It’s so hard to imagine going without our phones for a day, let alone being without them while jetting off to the other side of the globe. But once upon a time, we managed every aspect of our holiday without their help and looking back...it was...not so great. Everything from booking our flights and navigating our way through the airport to hailing a taxi to take us to our un-Googled accommodation required meticulous planning, long talks with a travel agent and carrying heavy guidebooks and road maps everywhere we went.
Fortunately, the arrival of the smartphone has simplified so many aspects of traveling for us and has even helped us save some money towards our holiday funds in the process. Relying on our phones to keep all our travel info in place has done away with paper documents and our era of instant sharing has made things like postcards and digital cameras less of a necessity (although, there’s still something quite charming about receiving a postcard).
Thanks to things like Google Maps and language translator tools in our pockets, mobile technology has no doubt made travel a lot easier and less of a venture into the unknown, but could this have taken away a lot of the world’s mystery and intrigue? One of the main joys of travel, after all, is relishing in an experience or sight that’s unlike anything you know, but we’ve become obsessed with documenting and archiving our every step that modern travelers find it hard to be in the moment. For better or worse, phones have turned travel on its head – here are 20 big changes since the smartphone came along...
20 Travel Documents Are (Almost) A Thing Of The Past
Gone are the days of fumbling around in your bag for your boarding pass, your plane seat reservations and your directions to the hotel. Thanks to smartphone travel apps, the once inevitable mountain of paper documents in our carry on luggage is now all available in the palm of our hand.
Many travelers still prefer physical paper reservations and tickets, but airports and hotels around the world are definitely moving in time with the smartphone era thanks to mobile check-ins and digital room keys. Fewer printed docs is a big win for staying green, but not so fun if your phone dies!
19 Learning The Local Language For Free
Booking a much anticipated holiday a few decades back might have meant splurging on some language audio tapes or regular sessions with a tutor. Now though, the joys and challenges of learning a different language costs nothing and we can hone our skills wherever we go.
Thanks to mobile apps like Duolingo, travelers no longer need to get by on a few choice phrases and greetings during our stay. Instead, we can test out our vocab skills as often as they like and even try to master certain aspects of the local language before their trip – making us feel more connected than ever with the place and the people.
18 Postcards Are No Longer Really A Thing
There’s something quite sweet about getting a postcard in the mail. In 2018 though, the idea of sending one to friends and family back home seems kinda old-fashioned and texting has meant that travelers can update people instantly.
Since the arrival of Snapchat and WhatsApp, buying stamps and postcards also seems like an unnecessary waste of money. Why send your mom a stock image of the Sphinx after all, when you can send her a funny Insta-story or Snapchat of you walking ‘like an Egyptian’ in front of it? It’s sad but true, mobile technology has pretty much terminated the postcard.
17 Planning Group Trips Is A Cinch Thanks To WhatsApp
Planning a group holiday with friends sounds like the process should be as fun as the actual vacay, but trying to get more than 3 people at a time organized can very often be akin to pulling teeth. Organizing a group holiday used to be that much harder before smartphones arrived too. Between back and forth emails and unreturned phone messages – planning a big scale trip could be very difficult!
Thanks to the saving grace of things like WhatsApp, it's far simpler to keep tabs on your travel party of today. At least it would be if they responded. You can send each other links, photos and call them free of charge – so much better than maxing out your phone bill trying to herd people together!
16 Never Losing Your Room Key Again
Anyone remember the times a hotel room key resembled a chunky block of perspex attached to the actual key? We guess hotels wanted to make damn sure guests wouldn’t lose it. Nowadays, the majority of hotels provide guests with a keycard for their room, but even this form of room key is on its way out.
A lot of hotel chains around the world are now adopting the mobile room key. In fact, Select Hilton hotel properties in the US are rolling out a service which allows guests to access their room, the parking garage and the fitness center at the tap of a button. Just don’t ever let your phone juice run low and face being locked out!
15 Holiday Pics Are Shared Instantly
Once upon a time, we weren’t able to see our holiday snaps until several weeks after our holiday. Waiting to have our vacay photos developed in store was one of the few things that would remedy our post-holiday blues and now, we get to ‘reminisce’ over photos taken just a few hours before.
Now we no longer need to wait till we’re back home to share our holiday album with our nearest and dearest. There used to be a time when families would sit around going through slideshows of their recent trip to Bora Bora. Now – as long as the connection works – you get that slideshow in real time!
14 Famous Landmarks Are Magnets For Selfie Sticks
Years ago, the aim of a creative holiday snap was to create some kind of optical illusion with an iconic landmark like looking as if you were literally ‘leaning’ against the Leaning Tower of Pisa or holding the Eiffel Tower in your hand. Today though, the main photographic aim while traveling seems to be squeezing as many people into the photo as humanly possible.
And since this couldn’t be done with the original selfie – along came the selfie stick. Love or hate them, selfie sticks are a fairly common sight around world cities and famous landmarks and as annoying as they might seem, at least you no longer need to bother a stranger to get your entire group into one frame.
13 Out With Travel Guides, In With TripAdvisor
While we’re sure that some travelers still consult guidebooks every now and then, carrying around chunky travel guides and about a gazillion tourist attraction leaflets with you isn't exactly convenient and is no friend to the environment.
Above all else, well-meaning travel guides can’t compete with technology that provides travelers with updates and recent opinions on certain tourist spots. A local spot that looks beautiful in the 5-year-old guidebook, for instance, could have been long shut down or moved to another part of the city with an extortionate new admission fee. When in doubt, consulting the TripAdvisor app on your phone can end up saving travelers a lot of time and energy when exploring new surroundings.
12 Room Service? There’s An App For That
Ordering room service while staying in a hotel is no longer synonymous with luxury. Unless you’re ordering lobster Newburg and champagne on ice, the term ‘room service’ can also apply to the most mundane of things like mouthwash or an extra shower cap – and certain hotel chains have made these even easier to request by turning the service into an app.
Many of the world’s top-rated hotels are now providing guests with an app feature that lets you request anything you need during your stay from amenities you may have forgotten to pack like an emergency toothbrush to ordering guilty pleasure food – no need to ask a real person to send pizza for one up to your room – just tap and go!
11 Social Media Is Our New Vacation Scrapbook
When you pore over old family vacation photos, they’re almost always in a carefully put together scrapbook or photo album filled with glossy 6 x 4’s with handwritten captions by your mom. Since smartphones were designed with decent cameras, however, the only real photo albums exist in our phone storage and – if we really push the boat out – on social media.
Uploading our vacation snaps to a Fb or IG album has become our new way of scrapbooking our travels and since we’re so picky about which photos make the grade, virtually every picture is edited to perfection – the chances of finding a windswept hair snap at the beach are zero!
10 You Don’t Even Need To Call For A Cab, Just Tap Buttons
Before smartphone apps like Uber and Lyft were a thing, hailing a taxi could be a bit of a chore at the best of times – even in a familiar location. Thankfully, the introduction of taxi reservation apps has helped to not only combat the language barrier but save oodles of time and money when navigating our way through a foreign country.
Gone are the days when booking a cab to take us into town from our accommodation meant calling up the local taxi firm and trying to explain our location in the best Spanish we could muster. Now, hitching a ride is as easy as tap, pay and hop in.
9 We Can Book Flights Wherever We Are
The act of booking flights in days gone by meant waiting around in front of a travel agent’s desk and - as the internet got a little more advanced – booking them in the comfort of our own home from our laptop. Today though, booking flights have become so simplified and watered down that a few taps on an app screen is all it takes and you’re done.
So if we’re dreaming of holiday plans on the commute to work or while waiting in line at the supermarket, we don't ever need to be near a computer to book something so significant anymore. An app takes out the hassle of endless form-filling and can even find you cheaper deals than the traditional route. App booking for the win!
8 Keeping Loved Ones Updated At Every Opportunity
“I’ll call you when I land,” said no-one in 2018 ever. Using our phones to call people may not always be allowed on planes due to interference, but thanks to the use of WiFi-dependant text apps like WhatsApp and instant video sharing with Snapchat, waiting until someone has landed at their destination no longer has parents wringing their hands in worry.
Once phones users have enabled ‘Airplane Mode’, calling and texting in the traditional sense is a no-no, but this doesn't stop communication. Far from it. Before loved ones have had a chance to start missing them, passengers can send and share in-flight updates with people on the ground before they’ve even started serving the airline food.
7 You’re Never Truly Alone With A Phone
Backpacking around the world with nothing but a song in your heart and a rag tied to a stick might sound cute in a kid’s nursery rhyme or something, but not in reality. As sad as it is to admit it, we’ve become super reliant on technology and while huge aspects of our travel adventures can be enjoyed without it, it certainly helps to know it’s there.
Thanks to things like Google Maps and Uber, your natural wanderlust doesn’t allow you to wander so far that you get yourself lost. So long as your phone has a healthy signal bar and plenty of credit, you can always have peace of mind that you won’t be utterly doomed on your travels.
6 We’ve Hung Up On Calling Cards
Before smartphone companies made it super easy to make international calls and texts with data roaming plans, calling anyone while abroad meant doing a lot of the grunt work yourself and it was pretty tedious stuff.
Using your phone abroad meant using an international calling card which asked you to dial a long access number, entering several pins and passwords, followed by dialing your specific destination number before you had a hope in hell of actually speaking to somebody. Now we just pay a small charge for connecting with others while abroad, and it is most definitely worth every penny.
5 Translate The Lingo In Real Time
In the past, our efforts to nail the local language on holiday consisted of a lot of awkward pointing, gesturing and repeating the only phrases we knew a little louder for emphasis. Thankfully, advances in mobile technology mean we no longer need to worry about insulting strangers in the process. All hail Google translate.
Apps like Google translate and iTranslate can actually help us to get to grips with the foreign-lingo in real time, so spending 20 minutes trying to confirm where the nearest toilets are is no longer a painful ordeal. Translation apps can also help translate text on road signs or menus too. Where would we be without it?
4 Book And Music Apps Free Up Suitcase Space
A decade or so ago, bookworms had no hope of traveling light for a two-week vacation. Then the kindles and e-readers came along to free up a whole load of packing space and as the years have gone by though, technology has managed to fill our phones with so many entertainment outlets that even packing a Kindle or laptop is now considered too bulky!
Since ingenious phone apps allow us to carry around a mini library for literature, music, and movies, this is all the entertainment we need – which means fitting that extra maxi dress and pair of chunky sandals in our case is totally happening.
3 Sussing Out Your Plane Passengers With Airline Apps
A relatively new innovation in mobile travel is letting people know a little more about the passengers they’ll be flying with (and no, not in a weird, stalker-ish kind of way!). Virgin America airlines, for example, has developed its own in-flight social network to help business travelers make new professional connections.
The app helps iPhone users connect with fellow passengers at the gate and in the air. As far as we know, this service hasn't extended to a personal kind of social network, so don’t get your hopes up for being able to find - and avoid – sitting in the vicinity of a possible screaming baby on your flight!
2 Phone Music And Movies Have Replaced In-Flight Entertainment
Remember the days when the idea of watching an in-flight movie on the plane screens seemed so exciting? Knowing that your 6-hour journey didn't have to be so dull after all since you had at least two hours to kill watching the latest rom-com or blockbuster flick.
Airlines also liked to lure you in with headphone sets allowing you to plug in, sit back and listen to the radio. This probably sounds like a hilarious concept to anyone born after 2000, because we can now do all this and more with our phones – our very own pocket anti-boredom device.
1 Relying On Our Phone Alarms Rather Than Hotel Wake-Up Calls
For times when you travel on business or simply want to be up at the crack of dawn seeing all the sights, a pre-arranged wake up call to your hotel room is normally a pretty reliable and effective way of getting you up in the morning (especially as the shrill ringtone of most hotel room phones would make anyone jump out of their skin, let alone their bed).
Thanks to the multi-use tool that are smartphones, we tend to set our own morning wake up calls at home and abroad, so the hotel wake-up call service is virtually obsolete. Then again, we're not so sure about relying on your phone’s relaxing ‘birdsong’ tone to wake you for that significant job interview!