Do you remember taking family vacations as a kid? Every trip involved hunting all over the web for airplane tickets, waiting around at car rental counters to sign away on every detail, trying to find the best value hotel that has a couple beds and a pull-out couch, struggling with big map books to make sure you’re not headed hours off track, etc. Granted it was the parents that usually had to struggle through all this, but it definitely seemed like a lot of work to make sure you could actually enjoy your vacation.
But times change, and so does the way we travel. Following the huge boom in web and mobile technologies, taking a trip in 2016 looks very different than it did even 10 years ago. Below are a few quintessential ways that millennials (and the tech-savvy older generations) are redefining what it means to “take a trip”
Flights are one of the biggest costs and usually one of the first places you’ll start when planning your next trip. Traditionally you may have paid a travel agency to find you the best deals. As the internet became more popular and accessible, you could search flight prices from each airline’s website directly. But if you wanted to find the cheapest flight, you’d still have to check each airline’s websites, hoping you found every possibility.
These days, you use a flight comparison tool – like Google Flights. You can put in the dates, the origin and destination (flexible if you want to find cheaper flights to nearby airports), and even what class you want (economy, business, first). It can do all the work of searching the web for every possibility and help you pick the best option. It’s taken a huge amount of stress out of flight searching and just gives you the information you need to make an informed decision. Honorable mentions also go to Hipmunk and Kayak.
After you’ve found your flights, the next step is to plan your accommodations. You look for a hotel (often grouped relatively close to all others, thereby leaving your geographically limited) that can fit your number of guests in a room with a bed, bathroom, and if you’re lucky a TV and kitchenette. The basic idea when searching for a room is
“For my given budget, what is the least crappy place I can put up with?”
But what if you could find a place that actually made you excited? Since 2008, people have been looking to AirBnB in lieu of hunting down budget hotels. Their design-driven website makes searching and planning very attractive compared to traditional hotel websites and even hotel comparison sites. But the fact that you can rent an entire apartment (or a bigger house if traveling with a group) for a price comparable to that of a hotel room is really what makes it special. All of a sudden, planning your accommodation is as exciting as picking your destinations. You can even just stay in a private room if you’re traveling on the cheap, or find a studio apartment to rent for weeks if you’re looking for an “extended-stay hotel” alternative.
Sometimes trying to find your way around a new city when you’ve planned a full itinerary can be a little daunting. Every minute is precious and on top of the stress you endure when traveling to a new place, you don’t want to add to it by scrambling with paper maps, outdated bus schedules, explaining where you want to go to cab drivers that don’t speak your language, etc. Instead, want you want to do is just say “How do I get to X?” and have an immediate, clear-cut answer.
Since almost everyone travels with a smartphone these days (and either an international data plan, local SIM card with data, or expert wifi-hunting skills), Google Maps is invaluable app to keep on your home screen. If you want walk from your AirBnB to your favorite museum of choice, you can put in the two destinations and have the quickest possible route laid out in front of you. If you need to find out how to get to a restaurant across town by 6pm, you can put in the destination and time and have the exact subway rides, buses, and walking routes instantly displayed. Google Maps has been one of my favorite and most useful apps since I’ve owned a smartphone and couldn’t recommend this highly enough – and on top of everything, it’s free to use!
Now this may not be part of everyone’s essential tools when visiting a new place, or even a highly frequently used option, but having an Uber ride available can take away a lot of anxiety about being stranded or figuring out foreign transit – even when Google Maps is available. For example, we recently flew to Shanghai and were staying the night in an AirBnB downtown, but the airport is about a 45 minute drive away. We landed in the late evening (starting to get dark), we had got a disappointingly little amount of sleep on our 14hr flight leaving us very exhausted, and this was our first time traveling to Asia so we just wanted to get going to our place. We were able to call an Uber, and even though our driver spoke very little English, we taken straight to our building knowing that we were given a direct route, charged a fair rate, and had no concerns about safety.
Although Uber is usually a more expensive option than relying on public transit, it can be very useful when time is an issue. Especially when traveling, you’re often only in your location for a few days so you don’t want to spend any more time getting from place to place than necessary. Also, depending on the amount of people you’re traveling with and how many connections you’d need on transit, getting an Uber can be a comparable or sometimes cheaper option!
I’ll also give a quick shoutout to Instagram (and all other social media websites too) because let’s face it, when you travel to a new place you’ll want to take some really great photos, and then you’ll want to share them with your friends and family for those sweet, sweet likes. People used to have their film developed and put into photo albums that you could see if you stopped by their house, but now you can post your photos across multiple sites at once, making them instantly available to everyone you know.
Let us know what other tools/sites/apps you guys use when traveling!