25 Surprising Ways Travel Has Changed Over the Past Decade

Change Is in the Air


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Change Is in the Air

Change Is in the Air

Evolving technology, the growth of online booking websites, increasing incomes around the world, and a proliferation of budget airlines are just some of the ways that have changed not only how people travel, but where they travel and what they want to see and do. Here's a closer look at some of the most significant ways globetrotting has changed over the past decade.


Selfies Have Become Controversial

There are few developments that have been more ridiculed or pervasive than the emergence of the vacation selfie. Selfie sticks have caused some popular attractions, including London's National Gallery, the Smithsonian Institution in Washington D.C., and New York's Museum of Modern Art, to ban them because ruin the experience of other visitors. Some tourists vying to get the ideal selfie have even come to blows, while countless others have died in the process.

Instagram and Influencers

Instagram and Influencers Shape Travel Decisions

The impact of Instagram influencers on travel has been profound. Many have made travel seem like a glamorous photo shoot with little emphasis on the destination and its customs. In fact, thanks to influencers and the Instagram platform as a whole, more than 40% of millennials (18 to 33-year-olds) factor in "Instagrammability" when deciding where to travel.

Solo Travel for Women

Solo Travel for Women Is Increasingly Popular

One of the fastest growing segments of travel over the past decade has been solo female travel. In 2018 the Global Solo Travel Study from British Airways revealed that nearly 50% of women worldwide have taken a holiday by themselves. Brian Fitzgerald, COO of Overseas Adventure Travel (O.A.T.) has witnessed the growth of this trend as well. Between 2010 and 2019, solo travelers with his company jumped from 27% to 47% — and 85% of those were women. "Women are embracing their adventurous instincts and joining other like-minded women in small groups to explore the world," he says.

Related: 11 Ways to Save Money When Traveling Solo

Online Travel Tools

Online Travel Tools Offer Greater Access

The online distribution of travel has changed everything, says Christian Wolters, managing director of North America for TourRadar. "Thanks to online travel tools, anyone can book a trip to almost anywhere in the world with minimal roadblocks," he says. "This has democratized travel and opened up destinations that were once hard to get to and experiences that were once hard to find." Wolters says the industry is now focused on making sure experiences are not just available but that they're also meaningful and responsible.

Budget Airlines

Budget Airlines Provide Cheaper Alternatives

While budget airlines have been around for more than a decade, the offerings have significantly proliferated during the past 10 years, with Asia witnessing tremendous growth in the budget airline market since 2000. The market's success has been propelled by a variety of factors, including inexpensive oil and the creation of more fuel-efficient planes.

Related: 13 Airline Perks That Almost Make Flying Coach Tolerable


Overtourism Is Increasingly a Problem

Once charming places like Venice, Amsterdam, Prague and Barcelona have been forever altered by the emergence of overtourism. Activist travel company Responsible Travel issued a report (complete with a map) revealing that 98 destinations in 63 countries are dealing with overtourism, which involves the level of visitors overwhelming cities, towns, villages, national parks, and more. Some destinations have begun passing regulations and other measures designed to blunt the impact of visitors such as putting a cap on the number of guestrooms a hotel can have to limiting Airbnb rentals.

Sustainable Travel Practices

Sustainable Travel Practices Are Trending

Once a small niche within the travel industry, examples of sustainable travel can now be found everywhere you turn – from tour operators offering carbon offsets for their travelers to the end of little bottles of shampoo to the creation of zero-waste itineraries. As climate change, plastic pollution and wildlife extinctions become ever more serious, the travel industry has begun stepping up to do its part. That's no small development given that the travel industry is one of the world's largest economic sectors, making up 10.4% of the global GDP.

Adventure Travel

Adventure Travel Is Available to More Travelers

There has been a significant evolution of what constitutes adventure travel over the past decade, says Terrilyn Kunopaski, director and trade development head for PR and tourism company Bannikin. "The most noticeable change is in how the niche is defined. Where 'adventure travel' once suggested adrenaline-pumping, wildly-active experiences, it now is far more well-rounded," she says. "Adventure travel today refers to experiences that take travelers out of their comfort zone." For some that can mean sea kayaking while for others it can be tasting food they've never tried before. Travel companies have broadened the scope of their itineraries to appeal to less-active though equally curious individuals, Kunopaski says.

Constant Connection

Constant Connection Is Now Possible

Jeff Peo, founder and CEO of travel company Walkli, has spent the better part of the past decade traveling. One of the biggest changes he's observed is the evolution of our connection to technology while we travel. "I first started going abroad in 2008. At that time, I had a Blackberry with an Estonian SIM card that could be used to send emergency texts, but otherwise if I wasn't at an internet cafe I was cut off from the world," he says. "Now my carrier, T-Mobile, has free international data coverage. While it's definitely convenient, and probably safer, to be connected, I actually miss the old days when you could just engage with the destination and not be in constant contact with all your friends back home."

Internet Cafes

Internet Cafes Are Less of a Necessity

As smartphones have taken over the world, internet cafes have naturally begun to become less prevalent. "In 2009, it was normal to touch down in a city and look for the nearest internet cafe in order to reach your friends or family by email and tell them you had made it and that you were OK. Internet cafes were the norm, especially in Southeast Asia," says Becca Siegel, co-creator of the site HalfHalfTravel.com. "I didn't get a smartphone until early 2012, and so up until that point, I was the one who went to the internet cafes, the communal desktop computer located in the hotel lobby, or the lone computer station in a metro waiting area."

Travelers Checks

Travelers Checks Have Become Less Common

Remember traveler's checks, those things we used before credit cards and mobile payments became the norm? "In 2009, I left for study abroad in Hong Kong and my parents suggested I take a traveler's check as a backup. My generation doesn't even know what a traveler's check is. I haven't heard the word used since the years before 2010, and wouldn't know what to do with a traveler's check if I were handed one," says Becca Siegel of HalfHalfTravel.com. "This form of currency is borderline extinct, at least in the millennial traveler demographic."

Related: 25 Destinations Where Your Dollar Will Go Far

Ancestry Travel

Ancestry Travel Has Increased

With DNA testing kits continuing to surge in popularity (as of 2019 more than 26 million people have provided their DNA to the four top ancestry databases), there's been a significant increase in the demand for trips that help families explore their genealogy, says Tess Darci, director of Brand Partnerships for EF Go Ahead Tours, noting that her company became partners with Ancestry to launch heritage tours for travelers. The demand is certainly there: VisitScotland has reported that in 2015 and 2016, 23% of long-haul visitors came to Scotland specifically to delve into their ancestry.

Slow Travel

Slow Travel Has Become More Popular

While many travelers like to see and do as much as they can when visiting a new destination, a more recent approach to travel has been percolating in recent years, says Michaela Murray, Director of Marketing for Hacker Paradise. "Six days in a foreign city, with a jam-packed itinerary for each hour, and a list of tourist traps that you need to get through in order to call it a success, this is how we used to travel. That's changing," she says. "A newer trend - a mindful approach to traveling, where a traveler eliminates the stress of rushing and is freed from the pressure of seeing everything."

Google Maps

Digital Maps Have Replaced Paper Ones

With more and more information available with each passing day, travelers no longer need old-fashioned, hard-copy maps to explore a new destination. "These days, you can even have a street view of your proposed accommodations on Google Maps," says Omiete Charles-Davies, founder of Travelefficiency. "Last year, I visited the beautiful islands of Seychelles, and I didn't need a single hard copy guide. I had researched what islands to visit, the inter-island ferries and their costs, how to rent a car, and what to do in each city way before I landed."


Airbnb Offers More Options for Accommodations

With Airbnb, travelers can stay with a local when visiting a destination and often spend far less then it would cost to stay at a traditional hotel. And that's just one of the changes brought about by Airbnb. "The affordability of these short-term vacation rentals has made it much cheaper for younger demographics to travel," says Pedro Bone, President of The Passport Office. More recently, Airbnb has begun offering one-of-a-kind local experiences, allowing travelers to further immerse themselves in a new destination or culture.

Language Apps

Language Apps Have Improved Communication

There used to be a time when not knowing the language in a foreign country might present real challenges. But the launch of Google Translate in 2010 and similar apps (even free ones) have been a game changer, says Mike Rheaume, publisher of Finder Travel. "When I was visiting a small WWII museum in Poland last year, the administrator used the app to communicate his long, detailed history to me in Polish with English translation effectively, if not 100 percent perfect," he says Google Translate even includes a camera feature that allows for taking a photo of a sign, for instance, and having it translated.


Automation Has Streamlined Check-in

From checking into hotel rooms via kiosks that spit out keys to checking into flights in a similar manner, automation has replaced human customer service. "We're increasingly able to do things like print luggage tags and even check the bags through to security without having to involve airline staff," said Ben Packard, CEO of Thrifty Points. "Even customs is becoming a more automated process, at least in some countries. All you need to do is answer a few questions on a computer then report to a customs agent, as opposed to being asked those questions in person or filling out a card."

Last-Minute Travel

Last-Minute Travel Offers More Spontaneity

The abundance of online booking platforms and a plethora of other travel related information on the internet has made travel more spontaneous (even during the time between Christmas and New Year's), says Quincy Smith, founder of ESL Authority. "I remember planning extensively for my first trip abroad using a map I'd bought at the bookstore," says Smith. "The things that we couldn't find on the map didn't make the list. Now if something comes up that we want to see, I can open Apple Maps and find the correct bus wherever I am. It's incredible."

Pet Travel

More People Are Traveling with Pets

About 37% of U.S. pet owners travel with their pets every year, which is a significant increase from just 19% a decade ago, says Candy Pilar Godoy, who writes about pet travel at boogiethepug.com. "More pet-friendly hotels exist today than ever before, and many are going the extra mile to welcome four legged guests, with things like pup welcome packages, dog treats at concierge, and dog beds in the room," says Godoy.

Pet Travel

Emotional Support Animals Are More Common

While taking pets on flights is not a new development, the penchant for bringing an emotional support animal along for the ride has exploded in popularity in recent years. These days passengers bring everything from miniature horses to dogs, cats and in some cases birds onboard to calm their nerves when flying. The trend has become so popular that airlines have recently begun adopting measures to reign in this behavior among travelers including requiring that the support animals be properly trained.

In-Flight Wi-Fi

In-Flight Wi-Fi Has Become Commonplace

Remember when you had to sit through an entire flight without access to emails, texts, and social media? Back in April 2000 Boeing began offering what was known as Connexion by Boeing, which was basically high-speed Wi-Fi for planes. The first air carrier to begin using Connexion was Lufthansa. After that, a variety of companies joined the market including Gogo, Row 44, and more. As the years have passed, more and more airlines have begun offering Wi-Fi (some even notably offer it for free). Even better, the service has slowly begun to become faster and more reliable.

Related: 30 Air Travel Perks We Miss

Wellness Travel

Wellness Travel Is More Popular

Travel has long been a healing tool for improving the mind, body, and soul. But wellness travel as a specific niche has solidified is place within the industry over the past decade, says Sahara Rose De Vore, a travel coach and consultant at Sahara Rose Travels. According to the Global Wellness Institute, wellness tourism grew from a $563 billion market in 2015 to $639 billion in 2017. To put that in perspective, it is more than twice the annual growth of tourism overall, and as the wellness niche has grown in recent years its offerings have multiplied.

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Sharing Options for Travel Have Multiplied

Homeshares, rideshares, RV shares, and boat shares — the sharing economy offerings within the travel industry have multiplied exponentially over the past decade. What began with Airbnb has grown to include Uber, Lyft, RVShare, GetMyBoat, Couchsurfing, and far, far more. Even private jets have entered the sharing economy via platforms like NetJets and FlexJet.

Related: 22 Tips for a Successful Side Hustle

Vegan Travel

Vegan Travel Is Trending

Jumping on the growing vegan trend, those who prefer not to eat animal-based food can book tours that cater to their lifestyle. World Vegan Travel offers a variety of international trips that have been created specifically for vegans. The trips not only include plant-based cuisine but also animal cruelty-free activities and visits to animal sanctuaries that have been carefully vetted.