Know the Future of Travel Tech

So your carry-on bag is a tangle of cables and your iPhone’s clogged with apps you rarely use? Take heart: the future of travel is lightweight and increasingly eco-friendly, with tips and itineraries beamed straight to your smartphone.

We asked experts at the sharp edge of travel technology to predict where they think the industry will transport us next.

Wearables get smaller and more chic

For many travellers, ‘wearable technology’ conjures up images of clunky Google Glass (now discontinued) and Apple watches, whose recognisable design screams ‘steal me’.
‘Wearable technology can be very conspicuous, which is the last thing you want while travelling,’ explains Dave Dean, founder and editor of travel tech website Too Many Adapters (toomanyadapters.com). But as wearable kit becomes more discreet, the possibilities for travellers are vast: especially when it comes to bridging language barriers.
‘In the next few years, it’s easy to imagine something like a pendant, watch or similar doing real-time two-way translation well enough to let people have a conversation without speaking the same language,’ says Dean. But he thinks more progress is needed before travellers can expect wearables to go mainstream.
‘I think the challenge for wearables is making battery life efficient enough,’ says Shawn Low, editorial director of trip planning and journalling mobile app Firef.ly (app.firef.ly). ‘If anything were to get huge, I’d love to see a wearable video camera with a battery that lasts at least six hours and shoots HD video.’
Trip planning goes live

Are user reviews unreliable? Will guidebooks become obsolete? Debates have raged for a while about how travellers build and book trips, but changes are already being felt, according to some experts.
‘We’ve seen Facebook and Instagram both add live features recently, but I’m predicting it will all be about “live” peer-to-peer chat,’ says Brian Young of G Adventures. ‘Instead of researching a destination on the internet for hours, people will just be able to “ask a local” in the destination, or someone who has been to the destination, for their opinion.’
Instant local advice is an exciting prospect. It remains to be seen whether live recommendations will eventually fall foul of the same criticisms – like partiality and fakery – as review websites.

Drones soar into the mainstream

Make room in your kit bag. As drone technology improves, aerial photography will be in easier reach of budding travel photographers.
‘Drones are going to peak in popularity as they become more portable, and as they ultimately become capable of self-flying and tracking,’ predicts Brian Young, managing director of G Adventures (gadventures.com). ‘This is already available on some drones, but as prices come down they will become more accessible.’
‘With the reduction in size and improvement in camera quality, these will push out the need for selfie sticks,’ says Young. Out with the forests of selfie sticks around major tourist sights, and in with swarms of hovering drones.
Seamless sightseeing services

Travel apps that streamline services are popping up everywhere, handling everything from booking functions to guide and map providers. Tech fans might want to look to the Nordic countries for an idea of how this could play out in a practical sense.

‘The most important app under development right now is the so-called MaaS (‘Mobility as a Service’; maas.global) application which aims at improved intra- and interconnectivity between different transportation modalities,’ says Paavo Virkkunen, head of Visit Finland (visitfinland.com). MaaS aims to bundle together transport solutions, from bike shares to taxis, into a smart online service that shows the easiest way to get anywhere.
‘This would also enable seamless transportation solutions for remote and/or scarcely populated areas where touristic services are available,’ adds Paavo. Trialled in Helsinki under the name Whim, MaaS is poised to spread to new locations in 2017.

Airport modernisations will have pros and cons for travellers © squaredpixels/Getty

Air travel, for better and worse

Air travel also has its sights set on a sleeker user experience, particularly when it comes to in-flight entertainment.
‘Many airlines who have tested or instituted streaming entertainment have realized that passengers like it and can get by in many cases without bulky seat-back entertainment,’ explains Jason Clampet, co-founder of travel industry intelligence site Skift (skift.com). The plane of the future won’t have seatback TV screens, and the superior picture quality on your smartphone or tablet means you won’t miss them.

Meanwhile airport modernisations will have pros and cons for travellers, according to Dave Dean of Too Many Adapters. ‘Some will be quite intrusive,’ he says. ‘There will be cameras that track you throughout the airport, linked to automated security scanners that you’ll be able to walk through without breaking stride or removing clothing’. Dean says others will be welcome changes, like being able to track your luggage at all times. The convenience of tracked airport experiences comes at the cost of submitting to surveillance.

Speaking of Big Brother, there remains a steep learning curve for travellers regarding data security. Many smartphones will automatically back up photos and other data to the cloud, and travellers can download an increasing new software and apps to browse the internet privately at public wi-fi spots. The technology is here – the trick will be making it sexier to travellers. As Dave Dean from Too Many Adapters put it, ‘Security is boring… right up until the point your phone gets lost or stolen.’

Hong Kong Travel Tips

Anthony Bourdain finds himself on a 48-hour layover in Hong Kong in the middle of summer, but the oppressive heat doesn’t slow him down. In The Layover: Hong Kong, Tony sets out to taste as much dim sum, roasted meat and Chiu Chow cuisine as he can before heading back to Hong Kong’s airport. We’ve pulled together a selection of Tony’s best tips for a trip to Hong Kong — check them out before your next trip.

All Its Own
“Hong Kong. With 7 million people, it’s one of the most densely packed cities on earth, but it’s also densely packed with amazing food and every kind of craziness. China … but not China. A thing all its own. Basically, if you can’t enjoy Hong Kong for a few hours or days, there’s no hope for you.”

Airport Transportation
“Hong Kong Airport Express is a high-speed shot from tarmac to the center of town, that takes 24 minutes and costs as little as $13. Once in town, jump in a cab and you’re just about anywhere you want to be, right quick.”

The Subway
“The way they talk about their subway system around here, you’d think they were getting paid every time they mention it. And it is clean, easy to navigate, and gets you to over 60 destinations easily and comfortably.”

How to Cool Down
“Go to one of the many tea restaurants, or cha chaan tengs, and get one of their carbonated drinks with preserved fruit like kumquats and lemons. A Sprite, for instance, is poured over pickled lemon and ice. Sounds like sour (bleep), but actually … very tasty.”

What to Do
“People will tell you, when you say you’re going to Hong Kong … get a suit made. And they’re right. Hong Kong’s tailors are famous for drilling you out a good bespoke suit incredibly fast, and cheap. The whole process is designed for businessmen on layovers.”

A Boat Ride
“Yeah, you really kind of have to do it.”

The Cool Thing to Do
“If you want to do the cool thing, the off-the-beathen path thing … do like Denny, my mentor in all things Hong Kong, and go to the Aberdeen Fish Market, where true Hong Kongers shop. Just remember to wear your Wellingtons.”

The Best Thing Ever
“Now I like pork, and I know I talk about it a lot and how it’s like the best thing ever. But in fact, the best thing ever is actually goose.”

Late-Night Food
“Chiu Chow cuisine comes from the most northeast area of Guangdong province. Different from Cantonese, its popular big sister. Unlike so much Chinese food, chiu chow is made from fresh ingredients alright, but largely prepared in advance and then served at room temperature. It’s famously late-night food.”

The Greatest Food City
“I’m constantly asked ‘what’s the greatest food city in the world?’ and no one can say you’re wrong if you say Hong Kong.”

Tips For Business Travel

Traveling for business isn’t always easy. Sleeping on planes, packing constantly for trips and staying glued to your mobile device can derail your routine and make you grumpy.

Keeping a positive attitude is the first step to a stress-free travel experience. And acknowledge helpful staff. Travelers have a better chance at getting upgrades, itinerary changes and extraordinary service when they ask politely and maintain happy demeanors.

“When there are problems with the flight, most people start out annoyed or even hostile. If I tell the agents what a great job they’re doing and how I admire their patience, they’ll often go to extraordinary lengths for me,” says motivational speaker Barry Maher. “I once had a gate agent spend 45 minutes to get me rebooked on another airline. Then she called the gate, grabbed one of my carry-ons and ran with me to security. When I got to the gate, the agent bumped me into first class.”

Kindness isn’t the only way to minimize inconveniences and maximize your productivity while traveling. Here are a few practical ways to make traveling for business easier:

Limit Luggage to a Carry-on
Travel is stressful when you’re worried about lost luggage or being late to a meeting, says Barbara DesChamps, author of It’s In The Bag: The Complete Guide to Lightweight Travel. Bring only a carry-on, check in for your flight online and go straight to security at the airport. If you don’t check baggage, you won’t have to wait for it when you land.
Use Technology to Plan Ahead
Check out Seatguru.com to view your airplane’s seating plan in advance, including information about limited recline or legroom seats and in-seat power ports. Find out where galleys, lavatories and exit rows are, and request a seat change that makes working or relaxing easier.

Instead of calling around to restaurants at your destination, make reservations at OpenTable.com, of which 20,000 restaurants worldwide are members.

Bring a GPS with pre-loaded maps of your destination to make driving your rental car in a new place easier, says Maria K. Todd, CEO of Mercury Healthcare.
Join a Rewards Program and Stick With It
If staff notices you frequently patronize their airline, rental-car company or hotel, they are more likely to help you, says Maria Perez, marketing manager of airfare search engine Fly.com.

Members of rewards and loyalty programs often receive early boarding on flights, priority hotel room, first-class upgrades and “all-around better treatment,” Perez says.

Some rental-car companies deliver rental cars to rewards program members personally, while less frequent customers must shuttle to the company’s facility to retrieve their rental,

Dress Well
People get much better service when they dress well and appear wealthier, says DesChamps. Wearing an outfit that doubles as presentation attire while traveling is also wise in case your baggage is lost or you are late, says Melissa C. Gillespie, partner at Innova Communications. That way, you’re not stuck in jeans for a big meeting.

Keep a Bag Packed
Save time packing by keeping a carry-on suitcase packed with the minimal amount of clothing, shoes and accessories you need, including 3-ounce toiletries in a Ziploc bag. Trade bulky laptops for thinner laptops and tablets such as a MacBook Air or an iPad. Replace hardcovers with eBooks. If you must bring a coat or bulky shoes, wear them on the plane to avoid taking up space in your luggage.
Keep Customer-Service Numbers Stored in Your Phone
Keeping customer-service numbers handy offers quicker access to the right people if a flight is cancelled or you need to change a hotel or car reservation, rather than waiting in line once you’re there.

Traveling With Your Pet

If you can’t bear to leave your four-legged family members at home, bring them along for a pet-friendly vacation. Here are our top tips for traveling with pets.

Fly the Pet-Friendly Skies
Flying with your pet is actually a lot easier than it sounds as most airlines are quite animal-friendly. However, each airline has its own set of regulations’ find out about these before you book a flight to ensure you’ll be in compliance with all regulations.

Most airlines extend 2 options to furry friends–carry-on or checked. You may already have a favorite pet carrier, but check with the airline to be sure it meets specific regulations. Guidelines for pet carriers vary depending on how your cat or dog will be flying. Small pets may come aboard as carry-on luggage in a hard or soft carrier and must be stored under the seat for the duration of the flight. Larger pets that will be checked to travel in cargo must fly in a non-collapsible carrier with an ample supply of water. In most cases, the weight of the animal and the carrier must not exceed 100 pounds.

Hit the Road
If you’re looking to travel by train or bus, you’re probably out of luck. Most national carriers do not permit animals, other than service pets, on board. That limits you to your car if you’re hoping to hit the open road. Car travel is more convenient because you can set your own schedule and have your furry friend nearby for the duration of the trip. There are some safety tips to consider.

Don’t let your dog or cat ride in your lap in the front seat. Let them find a comfortable and safe spot in a back seat or keep your pet in a carrier to prevent them from roaming around the car and distracting you while driving.

Talk to your vet before you embark on your trip to determine the best way to handle your dog or cat’s anxiety on the road. If your pet gets anxious in the car, your vet may recommend sedatives to ease their nerves and reduce car sickness. Pets can get sick on the road just like human passengers, but negotiating the barf bag is a bit trickier.

Plan for plenty of pit stops along the way for fresh air and bathroom breaks. When it’s time for you to hit the rest stop, leave the window open a crack for ventilation and avoid leaving your pet in the car unattended for an extended amount of time. Extreme weather can be dangerous for animals.

Home Away From Home
As more travelers set off on adventures with their pets, the hotel industry has responded with many pet-friendly options. High-end hotel chains, including the Four Seasons and Ritz Carlton, boutique hotels, like those in the Kimpton Group, and budget hotels, including Red Roof Inn and LaQuinta, all have pet-friendly properties. Check with individual hotels or on websites that consolidate information on pet-friendly lodging, like petswelcome.com. Check with the hotel about pet policies before checking in, and be prepared to pay an additional fee to bed down with your pet at night.

Whether you’re renting a beach house or a mountainside ski chalet, don’t assume Fluffy is welcome without checking first. Some rentals have strict policies on pets, but many welcome animals for a fee. Websites like pettravel.com and HomeAway provide listings for animal-friendly rentals around the world.

Finally, prepare for medical emergencies before you encounter any. Before you leave for your trip, research emergency vet clinics at your destination in case you require an unexpected trip to the animal doctor.

Mexico’s Ancient Ruins

Mexico’s ancient civilisations were the most sophisticated and formidable in North and Central America, and the ruins of their cities and sacred precincts are an unforgettable highlight of any trip there. For all you need to know about ancient ruins, here’s an excerpt from the latest edition of Lonely Planet’s Mexico travel guide.

The tall pyramids, richly decorated temples and palaces, ritual ball-game courts and gruesome sacrificial sites have amazed outsiders since the Spaniards arrived on Mexican soil in 1519. Visiting them today is still very much a journey of discovery into an extraordinary past, and an experience not to be missed.
Archaeologists have been uncovering ancient sites and making spectacular discoveries here since the 19th century. Many impressive sites have been restored and made accessible to visitors, while others have been explored only in part; thousands more remain untouched.
Mexico’s major ancient civilisations

Olmec: Mexico’s ‘mother culture’ was centred on the Gulf coast, from about 1200 BC to 400 BC. It’s famed for the giant stone sculptures known as Olmec heads.
Teotihuacán: this city with its huge pyramids, 50km from Mexico City, flourished in the first seven centuries AD, and ruled the biggest of the ancient Mexican empires.
Maya: the Maya, in southeast Mexico and neighbouring Guatemala and Belize, flowered most brilliantly in numerous city-states between AD 250 and AD 900. They’re famed for their exquisitely beautiful temples and stone sculpture. Maya culture lives on today.

Chichén Itzá by Celso Flores. Creative Commons Attribution licence
Toltec: a name for the culture of a number of central Mexican city-states, from around AD 750 to AD 1150. The warrior sculptures of Tula are the most celebrated monuments.
Aztec: with their capital at Tenochtitlán (now Mexico City) from AD 1325 to AD 1521, the Aztecs came to rule most of central Mexico from the Gulf coast to the Pacific. The best known Aztec site is the Templo Mayor in Mexico City.

Major sites and museums

Most of Mexico’s major pre-Hispanic sites are scattered around the centre, south and southeast of the country, where the greatest ancient civillisations developed. The most famous sites are often thronged with large numbers of visitors; others are hidden away on remote hilltops or shrouded in thick jungle, and – for those with an adventurous spirit – can be the most exciting and rewarding to visit.
The ideal months to visit archaeological sites are outside the rainy season and avoiding the highest temperatures. For the main archaeological regions, this means:

Central Mexico: August, October to April
Gulf coast: November to April
Yucatán Peninsula: November to April
Chiapas: October to May
Oaxaca: October to March

Teotihuacán by Owen Prior. Creative Commons Attribution Sharealike licence
Most sites are open from 9am to 5pm. If they have a closing day, it is usually Monday. The best time of day to go is soon after opening time, when temperatures are lower and the main visitor crowds have not arrived yet.

The top five sites that everyone should see if they can are:

Teotihuacán
Palenque
Chichén Itzá
Uxmal
Monte Albán
Some sites have their own museums, but there are also important city and regional museums which hold many of the most valuable and impressive pre-Hispanic artefacts and provide fascinating background on ancient Mexico.

Museo Nacional de Antropología, Mexico City: the superb National Museum of Anthropology has sections devoted to all the important ancient civilisations and includes such treasures as the famous Aztec sun stone and a replica of King Pakal’s treasure-laden tomb from Palenque.
Museo de Antropología, Xalapa: mainly devoted to Gulf coast cultures, this excellent museum contains seven Olmec heads and other masterly sculptures among its 29,000-piece collection.

Parque-Museo La Venta, Villahermosa: this outdoor museum-cum-zoo holds several Olmec heads and other fine sculptures from the site of La Venta, moved here in the 1950s when La Venta was under threat from petroleum exploration.

Museo de la Arquitectura Maya, Campeche: excellent overview of the Maya sites in Campeche state and their varied architectural styles.
Other resources

Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia (INAH; www.inah.gob.mx): you can take virtual tours of a dozen archaeological sites and museums on the website of Mexico’s National Institute of Anthropology and History, which administers 180 zonas arqueológicas (archaeological sites).