7 Ways Travel Has Changed Since the Early ‘00s (When the World Was Quaint and Analog)

7 Ways Travel Has Changed Since the Early ‘00s (When the World Was Quaint and Analog)

When Juicy sweatsuits were de rigueur airport wardrobe, and technology was so... impotent.

By Karen Gardiner

In addition to regular procedural updates mandated by the TSA, travel has changed a lot in the not-so-many years since early in the new millennium. Let's take a look at a few of the more subtle, experiential differences between then (books! maps! bedazzled track suits!) and now.

1. We visited travel agencies.

TravelWeb.com, now owned by Priceline, launched the first global hotel listings in 1994 and later incorporated a booking element. The first online airline ticket booking took place the following year and Expedia launched the year after that. But, in the early 2000s, most of us were still relying upon the judgement and expertise of actual travel agents to arrange our travel... which meant actually going to a brick-and-mortar travel agency and talking to someone. #Weird. 

2. We bought guide books.

Once you'd booked your trip, the thrilling next step was usually heading for the bookstore — or Amazon.com if you were a fairly early user — and purchasing a thick Lonely Planet, Rough Guide to..., Frommer's, Let's Go, or your other preferred brand of guidebook. Nostalgia aside, there are two good reasons why we're happy we can just download guides onto our phones now: Those books weighed a ton and, when you whipped them out in the middle of a busy city, their mere presence immediately marked you out as a tourist.

3. We grappled with different European currencies.

The Euro was introduced in 1999 but the participating European countries' notes and coins were not switched to newly minted currency until January 1, 2002, in what was a surprisingly smooth rollout. So, if you were traveling around Europe in the very earliest years of the new millennium, you were likely still changing Francs into Marks and grappling with currency conversions between France and Germany and beyond. A single currency that is valid across 19 European countries certainly makes life easier — but we miss the different coins and being actual millionaires in Italy (about $620 was worth a million Lira).

4. We printed MapQuest directions.

Going on a roadtrip today? Most likely you're just heading to Google Maps, typing in your destination's address and calling it a day. Merely 15 years ago, you would have had to google the address (except you probably wouldn't have said "google" and would have gone to Ask Jeeves or Alta Vista), then typed it into MapQuest and printed out the directions. While there was no friendly automated voice reading the directions to you as you drove, it was at least an upgrade from wrestling with an unwieldy map. As in paper. 

5. We bought endless rolls of film.

Unless you were a (wealthy) early adopter of the Nikon D1 (which launched in 1999 at $5,000), you were probably still using film cameras in the early 2000s. That meant stuffing your hand luggage with several rolls of film at different ISO numbers (never in your checked luggage where it would get damaged); carefully selecting which photos you took (taking 6,000 photos of yourself had not yet been normalized), and crossing your fingers in the hope that at least some came out OK when you took them to be developed after the end of your trip.

6. We adopted Paris Hilton's style.

Even more ubiquitous than Paris Hilton in the early 2000s was what we'll call the Paris Hilton Off-Duty Look, which often consisted of a pair of Juicy Couture bottom-branded velour sweatpants and a trucker cap. This ensemble lent itself well as comfortable travel wear, and so was sported by many a twentysomething airline passenger in those days. A tiny teacup chihuahua in the handbag completed the look.

7. We killed time in way more boring ways.

Layovers were a drag without the internet — and a myriad of time-wasting apps — in the palms of our hands. Luckily, our old Nokia phones had one reliable entertainment feature: Snake. Hours (OK, maybe half an hour?) could be filled guiding a lengthening snake around a small screen, only to be curtailed when the snake crashed into itself — and then you started it all over again.

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