In the wake of September 11, America created the Transport Security Administration, a serious ramping-up of security procedures for airline travellers. Fingerprint and retina scanning, embarrassing x-rays - it's been quite the evolution. An evolution that seems to have lead to a loss of innocence.
Remember back in the day when, if you were a cute enough kid, you could actually visit the cockpit without suspicion of being a cunningly disguised batch of anthrax? Back when you could practically lug a gallon drum of face spritzer on a plane instead of decanting it into containers as annoying as they are minuscule? Back when security didn't pat you down like they were paying for it?
But what we've lost in innocence, we've gained in convenience and information - whip-quick booking confirmations and vivid online reviews warning against bedbugs and lumpy pillows. (Check out AOL's changes in travel through photos.)
So before you start Googling that fantastic pensione someone tweeted about, cast your mind back *cue wobbling, fuzzy screen*...
Deciding where to go
Then: You would browse brochures at a travel agent or peruse travel guidebooks at a bookstore or get inspired by a friend’s travel photos...
Now: Your access to the minutiae and ephemera of the world through blogs, travel shows, social media and online magazines can set your compass spinning wildly. You get sent a link about Portland’s burgeoning food truck scene and before you know it, you’re Pac NW-bound.
How you got there
Then: Flights were less frequent, there were fewer airlines and budget options and no Frequent Flyer miles to grease the wheels, so travel was more planning and less whimsy, more patience and less high-speed. And you went to - gasp - a travel agent.
Now: You scout around online for the best deal, bang in your credit card and off you go. You can check in online, print out your boarding pass, you are the travel agent!
Choosing and booking a hotel
Then: It was brochures, guidebooks and word-of-mouth – and actually phoning the place to book.
Now: It’s getting deals in online newsletters, booking through various online engines and a good dose of cheers and jeers from the people power on hotel review sites.
What it cost you
Then: As Bob, one of our backpacking readers said: 'When talking to the young travellers these days they have the impression that it would have been cheap to travel back then. I tell them that if cost me the equivalent of $400 for a one way boat ticket to England and at the time I was getting $50 a week. They then realise how cheap it is to travel today.'
Now: The inconceivable thought of a budget flight from London to Belgium for less than a tenner is now a reality. And think about it - 20 years ago, a flight from Australia to England cost around $2000. Today? Around $2000. But think of your income then and now and see how we can go international for relative chump change.
How you stayed in touch
Then: You wrote letters, sent postcards and occasionally lashed out on a long-distance phone call from a phone booth. If your loved ones were travelling, you didn't expect to hear from them that often because they were 'abroad' - that magical place where what happened in Vegas could really stay in Vegas and not end up on YouTube.
Now: You can email, Skype, tweet and update your journey on Facebook, all with rapid-fire frequency... You can always still go old school with a postcard but finding a post office still seems to be one of travel’s biggest hurdles.
How you got local recommendations
Then: The Tourist Information Centre was your port of call for all things local. Sadly, many of these centres are facing closure as people look to the internet for suggestions. Googlemaps and GPS means you don’t even need to ask TICs for directions anymore.
Now: If you want to know where to get vegan yum cha in Ulan Bator, rest assured someone will have a blog about it.
Travel – you’ve come a long way. When one of our readers rediscovered his old backpack, he sparked a great discussion of the evolution of backpacking. Fast-forwarding, one of our authors put together ways travel has changed since as recently as the late ‘90s. Then another hit the time-warp button and started thinking about 12 ways travel will have changed by 2020. But we've just skimmed the surface. There are so many other ways the landscape has changed - security, amenities, demands. Why not share your thoughts?