All Abroard Travelng in a High-Tech World

4/12/2012 8:51:08 AM

Description: All Abroard Travelng In A High-Tech World

Traveling is so much different than it used to be. Much of it has changed because of safety reasons, but changes in technology and lifestyle have rubbed off on the travel industry as well. iPhone enthusiasts don’t want to put their phones down and the increase of mobile devices as a whole, both for business and pleasure, has kept the travel industry moving and constantly altering.

People are traveling less in this poor economy, meaning in order to stay afloat the industry needs to find a way to keep the public happy... right before they jack up the prices. But if there is one thing people are willing to pay more for it’s their electronic gadgets and making them work.

The first thing I do when booking a hotel is check for free WiFi. I will gladly spend an extra few dollars to get that WiFi. If they’re advertising that they have color TVs, then I know they’re probably not going to be up- to-date enough to have the Internet in every room. I did stay at one major chain hotel recently that advertised free WiFi, but had it only in the lobby, making it a very misleading statement. If they can’t at least provide me with a code to get WiFi in my room, they probably don’t have any other modern conveniences I would want either.

It’s more than just getting WiFi, though. We need to be plugged in. The worst feeling in the world is when your trusted iPhone goes dead. It makes you feel cut off from everything, from email, Facebook, news, music, etc.

With iOS not needing to be dependent anymore on a PC or Mac, it means all we need to get going is WiFi and either a USB connection or an electrical outlet. This will power and run the Internet on our MacBooks, iPods, iPhones, and iPads.

It’s not a luxury, but a necessity, thanks to Steve Jobs making sure that we all live co-dependently on our devices. The goal of his life always seemed to be to create devices that the public just couldn’t live without. They aren’t MP3 players, cell phones, and tablets, they’re Pods, iPhones, and iPads, and no one can imagine being without them for a few hours during a flight.

These devices even help with flight planning. There are so many apps that schedule flights, book hotels, and check flight status. They turn your device into a virtual travel agent. Airlines now accept early check-in that you can do yourself online, allowing you to print out your own boarding pass. These have a code that they scan when you board your flight. Some also have ways for you to check in on your mobile device and store an electronic version of your boarding pass so that they can scan directly from your device.

And once you have your boarding pass ready and are waiting for your flight, airports make sure to keep you hooked up. Many offer WiFi, either free or paid from a source such as Boingo. The latter offers a whole month of WiFi for $7.95. It may seem like a lot, but if it covers your round trip it’s not bad. If it gets you online to work on that important document or check your Facebook, that’s all that matters.

Having WiFi extends out even further. Not only is it offered in the airports, but on some flights as well. Many of the airlines state that their goal is to offer WiFi on all their flights eventually, and they’re working towards that goal. Again, that service is offered for a price, but $4.95 for the GoGo Internet can be very worthwhile.

And since everyone is using all their electronic gadgets, they need to make sure they stay charged. The larger airports offer charging stations for a variety of different cell phone services, and also have ports and electrical outlets to charge devices. Some airplanes also offer charging onboard through USB or ports that can accept chargers that are used in cigarette lighters.

These services became invaluable to me while traveling recently. I decided this time around to leave my MacBook at home, but brought both my iPhone and iPad with me. While my daughter, my husband and I traveled to the airport, one of my flight status apps went off telling me our first flight was being delayed an hour. This meant we might not be able to catch our connecting flight. I started looking for other flights while still in the car.

There weren’t any other flights that night so we were stuck if we didn’t make it. I logged onto the WiFi at the airport to keep watch over our connecting flight to see if that flight would be delayed as well. From the time we actually took off, we knew it would be tight. From the flight, I signed onto the Internet and watched the status of the flight we were on as far as expected time of landing, and also watched the other flight, watching it reach delay after delay after delay. I then watched that flight take off just as we were taxiing to our gate.

With no other flights out that night, we were stuck waiting until the morning to catch another flight. We could have gone to a hotel, but for just a few hours, it didn’t seem worth it to have to go through security again. We found an area that had oversized chairs that seemed perfect for laying down, as well as chairs that had electrical outlets and USB ports. I got some work done, then charged my iPhone and iPad while I slept, keeping an eye on our flight out that next morning, which ended up taking off without a hitch.

My flight home was delayed as well. This time I found out in time to spend a little more time enjoying my day before having to leave for the airport. I did not have the luxury of WiFi on the flight, but I just wanted to do some research for this article and had no need to check on any other flights. Yet, something that would have seemed an extreme luxury a few years ago now seemed a dire need.

It’s not surprising that I had such a good experience during my layover, as it was in the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. PC recently did a study of the twenty most tech-friendly airports, and Atlanta ranked number three. They also graded the airlines and ranked Alaska Air as having the best WiFi service, taking into account both the positive and negative comments found online.

Flying isn’t the only way to travel with WiFi. Buses and trains are offering it as well for both commuters as well as travelers. Bus and train stations are also offering charging stations. Whether your travel is via planes, trains, or automobiles, you can find support for your tech services.

This had me questioning how it became such a widespread dire need. I would have worked on my laptop sans Internet without a second thought a few years ago and would have done the research beforehand and stored the info. Now having the luxury of inflight Internet, I am somehow spoiled enough to expect it every time. It’s certainly not a necessity, but it sure seems like it.

Is this another outcome of Steve Jobs’ influence on our lives? Did he create this need in us to always stay connected? While he certainly didn’t do this singlehandedly, he has to bear some of the responsibility. People who have Apple mobile devices seem more addicted to them than non-Apple owners. Jobs made sure that these devices handled so much of our lives that we couldn’t bear to put them down. Somehow, the travel industry picked up up on that and they’re making sure that we don’t have to put them down. The longer we hold into them, the better it is for both of these industries.

Because of that, what’s next for the travel industry is definitely dependent on what’s next for Apple mobile devices and technology as a whole. Until the next device to change the way we live pops up on the market, the travel industry will be keeping themselves busy converting their fleets of airplanes, buses, and trains to being able to charge devices and being WiFi-capable and the airports, bus stations, and trains stations capable of the same.

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