How many of you remember air travel before technology? Any sojourn required a trip to the travel agency, perusing books and pamphlets of travel destinations, much planning and many phone calls on the part of the agent, rendering payment, and eventually, a flight, hotel, and car booking obtained.
Anybody misses those days? Me neither!
Despite the increased security and extensive screening at all airports after 9/11/2001, access to air travel has become consistently streamlined within the last 15 years. While it’s still a good idea to employ the help of a good travel agent when planning complicated or all-inclusive travel such as exotic vacations, honeymoons, guided tours, or group travel, there is much a traveller can do to plan their own getaways. Whether you’re flying cross-country or just taking a “puddle jump,” there are many helpful online services to help you get where you’re going.
One of the best – and most time-saving advances – in travel is online booking. Whether you need a flight, hotel, car, all of the above, or any combination thereof, the choices are plentiful. Folks who prefer to peruse uninterrupted through various flight choices such as arrival and departure times, airport choices, airline rate comparisons, and stopover vs. nonstop flights can do so at their leisure and purchase whenever they choose. There’s something rather empowering about the ability to search, book, pay for, change, and rearrange one’s travel at leisure and the ability to confirm reservations at 3 am without bothering another soul. You can even arrange for airport parking in advance, using an online parking reservation site. In major airports, such as LAX, La Guardia, and Dulles, having reserved parking can mean the difference between making your flight in plenty of time, and missing your flight because you spent 2 hours cruising the parking lots looking for a place to park!
When booking travel online, one can opt to receive boarding passes via email, PDF file, or mobile phone text. With some airlines, you can even choose and reserve your seat when you book your flight. It is even possible to check in for your flight online! No more waiting for “the next available agent” – just check in using your computer or mobile phone, give airline staff your check-in baggage when you arrive at the airport, and away you go. And if you’re unable to utilize online check-in, there are self-service check-in kiosks near the airline counters, where travelers check in using a touch screen, then simply hand their bags to an agent at the counter.
Currently, efforts are underway to automate and streamline check-in even more. A brand new system that went live on February 19, 2014 provides passport kiosks in Orlando airport for international travelers. This system is already in place in Chicago for Canadian and US travelers only.