Travel throwbacks: Why we're thankful for travel technology

It’s easy to take technology for granted when it comes to business travel. Since all it takes are a few taps on the phone to book and check-in for a flight, trip prep hardly requires more than a passing thought. 

It wasn't long ago, though, that we booked trips and traveled without cell phones, laptops and the other tools that make our twenty-first-century lives more manageable. So, when you think about how much work business and leisure trips used to be, we have a lot to be thankful for. In honor of Thanksgiving, let's take a look back at what travel used to be like:

 

You couldn’t book travel yourself

Remember the days when you had to call or drive to a travel agency to book a trip? The rise of do-it-yourself booking engines such as Travelocity and Expedia changed all that for consumers, and business travel partners like Fox World Travel, Atlas Travel, and Uniglobe ONE Travel. Now, whether you’re on a computer or your smartphone, you can book your entire trip from anywhere, at any time,  and keep track of your entire itinerary on TripIt. No more fumbling around with (and possibly losing) paper tickets and notepads full of itinerary details!

 

Everything was paper-based

Remember having to actually go to the airport to pick up an airplane ticket? We’re happy that’s gone the way of the dinosaurs. Now you can travel with nothing more than identification and a confirmation code, or, in some cases, a QR code on your smartphone will do the trick.

It’s the same with expenses: One of our employees, a tech veteran, once went to China on business for three weeks. The jet lag was so bad when he got home that he lost every single one of his receipts—which were nicely collected in an envelope, sorted by date and with each attendee’s names written in ink on them—when he washed the jacket that contained the envelope. Now he snaps photos of business receipts on his mobile phone and sends them to Concur, which is considerably easier than trying to decipher Mandarin from a washed-and-dried wad of receipts.

 

Just getting to the airport was expensive

Remember when getting to the airport was a steep expense? Arriving on time for flights meant either calling for a pricey cab and hoping one was free in time to get you to the airport, or paying to park in airport garages. (Unless you were really lucky and had a generous neighbor or family member drop you off.) But, thanks to Uber and other ride-sharing services, as well as advances in technology that help airport parking vendors like Park 'N Fly quickly deliver customers to their terminals, those costs and inconveniences are now a thing of the past. Getting to the airport has never been easier, or cheaper.

 

Staying at a hotel was a gamble

Remember when travel planning meant you had to rely on word of mouth to find a place to stay? And, you had to arrange reservations directly with the hotel, by phone. That could be tricky when traveling between time zones, not to mention dealing with different languages. One of our staffers, as a 22-year-old freelance journalist, sent what she thought was enough cash for a week at a run-down Parisian hotel, only to learn on arrival that the funds had mysteriously disappeared, leaving her homeless. And, one of our engineers decided to save his company money when he went to a conference by staying at a lower-priced chain hotel two miles from the conference venue—only to find that no taxi drivers would take him there because the neighborhood was so bad.

But now, thanks to the Internet, you can make use of travel forums to choose a hotel with confidence and make a reservation there online, with a credit card, through an online booking service or travel agency. At some hotels, you can even check-in online to avoid the line at reception, or even select the exact room you want to stay in, like choosing a seat on a plane.  

 

You had to lug around so many devices

Remember the days of carting along a 15-pound laptop that had maybe two hours of battery life? Or having to find your way around a city with a paper map? Those days are over, friends! At least a few of us here remember cramming a carry-on with a cell phone, pager, Palm Pilot, and if we had room, a CD player and a camera. But it was the laptop that was the real killer, with an underpowered fan that ensured you’d feel like you were in the desert after using it for a mere 15 minutes onboard—and that’s if you could manage to make it fit on your tray table. Now, of course, a smartphone, tablet or ultralight laptop has everything you need built-in, and altogether weigh less than three pounds. Not to mention that you have your choice of mapping apps—with dictation—so you’re no longer a hazard on the road.

 

Do you know how your travelers are spending? Check out our State of Business Travel report. 

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