How Technology Travels

Maybe it is just nostalgia, but travel used to be a more straightforward affair. (It was also more comfortable in many ways, but I doubt I need to detail those.) You would call the airline, buy a ticket, step off at the gate and your loved ones would be waiting.

My, how times have changed. Now there are travel sites to help you find the best fare, airlines like Southwest that allow you sit wherever you want, extensive security stuff which means you get to the airport earlier and probably sit longer…the obviously necessary changes borne from evolution of the traveling population.

Which begs the question: what is worth knowing about?

Given how un-amusing travel can be nowadays, it might not feel like much. There are a few diamonds in the rough, however, that still bring some creature comforts to the travel entanglements many of us deal with as we travel for business. Take the effort that has put into personalizing the experience by harnessing the finer points of Web 2.0 technology: community building.

On the Orbitz site, there is a service called OrbitzTLC which offers more information than you can probably imagine on most of the large airports here in the US. Choosing one from the dropdown immediately gives you blog postings, forum postings by other travelers from everything about good places for loved ones to wait, to the hidden nook for a bite to eat. It displays a dashboard with the airport status, traffic, and security wait times. All of these update in real-time, making it a nice-to-have tool to glance at before leaving to brave the airport.

Their TLC service does not stop at just those kinds of goodies. When you book your ticket you can enter in email addresses or phone numbers of people expecting you so they will receive any notifications about flight delays or cancellations. This saves you many phone calls if you find yourself standing at the customer service desk.

Speaking of getting settled in at the airport, wireless Internet is standard in all major metropolitan airports nowadays. There are some that provide it free of charge, but they tend to be the smaller ones. The larger airports easily monetize the boredom we all face while we sit at the gate, unable to have a friend or loved one there with us anymore to keep us company. Most airports use the T-Mobile HotSpot system to let you get hooked into the connection, which generally runs about $10 for a “day pass”….something that seems a little frustrating given that you are probably only there for a few hours at most.

If you find your fingers itching to start surfing the ‘net the second you sit down, you might want to check out Verizon’s FiOS card. This little device acts as a portable wireless connection for your computer that will work virtually anywhere it can access Verizon’s network. It plugs into the side of your laptop, searches for the signal, and you are connected! Granted, it is not going to be quite as fast as what you are used to with your home connection, but it is still pretty impressive given what it is based on. (Incidentally, this is also a nice-to-have item if you are stuck as a passenger in a long cab ride to the airport or sitting on the tarmac.) There are multiple modems available, and Verizon usually runs some kind of rebate/free offer on the device itself with a pre-determined contract length. There is a monthly access fee associated with it, but if you travel a lot and find yourself connecting at two or more airports just on one leg of the trip, the savings wind up being significant.

Sure, travel used to be simpler. There were fancier accommodations and the help was much happier. As we keep regressing into our little Internet worlds where we socialize less to get more information, travel is one industry that certainly has not missed that boat.