Overseas Travel: Then and Now

Travelling overseas has changed dramatically in the past few decades. And most of those changes have been positive.

Still, there’s something blissfully nostalgic about reflecting on what international travel used to be like. It’s even strangely nice to remember some of the more frustrating details, like:

  • Having to book every single hotel over the phone (or just showing up needing a room)
  • Getting lost in foreign places with nothing but a street map and a few local phrases
  • Sitting on a bus, train or plane full of cigarette smoke
  • Carrying a bulky, heavy camera in your bulky, heavy suitcase.

Remember the days when airport security was more relaxed, when “keeping in touch” meant handwritten postcards (not Facebook messages), and when a plane ticket cost a few months’ pay?

Let’s take a stroll down memory lane and see just how far overseas travel has come.

Here’s our look at travel then versus travel now.


Choosing Your Destination

Choosing a destination Then and Now

There was a time when deciding where to spend your holiday meant talking to travel agents, reading books and brochures, and trusting your instincts. Today, a few Google searches will tell you everything you need to know about a potential destination. Travel bloggers cover every country. Each city, hotel, landmark and airport has been reviewed online. There are even quizzes that can help you choose which country to visit next.

But despite all the convenience and information overload of today’s methods, there was something oh so special about researching your holiday the old way.

Then: 1, Now: 0


Booking Your Holiday

Booking a holiday, then and now

Not so long ago, it was practically impossible to book your own holiday – you had to do just about everything through a travel agent. Today it’s easy and increasingly common for travellers to plan everything for themselves. Flights, accommodation, tours and taxis can all be arranged online or even with a smartphone app. Technology wins this round.

Then: 1, Now: 1


Getting Through the Airport

Airport Security Then and Now

For better or for worse, getting from the drop-off point to the boarding gate isn’t the quick and painless process it was before 9/11. Strict security can be tedious for people embarking on a holiday, even if it does reassure us of the safety standards we now enjoy on board all flights.

Then: 2, Now: 1


Carrying Your Gear

Luggage, then and now

Nowadays, the suitcases of yesteryear are more likely to be found in vintage cafés and antique stores than on a luggage carousel. While the bulky old leather and tweed might conjure up a bit of nostalgia, this really is a change for the better. Modern options are safer, easier to walk with, and often expandable – a suitcase with breathing room is great for those souvenirs you just can’t say no to!

Then: 2, Now: 2


Staying Entertained En Route

Staying entertained en route, then and now

In the past, if you didn’t have a newspaper to peruse, a novel to read or a portable radio to listen to, you’d either have a boring trip ahead or find yourself making fast friends with the passenger sitting next to you (a controversial activity with both pros and cons). When it comes to travelling, it’s a good thing we’ve moved on from physical reading material – phones, tablets and eBooks can make even the longest flight delay bearable (as long as you remember your charger!).

Then: 2, Now: 3


Navigating Foreign Places

Navigating foreign places, then and now

Forget the street maps and skip the tourist information centres. Today, finding your hotel or getting directions to the Galleria dell’Accademia is as simple as using an app on your phone. The roaming data fees might be a bit steep, depending on your provider, but it sure beats lugging an atlas around in your backpack! Another win for modern tech.

Then: 2, Now: 4


Taking Photos

Taking photos, then and now

Once upon a time, you actually had to choose if you wanted to take photos during your holiday. Cameras and film were so bulky – and temperamental – that you had to be pretty committed if you wanted to capture good images. Now everyone has an in-built camera in their phone – and with the right tips, anyone can take exquisite pictures of their favourite moments abroad.

Then: 2, Now: 5


Paying for Things

Paying for things, then and now

Move over traveller’s cheques. We’re living in the era of plastic now. Purchases are now as easy as swiping a credit or debit card – even overseas. We can withdraw local currency from local ATMs, and if we run out of funds, a top-up is just a few minutes of internet banking away.

Of course, keeping some notes and coins on you is still a good idea for incidental purchases – like a glass of Limoncello on the Amalfi Coast or a giant pretzel from a market stall in Munich. But the days of stashing a bundle of €100 notes in your underwear are long gone. (Get more travel money tips here.)

Then: 2, Now: 6


Keeping in Touch

Keeping in touch, then and now

Remember when keeping in touch with your family and friends back home meant keeping some loose change in your pocket for a payphone call, or painstakingly picking postcards off a rack and hoping you hadn’t been overcharged for stamps? Today, you’re more likely to post a Facebook status than a postcard (it’s difficult to exactly quantify the decline of postcards, but they are certainly less popular than they used to be).

That said, there’s still nothing better than a real postcard or aerogram. Let’s call this one a draw.

The result: 6 points for modern travel, and 2 for the good old days. Today’s convenience and affordability are hard to argue with, and in our opinion it’s wonderful that you don’t need to be an intrepid explorer or jetsetter to see the world anymore.

What’s your favourite modern travel convenience? What do you miss about the travel of yesteryear? We hope you’ve enjoyed this look back on what travel used to be like. And maybe it’s inspired you to plan your next getaway!