(Ping! Zine Web Tech Magazine) – Not so many years ago, anybody who wanted a vacation had to do a number of things that now seem very old fashioned. They had to walk into a building, speak to a travel agent, and find out what travel options were open to them. They had to trust that agent to correctly describe and rate their potential destination, and perhaps also to book their flights. Then they had to go back home and wait a few days for all of the relevant paperwork to arrive in the post.
Sounds crazy and very slow, does it not? Well, that just shows how much technology has changed the nature of travel for everybody, in less than two decades. Now, anybody with a hankering to escape the rat race for a while has only to log onto the World Wide Web and the world is (almost literally) his or her oyster. Always wondered what Australia is like? Find out first hand, from people who have been or who live there, by logging on to any of the many travel review sites. Or surf some Aussie news sites and get a first-hand view. Not sure how much it will cost to fly to Paris? The Internet can explain in a couple of seconds, and it will only take a few extra minutes to book and confirm the flights. If a visa is required, that can often be arranged online, too.
There are now a plethora of online and tech-based services that make travel so much easier and more convenient. Not only can flights and hotels be booked on the web, they can also be appraised and assessed, thanks to the many review facilities that bring a type of popular democracy to our technological world. So now there is a much reduced chance of being surprised or upset by the state of a destination’s hotels or airport, and service providers are motivated by the knowledge that if they fail to deliver on their promises they will be criticized in full public view.
Savvy travelers can also check in for their flights and hotel rooms at the click of a mouse, and customize their vacation experience. Some hotels, for example, now have apps that allow guests to specify their preferred foodstuffs, pillow and mattress tensions and even book complimentary toiletries and cosmetics, prior to arrival.
Once at their destination, many travelers find that technology becomes even more useful. Those who have a device as small and portable as a smartphone or tablet can translate a restaurant menu in Parma with an online translation service, upload the latest pictures of themselves in Paris to social media or book tickets for the hottest Philadelphia events.
So what technological equipment does the modern traveler need? Obviously, much depends on personal preferences and interests but for those who like to travel light a smartphone is often sufficient. That is, as long as it has a decent camera and the destination’s Wi-Fi coverage is good. It makes sense to take a smartphone with a reasonably large screen, and to be aware that the glare from sunlight or snow can make smartphones difficult to read and therefore to use, in some situations.
For serious travelers, a smartphone camera is never going to suffice so the digital SLR has to come along too, with a tablet for viewing and uploading pictures and video. Again, the glossy screens of many tablets render them difficult to use in bright light or glare, which may at times prove inconvenient, but this is rarely insurmountable and they are exceptionally useful for storing large amounts of data, such as pictures and video. Tablets are great, portable, multi-taskers. For most travelers, having a tablet means that there is no need for an e-reader (the tablet will do the job) or printed books (yes, some people actually still travel with those!)
Dedicated bookworms may want an e-reader (smartphones may do the job but long hours peering at a tiny screen can be tiring), and it is possible to buy these with screens that can be read easily even in direct sunlight. Many e-readers, however, lack versatility and the traveler will need a smartphone and/or tablet as well.
One final caveat is that most of these devices rely heavily on Internet connectivity, so it is prudent to check out the likely availability of Wi-Fi before departing. A lack of Wi-Fi will render much of modern technology useless when traveling – however, some may argue that complete disconnection would at least ensure a more relaxing vacation!