Friday, January 8, 2016

Technological advances that simplified travel in the last 25 years

High speed rail service in many European countries has reduced travel time dramatically  (wikipedia)
CHARLOTTE, NC During the Golden Age of travel, getting to a destination was as much a part of the experience as the places themselves. Veteran travel writers frequently hearken to those days when travel had its own form of elegance that has long since disappeared with the “cattle-car” mentality of today.

Despite that, there have been numerous innovations over the past 25 years which have made travel considerably more comfortable and convenient.  Here’s a list of ten:

The internet has vastly improved communication (wikipedia)
 1 – GPS Systems – Though not a panacea for all things travel, GPS have saved countless marriages. Whether you’re traveling domestically or internationally, reading maps has been virtually eliminated.  A good GPS has greatly minimized those last second “Turn here, turn here. No, no go back” moments which led to detours in unfamiliar territory.  While headache remedies may have taken a financial hit, the benefits of GPS are immeasurable.

2 – Tour Group Headsets – Today you can stray from traveling partners and still hear the commentary of your tour guide.  The guide wears a microphone while group members don headsets that allow them to walk away from the crowd and still hear the information.  A side benefit is that it is infinitely easier to keep the group in a cohesive unit.

3 – High Speed European Train Service – Go from city-center to city-center faster by rail than by air on trips of three-and-a-half hours or less by using trains that travel just under 200 mph in many European countries. 
Go between London and Paris in three hours thanks to Eurostar trains and the Channel Tunnel  (wikipedia)
High-speed trains allow travelers to base themselves in one location and do day-trips without the hassle of changing hotels. 

Eurostar service through the Channel Tunnel has made traveling between London and Paris a 3-hour excursion.  While a whirlwind tour of either city is less than ideal, people can sample either city when time does not allow in depth exploration 

4 – Internet/Wi-Fi – Take any and all versions of “pads” and “pods” or other form of internet connection and staying in touch with home or tracking friends within your destination(s) is now little more than a touch away.  One particular advantage of internet access is the increased ability for individual travel.  Groups can split up to explore personal interests and easily reunite through the miracle of instant communication.  In addition, Skype has even made it possible to see your friends and loved ones as they are traveling.

Euros have reduced currency conversions (wikipedia)  
5 – Euro – Though the currency may be having its problems, it has certainly made traveling between multiple European nations a lot easier.

The euro has not only simplified the process of currency conversion for travelers, it has also minimized the cumbersome task of figuring conversion rates in individual countries.

 6 – ATMs – ATMs allow travelers to access money  any time including weekends, holidays and after hours.  It may not sound like a big deal, but the convenience of ATMs always being in close proximity makes the urgency of running low on funds a huge time saver.
ATMS allow access to cash at any time  (wikipedia)

 7 – Swiss Travel Pass – Rail passes have been around for years and have always been a great travel bargain. However, the Swiss Travel Pass offers the use of local transportation, postal buses, boats, funiculars and cable cars as well as trains.  Unfortunately, travelers often fail to consider the bonuses included with a pass such as significant discounts for mountaintop excursions and other private transportation services.  In addition, a Swiss Travel Pass offers free admission to over 400 museums throughout the country. 
Go virtually anywhere in Switzerland quickly, efficiently and on time  (wikipedia)
8 – Cell Phones – Rushing to pay phones to announce late departures or arrivals to friends and family members is a thing of the past.  Many airports even have cell phone parking lots where people can park while they wait for a call from a plane that is in the process of landing.

Cell phone parking areas not only reduce congestion at the terminal, they also save time and gas by eliminating the need to circle the airport while you wait. 

 9 – Personal In-Flight Entertainment Systems – Select a variety of movies, TV shows, games or even track your location during a flight.  For movie purists who don’t like having their entertainment edited or censored for family viewing, personal monitors make it possible to watch uncut versions of their favorite programs or movies.

Eurail Saverpass offers a great discount for two or more people traveling together  (wikipedia)
10 – Eurail Saverpass – Many European rail passes now offer Saverpasses which provide substantial discounts for two or more people traveling together.  Saverpass products are great for small groups or families.  In essence, a Eurail Saverpass regards as few as two people a “group” and provides significant discounts for traveling by rail throughout Europe.  Like the Swiss Travel Pass, there are excellent bonus options for ferries, ground transportation and other services that can result in additional savings.
Modern railway stations are a haven for travelers with all the services they need  (wikipedia)
Air travel in particular has become a modern day hassle for which we compromise removing shoes and belts plus x-ray machines and even body searches for speed. The trade-off hardly seems worth it sometimes, but thankfully some things have made simplified travel and made it better.