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Monday, May 18, 2015
How smartphones completely changed travel
About the Author John
is an aspiring tech journalist and futurologist. When not trying to
predict the future, he's fixing websites, or drawing cartoon animals.
From booking tickets to using a
washing machine in a foreign language
remembers plane tickets? They were rectangular squares of card – usually with
round edges – that you handed over at the check-in desk in exchange for your
boarding card (which looked very similar). And before the Internet
revolutionised travel, you usually had to buy one in order to fly. No longer;
now booking a flight is a simple matter of logging on to your preferred website
and getting a boarding pass emailed to you.
So far, so
nostalgic. But what’s shocking is that the speed and convenience of booking
flights online and printing out your boarding pass is, these days, verging on
quaint. Many airlines have taken this one step further – by taking their
services mobile. By downloading the airline’s app, you can check in, choose a
seat, and download your boarding pass. And forget printing it out – the
embedded QR code provided means that all you need to get through the security
and boarding gates is your phone.
the only change that smartphones have wrought in our experience of travel.
National travel in particular has never been simpler – if you want to go on a
short weekend retreat, you can pull out your phone and book a train ticket in a
matter of minutes. Want somewhere nice to stay? There’s an app for that – you
can book a hotel or B&B from your smartphone as well, or even a yurt if you
fancy some luxury camping. And who needs a guidebook? Most
people carry all the information they could possibly need around in their
pockets these days (well, unless there’s no signal or the wifi’s gone down). Whether
you’re struggling to figure out how to work the washing machine where you’re
staying, want a preview of the local nightlife or you just want to figure out where to grab dinner, mobile Internet has made it
technology really comes into its own when you’re travelling further afield. For
a start, the ability to store your in-flight reading on your phone or tablet
makes it much easier to comply with the ever-stricter baggage allowance
policies a lot of airlines employ. But once you’ve arrived, your smartphone can
still be incredibly useful. Roaming used to be prohibitively expensive, but
while using data abroad still isn’t cheap, there are plenty of packages you can
get to make it possible. And it might just be worth it. Google maps means that
the days of relying on unfamiliar maps and the kindness of strangers are at an
end. If you run into trouble, finding your nearest local embassy or emergency
service is just a few taps away – to say nothing of the potentially life-saving
power of being able to look up the name of your obscure medical symptom on your
phone as the local pharmacist stares at you in confusion.
can make the day-to-day problems you might run into in anywhere you’re staying
for more than a couple of days a lot less daunting, as well. Sometimes it can
feel like nothing is familiar in a foreign country – everything is done
differently to the way you’re used to. Shops might have opening hours that are
strange to you. If you’re staying in a self-contained apartment or house, you
might discover that there are different ideas about how to use a washing
machine or an iron. A smartphone can help you navigate pretty much any of these
sticky situations. Anything you need to do abroad, from booking a taxi to
working out how to use a washing machine you haven’t come across before,
is much easier if you have access to a smartphone.
technology has made life easier, more convenient and probably cheaper for many
a keen traveller. How has your smartphone helped you out on holiday?
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