Those of us with a healthy dose of wanderlust will often tout the benefits and thrills of travel. Traveling can help us break the cycle of work, commuting, and home life. In fact, according to a 2009 University of Kansas study, leisure activities such as travel have been linked to improved cognitive function and possibly even a reduction in symptoms of depression. Traveling can help us move outside our comfort zones, broaden our perspective, and even improve physical and psychological health.
However, anybody that has traveled recently can attest to the fact travel can be stressful. More and more people are opting for a “staycation,” rather than going through the anxiety of travel preparation, and crowded airports. Even though domestic and international travel can raise stress levels, there are numerous technologies and gadgets which can alleviate these symptoms.
Artificial Intelligence (AI)
Artificial intelligence is rapidly advancing and seems to be ever more present in our daily lives. From our smartphones, to our cars, to everyday household appliances, AI technology has supplanted many of the functions we take for granted, and it shows no signs of slowing down.
The travel sector is not immune to this technological advance. In December 2018, Google announced proactive flight notifications from Google Assistant and Google Flights. This tool can alleviate the worry in weary travelers and help us make better-informed decisions in real time.
At airports, various companies have streamlined the baggage claim process as well. Despite a reduction in overall baggage loss over the years, airlines still lose luggage, and the experience can be incredibly frustrating for travelers. Luckily, companies such as Zebra Technologies have turned to mobile technology to scan each piece of luggage at every stage of the process, from initial check in to baggage claim at arrival.
One of the biggest barriers for international travelers has often been the linguistic divide. If you cannot communicate with the locals effectively, you might be missing out on rich cultural experiences and open yourself up to fraud or other issues, such as picking up the wrong medication at the corner pharmacy.
Since 2006, Google Translate has been available as a free app, breaking the language barrier for a wide variety of travelers. Google’s machine-learning capabilities have steadily improved over the years, and the company has offered this technology to various developers around the world through a public API. Numerous tech companies have improved the consumer-facing side of language translation with apps steadily improving the quality of translations.
Let’s face it, economy seating on airplanes is not what it used to be and seems to get progressively smaller every year. If you’re on an international flight, the problem is compounded with prolonged hours in a confined space. Luckily, consumer-facing technology, such as various noise-canceling headphones, has been more prevalent in recent years. The quality of these devices has improved exponentially and they can help you catch up on some sleep instead of listening to incessant engine noise for the entire duration of your trip.
The first night of sleep in a new place, or lack thereof, is usually of poor quality. In fact, according to a 2016 study in Current Biology, it could be due to your brain’s “night watch,” reaction, keeping you half-awake to alert you to potential dangers. White-noise machines could help. Even if you’re unlikely to carry around another physical technological item, mobile apps have filled this space as well.
Despite the various annoyances and inconveniences of travel, technology has drastically improved the quality of the experience. Mobile technology, in particular, has added an additional layer of comfort and security.