Cheapest Destinations Blog is reader-supported. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission.

How Things Have Changed in Travel

travel photoThis post will clearly brand me as someone born earlier than 1980, but it’s amazing to look at this list from Budget Travel of the 10 Best Travel Innovations of the Past 10 Years and not be amazed how much things have changed. When I first went traveling around the world for a year straight, not one of these items and services existed.

Some of them we take for granted so much now that it’s hard to even imagine there was a time before e-mail, Internet cafes, online maps, and worldwide ATM access. Gosh, how did we survive?

Some of these have been very positive. Having to travel 100 miles to a capital city just to get to a working ATM—or waiting for hours at an Indian bank while four bureaucrats passed around carbon copy approvals for a credit card withdrawal—was just plain stupid and a big waste of time. And of course picking up a month-old package of mail from home at the local American Express office wasn’t a joy either, especially when it contained overdue bills or envelopes marked “Urgent!” E-mail and online banking have been a godsend.

Digital photos? No contest. I actually used to carry slide film for shooting articles, in a lead bag, shipping slides to an editor from a post office in Bangkok or Istanbul. We would have the regular snapshots developed as we went after we got up to 15 or 20 rolls of film, often finding out half the pictures we took were total crap. It sounds downright insane now, but that was the norm.

Some developments, however, have a dark side. When I see a traveler texting into a cell phone for 10 minutes, oblivious to the wonders around her, it makes me cringe. (And those travelers are paying dearly for those calls home to Mom.) Besides, being constantly connected to home is not a good thing when you’re supposed to be leaving home behind. Stop communicating with people on the other side of the globe and talk to the ones right in front of you instead. You’ll learn more. Promise.

I’ve still never used a GPS device except in a rental car, so that one hasn’t changed my travels. Getting lost is often half the fun, especially if you’re looking for unique experiences instead of just checking off the sites. While I’ll admit GPS consoles could be useful at times, especially for traveling salesmen, they often seem to make map-obsessed people even more obsessed. “Must… know… exactly… where… I…. am… at… all.. times.”

I do like online maps printed out in advance, however, especially when they are correct.

Roller bags? That’s a moving target. If the airline bag restrictions in the U.S. and weight restrictions in Europe continue, we’re all going to be resorting to backpacks that will fit in the overhead bin.

Darrin

Wednesday 28th of May 2008

I don't know how I ever survived an Iberian Airlines flight that allowed smoking. Remember when airlines allowed that? The plane was like a bar, but with shrieking children instead of cheap beer and ambiance.

Mike

Tuesday 27th of May 2008

Traveling with a cell phone seems counter productive, I've never understood why you'd do it.

Last year my dad tried to give me a GPS thingy for our trip to South America but couldn't find one that worked of North America. Thank god. I would have left it at home.

I was born in 79 and really, honestly, can't imagine traveling without ATMs. What was it like??

tim

Tuesday 27th of May 2008

Jamie--I left that one of the 10 alone for a reason. Garbage in garbage out a lot of times, just as when you are sitting around listening to advice from the relatives you can't stand...

Marie--so true, but thankfully less so every year. Maybe we can turn the last surviving one into a museum. The Paperweight and Fan Museum!

Marie Javins

Tuesday 27th of May 2008

There are still places where getting cash requires carbon paper and triple signatures, not to worry...

Jamie

Tuesday 27th of May 2008

Warning: this comment may contain irony.

Ah, research. With the proliferation of web sites powered by peer-to-peer advice (which is, ahem, what MY site is powered by), I've noticed a definite atrophy in my ability to make decisions by myself.

To compensate, I try to go off-piste on some of the less critical travel decisions (such as where to have lunch) so as to occasionally still experience, albeit in a small way, the thrill of discovery.