November 3, 2020

Planning Today’s Travel

Are we just imagining it or is it easier to travel today than it was 25 years ago. Technology has sure come a long way since then. In the early 1990’s I had just started using a computer for my everyday tasks at work πŸ’»  It’s the year 1995 and we are planning a trip to Mexico City. We couldn’t just log online and go to Expedia and book a trip. Back then you had to go to a travel agent to book your entire trip or an airline office to book a flight. We had a great travel agent at AAA that we used for years to plan all of our trips. Now everything can be done yourself online without even leaving home until it’s time for your trip. When we got ready to leave for the airport we had things that were absolutely essential in our suitcase πŸ§³ These included travel guides and maps, a pocket dictionary in that language and a handheld conversion chart in that currency. 

Prior to our trip we normally had to go to the bank or AAA and get travelers cheques to cover our expenses once we got there. Then when we landed we would try to get some money converted into the local currency at the foreign exchange counter in the airport which you do not always get the best exchange. If we need cash πŸ’΅ later on we would have to find a bank that would cash a US travelers cheques and not forget to take our Passport otherwise your trekking back to the hotel. Now, we can go to various ATM’s across the world πŸŒ and withdraw whatever cash we need in the local currency or go inside a bank and present our debit card and get US Dollars. 

Once we arrived we had to find transportation to our hotel or resort. You had to either find a taxi and try to negotiate a fare to our hotel or get a shuttle from airport to where we were going. In many instances this meant getting screwed by the taxi driver πŸš– or get taken for a drive around the city for hours before finally arriving at your destination. Sometimes you could find a bus πŸšŒ but needed to know what route to take. So basically you were at their mercy in the airport. There were no Uber or Grab apps to use. Now, we can get off the plane and depending on what city we are in and use our ride share apps to take us directly to our new apartment. Easy Peasy!

Once you arrived at your hotel if you had made reservations in advance you would have a confirmation letter that was mailed to you πŸ“¬ in order for you to hand to the clerk at the front desk. Hopefully something on the confirmation is in the local language so If the clerk doesn’t speak or read English you wouldn’t have issues. Heaven forbid if we had to just show up and try to get a room without speaking the language. This is where the pocket dictionaries and some short local phrases come in handy. Now you can just pull up an app for travel reservations, select the hotel you want and pay online. Your confirmation is emailed to you within minutes. No longer do you have just the option of staying at a hotel or guest home. Years ago forget trying to rent an apartment without first arriving in the overseas location first then going to a local cafΓ© or bar to ask if they know anyone renting for a week or two. Now you have Airbnb, HomeStay and many others in which you can find apartments for short or long term stays. Each one has an app where you can select the city you want to go to and the a map to see where all the rentals are located. We are big fans of Airbnb and have stayed as long a 2 months in one place we found on the app. 


If you wanted to figure out how to get to the nearest tourist attraction you had to get out your paper map πŸ—Ί that your AAA agent provided you so you could get your bearings and know where you wanted to go. Of course you had to keep taking it at every corner looking like a tourist. Then you would walk to the next block and find out you were going the wrong way. Now you can just pull up Google maps online and just follow the prompts to where your headed. Travel guides are also great for planning the things you want to see once you get there, but we hated carrying around a 2 lb book. So we have numerous travel apps such as Culture Trip, Lonely Planet and Fodor’s we use to plan our next adventure and the things we want to see.

When we would go out to eat it was usually a little family run restaurant that may or may not have had ambiance but the food would be fantastic. These are our favorite since the meals are home cooked and the food was authentic. The menu was always in the local language but we prefer to use the “point and shot method” to order. If we see something the waiter was taking to another table that looked good, we would point to that πŸ‘‰πŸ»πŸ›to let our waiter know that is what we wanted and would order ☝🏻or ✌🏻and it worked every time. I never recalled seeing a McDonald’s or Kentucky Fried Chicken in many of the places we have been until much later. Now a-days every major city in the world has at least a few American fast food chains which makes us furious that they have given into these corporations and we avoid them like the plague. They also contribute to the obesity problems in many countries now just like the US πŸ˜’


In order to keep in touch with our family while gone was a major chore. There was always the pay phone on the street but just try to figure out how to call anywhere without someone helping youIn most cases we would have to find a phone center somewhere in the city and then make sure you could call the US from there. If so, you may have to wait hours to make the call and then when you did it was in a hot sweaty phone booth inside the center. I can recall making a call from Lhasa, Tibet to Michigan to talk to Robb’s mother since she was worried about us on our trip. That call for a few minutes was $20 which was about $5 a minute. Now we have a service called Google Fi on our iPhoneπŸ“± and it connects to the local cell service in over 200 countries. Calls to the US are only 20c a minute which is very affordable. Data is prorated at $10 a GB up to 6 GB and then free. We can make WhatsApp chats and video calls anywhere with our data. No more searching for a SIM card as soon as we land.  


Now it’s 2020 and I can’t imagine an easier way to travel. We have apps for everything on our iPhone. Our phone has replaced our travel agent, camera, maps, travel phrase books, currency converter and more. I love technology as much as I love to travel. However, I still long for those trips where every part of it was an opportunity to learn something new and exciting everyday.

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