By Ed Arditti
(WINDSOR, ON) – Technology has transformed the way I travel.
I remember the good old days when people went on holiday by car.
Out came the free oil company maps so that one could plot a route for oneself. The real challenge with those maps was how to open them and then refold them without making a mess out of them or ripping little pieces out of them.
Of course, if one was a CAA member, not only did you get highway maps but city maps as well to find your way around. In addition, you were provided with the turn by turn hardcopy Triptik planner as well as the indispensable Tour Book for the place where you are going to be vacationing plus it gave you all kinds of tourist information as well as hotel discounts.
All of that served me quite well on trips that I have taken in the past. Mind you, on longer trips, especially if I traveled by myself, I did find it difficult when driving to remember exactly where I was supposed to be turning since I did not want to take my eyes off of the road to just check out the map. I found that I almost had to memorize some parts of the route or pull over to the side of the road to remember exactly what I had to do.
My vehicle of choice changed also from passenger car to minivan to sports utility vehicle to cross-over. I now drive a Ford Escape. It’s a fabulous vehicles far as I’m concerned. The ride is amazing— smooth as anything, quietr, it has great power for passing and hardly seemed strained driving hour after hour at highway speeds. Moreover, I got good mileage on it. It carries enough luggage for a safari…don’t forget that we were going to see the Lemurs in “Madagascar.” While it is a “big vehicle,” it does not seem all that much bigger than my previous Ford Focus on which platform it is based.
The driver’s seat position changed moving from the car to the other vehicles. My sitting posture changed from that in the car to almost being in an armchair position. With the increased height of the newer vehicles, it made seeing up ahead easier so that one could take action if there was a need to stop more quickly. Obviously, with a bigger vehicle, one could carry luggage and items purchased along the way. I also found that, depending on the brand, the driver’s seat was also more comfortable on the larger vehicles. I found as an example that I was less tired driving a Ford minivan or Escape because the seat was built better.
As technology changed, so did the way I planned the trip. I don’t think oil companies provide free maps anymore. While I still get my CAA materials just because I like “hardcopy,” I increasingly rely on the Internet to help to get me from here to there. I used to use MapQuest but now I use Google Maps as the route generator. All I have to do is insert the starting point and the destination point and within seconds out comes a variety of routes to travel there along with the detailed turn by turn instructions.
I use Tripadvisor and its reviews of hotels to help me decide where I should stay. I look for discounts at hotels through different outlets and generally book the hotel myself using the hotel website. Of course, I do like collecting frequent traveler points as well because they can be used to pay for a room for the night so I tend to stay at the same chain.
Of course, I look out for what to visit by clicking on the tourist bureau site for various locations so that I can get information quickly and without the need of it being sent to me by mail. Mind you, if I plan my trip well enough in advance, then I will email to get a hard copy tourist book.
Of course, I’m talking about leisure travel but technology can be used for the business traveler as well as I shall talk about later on.
The biggest improvement for me as far as I’m concerned based on the Great Circle Tour is the GPS navigation system in my Ford Escape. Who the heck needs maps anymore? How can you get lost? Put in the start point, destination and let it figure out everything within a few seconds. I remember the first time I used a GPS device. It was a portable one. I could not believe its accuracy as it told me as I was just approaching my driveway that I had reached my destination! It also warned me that I was driving too quickly if I was over the speed limit.
I needed to put it in addresses not only of hotels but out-of-the-way cabins and tourist sites. I never got lost and its accuracy in telling me how long it would take to get to my destination was uncanny, much better than the online mapping services. I must admit though that I probably did not use all of its services but then again that’s how it is with computers.
One feature that regretfully I am going to have to give up soon because I don’t travel enough to use it is the subscription information that provides a warning in advance of travel problems along the suggested route and then provides an alternative.
Just to give one example, as we were heading home from Lexington, Kentucky along I-75, we could see in the distance massive black clouds and lightning. From the weather forecasts, we were being warned that there were severe thunderstorms in the area with the possibility of tornadoes. It started spitting rain so obviously I wanted to get out of that area as quickly as possible.
All of a sudden a warning appeared that I-75 was completely shut down because of an accident just north of Cincinnati, Ohio. To be blunt, I kind of freaked out. The last place I wanted to be was in a tornado zone and not knowing how the heck to get out of there. Of course, I didn’t need to worry. The device provided me with alternative route, showed me how to get there and then to get around the close-down spot to get back onto I-75. It probably cost me an extra 10 to 15 minutes of time because I had to drive a few extra miles but can you imagine not knowing about it and then being stuck on the Interstate for who knows how long until it reopened in the middle of a thunderstorm!
Then of course there is now the indispensable device for when one travels (or even if one stays at home but needs a computer): the laptop.
Dell provided me with another laptop to review: Inspiron 14 5000 Series Laptop with a Touch Screen.
What a beautiful machine to take with me on a trip. I chose to use the 14 inch model rather than the 15 inch one to see if that 1 inch would be a negative. It was not far as I was concerned. More importantly, it was light and easy to carry and met my needs exactly.
Let me tell you about it in my next review.