Carry-on Essentials: Mobile Devices Make Vacationing Fun

For most of Europe and the North American population, vacation time starts in July – a time to break from the demands of daily routine, to recharge and to relax. With their growing dependence on mobile devices to perform everyday tasks, vacationers often find difficulty in disconnecting from their devices.It’s not surprising to learn that one in four travelers now considers a mobile device as a “must-have” carry-on essential. From taking photos, making reservations, finding local events, and staying on top of hometown news, travelers need to stay connected throughout their journey.

The surge of tablet and portable device usage among passengers over the past couple of years is notable. More than 35% of passengers are now engaged with devices at randomly selected points throughout their travel – a trend that grew from 17% in 2010 1.

With the growing demand for constant internet access at every point of the travel experience, many transportation providers including trains, buses, rail and airlines, offer WiFi as a value-added service to strengthen customer loyalty, to stay relevant and to maintain their competitive edge in a highly competitive and fragmented industry.

Carry-on EssentialsIn accommodating this explosion of mobile device usage and demand during travel, some international airports have modernized their facilities by offering a tablet rental program to passengers while waiting to board or kiosks for recharging their personal devices. And for frequent flyer members, airlines have offered free WiFi at their lounges with some even offering digital subscriptions to newspapers and magazines that was once only available in print format.

An estimated 10% of airline passengers now use on-board WiFi service. Although on board WiFi has not yet become a standardized feature in-flight, consumer demand is certainly influencing the airline industry’s strict regulations on wireless usage.
Whatever the mode of transportation to get to their vacation destination, WiFi availability is becoming the norm of service offering. Bus and train traffic, in particular, have seen the benefits of creating a tech-friendly travel experience. Both modes of transportation have made significant gains in ridership due to their “tech friendly” service options. Tablet and e-reader usage, once limited only to commercial flights, has risen sharply on intercity trains (Amtrak) and discount city-to-city bus lines. At any given point during their journey, about 10.7% of airline passengers, 7.4% of Amtrak passengers, 6.4% of commuter-rail passengers, and 3.1% of intercity bus travelers are using these devices 2.

If cruising is the preferred type of vacation where wireless access continues to be cost prohibitive for passengers, they can still set sail and enjoy the options of offline entertainment with mobile apps that allow you to download music, newspapers and magazine content prior to boarding. Apps like PressReader, a newspaper and magazine digital kiosk, offer offline reading that can be enjoyed anytime, anywhere without the constant WiFi connection.  Although a majority of cruise lines are still not able to offer free WiFi at sea, they are conscious of the need to modernize and become digitally friendly.

Vacationers have more reason now than ever before to enjoy the full travel experience. With WiFi availability at most stations, airports and on transportation, the journey can be just as fun and entertaining as the destination. With all the entertainment options and practical utilities mobile devices offer, it’s a carry-on essential that is no longer seen as a distraction but a tool to enhance the travel experience.

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1″Tablets Take Flight” conducted by the Chaddick Institute for Metropolitan Development at Chicago’s DePaul University, May 2013

2 “The Personal Tech Tidal Wave” conducted by the Chaddick Institute for Metropolitan Development at Chicago’s DePaul University, May 2013