Sunday, June 20, 2010

Traveling with Technology

I am currently traveling in Spain and Portugal and reflecting on how technology has changed the way I travel. I first traveled to Europe in 1998 and travelled predominately by train. I remember buying a huge Thomas Cook European train schedule and using paper tickets, bought from a cashier and then having to validate the ticket by having it punched or stamped before entering the train. Of course I also had my Let's Go travel guide which was as thick as War and Peace because is had a section on every country in Western Europe. Internet was only available at Internet cafes which were few and hard to find. A big challenge was understanding and using the phone system and currency in each country I visited. I actually carried my entire trip budget with me in American Express Traveler's cheques. And then of course was the question of how much film to take because I heard the film was very expensive in Europe.

My current trip is much different. Budgeting and access to cash is much easier because of the Euro and the proliferation of ATM's. Most of the travel information I need is located on my iPod Touch and on my notebook computer. Internet is available at most hotels, sometimes for free (I am still puzzled by those hotels that charge a hefty premium for Internet. Guess the business traveler gets to write it off). I have my travel guides in electronic form using the Lonely Planet app. (During the recent volcanic ash problem that ground thousands of travelers, Lonely Planet provided some of their European travel guides for free - good for them!). I have another app called TripCase that is able to manage my itinerary. It keeps track of my flights, informing me of any delays or gate changes. It even sends emails to people I designate to inform them of my flight's arrival. It also allows me to enter the hotel names I have booked, and if they are in their system, gives me complete information about the hotel including pictures and a link to its location on Google Maps

Even the train travel has gone electronic. The schedule is easily attained online and the ticket machine issue a cardboard-like ticket which is electronically coded - no more punching or stamping - now you wave the ticket across the reader and either the gate opens and the ticket is validated.

Cell phone technology has made it possible for me to purchase a SIM card per country, insert it into a cell phone I purchased for this purpose, and then make local calls very easily. As far as calling home, there's Skype which permits free calls from computer to computer but better than Skype is a free app entitled iCall. This app allows for free calls to North American telephone numbers. There is a paid version of the app which eliminates the brief ad you hear before the call begins and allows for calls longer than 5 minutes. 

And the film issue ..... what's film?????

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