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5 Reasons Travel in 2015 is Better Than What Back to the Future Imagined

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In celebration of “Back to the Future Day,” TPG intern Emily McNutt takes a look at 5 BTTF technologies that didn’t quite become a reality in 2015 — and why we’re better off.

Today’s October 21, 2015 — also known as “Back to the Future Day.” It’s when we’re all supposed to be zipping through the skies in hovercars and on hoverboards, making pizza by simply placing a small circle in a Black & Decker hydrator, wearing robotic clothes that can resize and dry themselves on command and be able to predict weather down to the second. But much to the would-be surprise of Marty and Doc, we know that all of those couldn’t really be further from reality.

Despite the lack of hoverboards, in 2015 we still have plenty of ways to get around. There seems to be a new and easier-to-use rideshare app every month, a new feature on a plane that separates itself from the rest and a new way to pay (and earn and spend your points). And it’s OK that we don’t have flying cars and hydrators; I’d rather be flying in an apartment anyway. Here are five reasons why travel in 2015 is better than  in Back to the Future could have ever imagined:

The Back to the Future DeLorean.

1) Rideshare Apps vs. the Back to the Future DeLorean

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The future was supposed to be a time when people didn’t need roads anymore, but it turns out 2015 is a year that is more about cars on roads than ever. Nowadays, we have rideshare apps that will send a car to our exact location with only the tap of a finger. Whichever rideshare app to use is up to you, but there are upsides and downsides to each. Plus, Doc’s DeLorean isn’t all that visually appealing — you’re likely to find something a little nicer with something like UberBLACK.

For today only, Lyft is offering free DeLorean rides to users in New York City who want to experience the ultimate Back to the Future ride. Rides will last up to 20 minutes and will most definitely not be reaching 88 mph on New York City’s streets, so there’s little hope that your DeLorean will actually zip away into 2045. Access the feature by tapping “McFly Mode” on the app.

Marty’s hoverboard — the way of getting around in fictional 2015.

2) Etihad The Residence vs. Hoverboards

We were supposed to be hovering around by 2015 – wind blowing in your face, free of roads to follow and the capability to go wherever. But think — does that really sound all that appealing? I mean, doesn’t it seem nicer to have a huge suite in the sky to get you from one destination to the next? Etihad’s The Residence is luxury to the highest degree — complete with a private living room, bathroom and bedroom. I’m not sure if Marty and Doc could have ever imagined such a luxurious way to get around.

On a snowy day, I’d much rather hop into a warm Uber that’s waiting outside my door than freeze while I hover around. Still, I’ll admit that using a hoverboard does seem pretty cool.

Roasted duck with honey mustard on United's new Fall 2015 in-flight menu.
Roasted duck with honey mustard on United’s new fall 2015 in-flight menu.

3) Airplane Food vs. Black & Decker Hydrator

Everyone remembers the scene where Lorraine stuck a small, circular dehydrated pizza into the Black & Decker Hydrator and, in a few minutes, opened the contraption’s door to a full-sized pizza. “Boy, oh boy, Mom, you sure know how to hydrate a pizza!” Marty exclaimed. Bleh. Now the thought of a dehydrated object growing 5x in size is even less appealing than microwaveable meals.

Thankfully, we have better options than that, even at 35,000 feet in the air. Airlines have been upping their food options as of late. Earlier this month, United released its fall 2015 in-flight meal options, which included dishes such as Amazon cod with bok choy and noodles, flat iron steak, mushroom risotto with grilled asparagus and a bleu cheeseburger on a pretzel roll. Yum!

Marty and Doc used biometrics instead of traditional payments and passwords.

4) Rewards Credit Cards vs. Thumb Units

According to the movie, cash is a thing of the past in 2015. Although that’s becoming more and more of a reality especially with things like Apple Pay, one of the alternatives — biometric thumbprint machines — is less prevalent (though still a reality, with Apple’s Touch ID and more). Today, we use not only credit cards (which they occasionally use in the movie), but we earn fantastic free flights for using those same pieces of plastic — what could be better than that?

Imagine if Marty knew that in the future he would be able to go to Cafe 80s and earn double points on the Pepsi he ordered with his Chase Sapphire Preferred Card. Or if the duo could earn 3x points on air travel and hotels with a Citi Prestige Card, all while getting the 4th night free. I’m sure they would be staying in the future much longer.

British Airways 747 in-flight entertainment screens.
British Airways 747 in-flight entertainment screens.

5) HD In-Flight Entertainment vs. Scenery Channels

Scenery channels sounded like a neat idea at the time, I’m sure. They would be perfect for a room that didn’t have any windows, so you could just sit and spend 2015 watching a fake outdoor scene. Boring! Just imagine being on a 15-hour flight from New York-JFK to Hong Kong (HKG) with nothing to watch but the scenery channel — no thank you!

Today’s options for TV in general, but especially in the air, are far beyond the scenery channel. For example, United began offering customers free streaming in-flight movies and TV in April 2014 and Delta launched Delta Studio in August 2014, which offers free access to movies, TV shows, music and more on all domestic flights longer than 90 minutes. And if the internet is more your thing in the air — something Marty and Doc definitely would have been shocked to see — JetBlue just announced it would have free Wi-Fi in all of its aircraft by next year.

Doc in Back to the Future Part II.
Doc in Back to the Future Part II.

Even though Marty and Doc experienced a 2015 of the future, the options available to them were nothing compared to what we have now. I mean, how can you compare with a car in front of your door with the tap of a finger and traveling in first class?

What are your favorite travel-related technologies from the (real) year 2015?

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