5 simple tech innovations that would revolutionize the travel experience

Apr 23, 2021

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Once upon a time, travelers had to use a travel agent for all things vacation. Now, we can book our trips from A-Z with the phone in our pocket.

It’s easy to take for granted just how much technology has advanced in a short period of human history.

Imagine picking up your phone and hearing your neighbors already in deep conversation. Then, having to ask when they would be done so you could make your call. This was real life until only 40 years ago when party lines were phased out.

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Fortunately, advances in technology fixed the telephone problem and made our lives easier in countless other ways.

As tech continues to develop, here are five simple innovations that could make our future travel even better.

Real-time lounge and gate space availability

(Photo by wera Rodsawang/Getty Images

No one enjoys long lines. Airport lounges and departure gates are no exception. I would love to see tech used to improve these travel experiences.

Related: The 8 do’s and don’ts in an airport lounge

There are a host of cards that provide access to airport lounges. Cards like the Chase Sapphire Reserve and The Platinum Card® from American Express are great for frequent travelers and families, as they provide valuable lounge access.

However, as the points & miles community has grown, many airport lounges have become overcrowded.

There’s nothing like taking the gamble to venture all the way to another terminal to a lounge, with hopes of a plush chair, food and drinks, only to arrive and discover they’re filled to capacity and you are the 27th person in line.

Wouldn’t it be great if you could use your phone to see how busy the lounge is before you ventured to the other side of the airport?

Even replicating something as simple as airport security check wait times for lounges would be an improvement.

Related: Should you get TSA PreCheck or Clear — or both?

But why stop there? With current technology, lounges could use visitors’ departing flight information to manage space more efficiently and know when outflows would occur.

Similar tech could also be used to tell us how busy our departure gate is. We have all seen parking garage signs that keep track of how many open spots there are. If gates used the same tech, this would avoid showing up to the gate only to discover there are no open seats, while there may be ample seating a few gates away.

Digital passports

(Photo by Yiu Yu Hoi/Getty Images)

Every day, it seems like there is a new way to use blockchain technology. I would love to use blockchain for passports and stamps. This would eliminate having to carry the paper passports and take stamp collecting to another level.

With paper passports, there is always a risk of losing it. I’m the type of person who is constantly tapping their pocket or checking my bag to make sure my passport is still there.

That could be avoided with a digital passport.

Related: You finally got vaccinated: Here’s what you’ll need for a digital health passport

Also, blockchain could take travelers’ passport stamp collections to another level. With nonfungible tokens (NFTs), passport stamps could literally be pieces of digital art and allow each country to showcase its uniqueness.

With blockchain and NFTs, imagine being able to display your collection of passport stamps on a wall, like a piece of Beeple’s NFT art.

I would rather have a digital passport stamp from Kenya be a 3D scene showcasing the great migration instead of a lifeless, monochrome 2D paper stamp in a passport that is stashed in a drawer.

Universal COVID-19 vaccination records

(Photo by mixetto/Getty Images)

As the world continues to recover from the pandemic, the question of how to make travel safer is still unresolved. Today, governments have varying COVID-19 testing requirements for entry and exit and a wide array of different tests.

Related: A country-by-country guide to coronavirus recovery

For example, United Airlines’ website shows that if traveling from the United States to South Korea, travelers can arrange a self-collected, mail-in COVID-19 test. However, before returning back to the United States they would need to arrange to be tested at an approved South Korean hospital.

While organizations like the International Air Transport Association and Microsoft are developing “travel passes” to relieve some of the complexities, many countries are also working on their own solutions. It would be ideal if there were just a couple of apps for everyone to use. Otherwise, chaos will ensue as some countries do not accept verification from other apps.

In the absence of a universal vaccine status, what happens if the European Union does not accept Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine?

Travelers could be limited to visiting countries that accept their country’s vaccine.

Seat selection but for hotel rooms

(Photo by d3sign/Getty Images)

In 2021, why is this not already a thing?

Most airlines allow you to pick your seats. Many airlines charge for this option as a source of revenue.

Related: 7 tips for picking the perfect airplane seat every time

When booking hotels, travelers should also be able to select their hotel rooms from the floorplan. For the overachieving hotels, they could do augmented reality or 3D to allow travelers to view the room and see the sweeping panoramic views, or find out that the room looks out to a brick wall.

At a minimum, there should be a website like SeatGuru.com for hotel rooms, where travelers can read the pros and cons of hotel rooms and see which ones are located near the elevator or ice machine, or have a beach or alley view.

This technology could be applied to cleaning the rooms incoming travelers are expecting. Hotels already have problems with having travelers’ rooms ready upon arrival. The process could be improved using travelers’ estimated arrival times to help staff prepare rooms more efficiently. It also benefits travelers as they can see an estimate of when their room will be ready.

Smart(er) hotel rooms

(Photo by Grace Cary/Getty Images)

Have you ever entered a hotel room that was too hot or cold? And then had to figure out how to work the thermostat to get the room temperature to your liking?

Assuming the ability to hack into smart devices in rooms was mitigated, travelers could set the hotel room thermostat from the hotel app on their phones.

Related: 9 hotel booking apps every traveler should download

Better yet, during the hotel booking, companies could add a box for travelers to provide their preferred room temperature and already have the room set to that temperature before they arrive.

Another benefit of a smart room is cost savings from less energy consumption. Since most travelers are gone a majority of the day, they could conserve energy by dialing the thermostat back, while scheduling it to be the desired temperature before they get back.

Bottom line

Sometimes, technology solves problems that you didn’t even know you had, like a voice-controlled refrigerator that can make ice cubes at your command. It continues to change our lives by making what was once unimaginable a reality.

The five improvements listed above could easily become reality and — in many ways — help make our travel more comfortable, convenient and customized.

Featured photo by AerialPerspective Images/Getty Images.

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