it a flight delay, a luggage mishap or a booking slip-up. When you think about it though, travelers have it so much easier now than others did only decades ago. Here’s a look at this century’s top five innovations in travel so far:
1) Global Positioning System
Though GPS has been around for decades, it was only in the early 2000’s that it began to be used in civilian everyday life. It eases the worries of travelers and their families because they know that their plane or ship is being tracked. And of course, you use it to navigate your way through unfamiliar roads, be it by foot or car. Apps utilize your smartphone’s GPS to locate the restaurant, gas station or convenience store nearest you. With GPS, you don’t need to worry about finding someone to get directions from, and that’s a huge burden removed from any traveler.
2) Self-service check-in – and boarding!
Not only do most airlines have online check-in, which enables you to check-in for your flight via Internet, a lot of them also have self-service check-in kiosks. These handy kiosks allow you to access your flight itinerary, make changes in your seat assignment or bag count and print your boarding pass. After that, you just have to deposit your checked baggage at the drop-off counter, and you’re all set.
There’s also this new technology that further minimizes the need for manpower in airports—the so-called self-boarding stations. First introduced last June 27, 2012 at Las Vegas’ McCarran Airport, these stations permit you to open the automated gates just by scanning your boarding pass. How nifty is that?
3) In-flight Wi-Fi
During long haul flights, some people may be satisfied with toying with the in-flight entertainment system or prefer to sleep the hours away, but you may be one of those who long to check their emails or surf the web. Thanks to in-flight Wi-Fi, you can satisfy your itch for connectivity as long as you’re willing to pay the quite hefty price. The connection isn’t as fast or reliable as it would be on land, but hopefully, in-flight Internet providers will be able to work on that problem in the next couple of years.
4) User-generated content
Imagine planning your itinerary without the help of sites such as Trip Advisor. It has changed the way we plan our travels and has made the idea of venturing out into the unknown less intimidating. Aside from simply providing a database of hotels, restaurants and attractions, it allows users to rate them, leave comments and even post actual photos. You no longer have to worry about hotels posting misleading photos of their rooms or getting reeled into a gimmicky tourist trap that’s the theory, anyway. There’s still the possibility of people leaving fake reviews, but overall, user-generated content websites tend to be more helpful than not. Plus, you can’t beat the free price.
It’s undeniable smartphones have changed the way people live. Nowadays, you don’t just use your phone to make calls; you use it to keep track of the news, send phone system messages and download all kinds of media. It’s especially useful when traveling because all its features and apps ensure that you have your own personal itinerary planner, tour guide, tracking system, documenter and entertainer. It basically allows you to save on the luggage space and many other incidental costs. With the introduction of near-field communication (NFC) chips in new smartphone models, you can even use your phone to pay for your purchases or as an alternative to the standard barcode-based boarding pass. Really, it’s no wonder most people are so dependent on their smartphones.
We’re only thirteen years into the twenty-first century, and we’ve already seen amazing innovations in travel and technology. It’ll be exciting to see what will happen in the years to come.