How technology makes travel preparation harder than in the olden days

Long-distance travel is easier than in the olden days. However, preparing for long-distance travel today is fraught with annoying decisions, mainly because of the technology that makes travel easier. (Take a notebook.)

The experience of long-distance travel is absurdly easy. Maybe you hate airports and planes, but not me. From that crucial first announcement assuring us that we have boarded the correct plane, I am utterly relaxed. Body, mind and spirit simmer down. Molecules, follicles, neurons, dendrites and mitochondria calm their jiggling, wriggling and toe-tapping.

Did I fail to empty the cat's litter box or cancel that Pilates class? Tough titties: I'm on a plane, I'm out of here, I'm freeeee! No more decisions. Out pops my inner flat-worm as I surrender control to the pilot.

But this I assert (tentatively): preparing for long-distance travel might possibly be more fraught and risky than in the olden days, when we sailed to Greece in the good old Patris. And it's the same for you, if you are over 40.

First, you are now older. And smarter. And you know all the technology that is supposed to make travel easier? It also complicates your pre-travel to-do and to-decide lists.

Money: once it was cash plus travellers' cheques, end of story.

  • Now: credit cards or debit cards or an international cash card?
  • Have you put your various cards in separate bags?
  • Phone the credit card companies with your schedule, or they'll cancel them for suspected fraud when you buy a book in Frankfurt.
  • Have you got one card with a PIN and one without? (In Taiwan, credit cards with PINs are rejected. In Germany, cards without PINs are rejected.)
  • Do you have the credit card company phone numbers in case of problems?

Phones: once long-distance calls were only for dire emergencies. For everything else, you sent postcards. Now you need to...

  • Turn on global roaming, turn off data roaming.
  • Buy a cheap prepay phone or a new SIM card in the "foreign" country, get the card trimmed and inserted in the iPhone? (Except that most outlets in Germany don't do iPhones.) Or just get by with texting from your phone?
  • Check the price of txting and calling from abroad before you dare.

Once you packed your tickets and a list of family addresses. Now, decisions, decisions.

  • Take the iPad or the MacBook Air or both, or just use your phone with wi-fi?
  • Keep family in the loop by email, Facebook, a blog, Trip Advisor, or what?
  • Has the hotel got free wi-fi or will you pay through the nose?
  • Spend days failing to book a well-located, cheap, glorious boutique hotel online or let your travel agent book a generic hotel in 10 minutes?

Enough. I could go on all day. You can think of other niggles. You know I'm right.

Meantime, safety first. Just to be thoroughly neurotic, I've got a nice little notebook in my handbag. It was $0.99 from Whitcoulls.

Image: Greek iimmigrants arriving in Australia on the Patris, 1959

Rachel McAlpine
Rachel McAlpine


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