You’re a savvy traveler who likes to strike the best balance between budget and luxury, and are willing to either hunt around for a good deal or pay someone to put together a gorgeous package for you. You won’t settle for less than the best on your trip, and a big part of that includes using technological advances to boost the quality of your vacations. One of the largest contributors to this has been the smartphone, which has truly changed the way people have travel. For better or for worse, the smartphone is here to stay, so let’s take a look at some of the ways it’s impacted how we travel.
In the olden days of travel, vacationers would head to a travel agency and book their trip with a travel agent. They’d have to rely on the agent’s honesty and trustworthiness that they were getting the best all-around package, and not that the travel agent was piling things up to make an extra commission.
Now, the world’s most popular search engine has changed that by making it incredibly easy to search flights and prices. All you have to do is input the days you’re flying in and out and the destination city, and Google Flights will show you a bar chart of all the cheapest days you can travel on. Armed with this information, you can take it to a travel agency and not only get an amazing price, but the security of booking with them in case anything goes wrong.
Scannable Boarding Passes
Gone are the days when you’d have to show up at the airport two or three hours in advance to line up at the ticket counter, show your passport, and have a boarding pass printed. Ever since smartphones arrived and airlines got smart about them, you can do almost everything — except clear security — on your phone and from the comfort of your couch.
The day/night before your flight, go online to check in and select a seat. Once you’ve completed those two steps, many airlines will email your boarding pass in the form of a QR code. So when you show up at the gate, ready to board the plane, all you have to do is show the desk agent the QR code on your smartphone, and they’ll scan you through and onto the plane.
Just about all of us have seen photos of tourists in foreign cities, huddled together over a map as they try and figure out where they’re supposed to be. The paper map is usually flapping in the wind as the helpless tourists try to pinpoint their location, usually to comedic effect on the part of the visualizer. Paper maps are excellent in that they never need to be charged, don’t incur roaming fees, can be used during takeoff and landing, and are incredibly cheap.
But just because of the reasons listed above, this doesn’t mean paper maps are the dominantly used method of navigation. When Google Maps introduced its app on the smartphone, it revolutionized the way travelers get around. When vacationers want to get around today, they can simply whip out their smartphones, tell Google Maps where they want to go, and get step-by-step directions on a number of different routes. For the directionally-impaired, this innovation has been a life-changer in more ways than one. Instead of blatantly identifying themselves as tourists, they discreetly fit into the culture by being just one of many walking around with a smartphone.
Last-Minute Hotel Deals
Not everyone is an impulsive traveler, but not everyone has every single minute of their vacations planned out, either. The majority of us are somewhere in between: we have a rough idea of what we want to do and where we want to stay, but we’ll mostly figure it out once we arrive — especially if we have any degree of familiarity with the city.
Some travelers pack their laptops with them, but adding the weight of that into a backpack or suitcase can start to add up, especially if you want to travel light. A smartphone, though, does away with that. Slipping it into your pocket is less noticeable than the bulk of a wallet, and as long as there’s a signal available, you can Google any site you want to book a hotel while you enjoy a coffee in your new city.
Wi-Fi Hotspot Apps
Depending on where you’re traveling, using a 3G or 4G network can start to accumulate a lot of data, which means you’ll be coming home from your vacation with not just a nice tan, but a hefty phone bill, too.
Many app developers have twigged onto this problem and have created apps that alert you when you’re close to a Wi-Fi network. Most of us are familiar with Wi-Fi standbys like Starbucks and McDonald’s, but wandering down an old cobblestone road in Paris or London, the Wi-Fi-supplied shops and stores don’t always have the same advertising. And because you don’t want to wait until you return to your hotel that night to upload photos to Facebook, you don’t have to anymore.