Despite the hassles, though, Americans fly more now than they did a decade ago. U.S. air travel hit a record high in 2007 with 769.6 million passengers, 100 million more than flew in 2000. Even with the recession, more people flew in the first eight months of 2009 — 478.6 million — than in the first nine months of 2000 — 453 million, according to the U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics.
Why do we take so many flights when it's so unpleasant? Because families are spread out; jobs require travel; and relatively low ticket prices encourage it. Bureau of Transportation Statistics data comparing average domestic itinerary fares for the second quarter show that they were actually 11 percent lower in 2009, at $301, than in 2000, at $339.
Technology is the other big force that's changed travel in the last decade. Expedia and Travelocity began accepting online bookings in 1996, but the phenomenon of using the Internet to routinely book and plan travel has exploded in the 21st century.
In 2009, for the first time, more than half of travel bookings were made online, according to Douglas Quinby of PhoCusWright, a travel industry research company. (If you're surprised that online bookings make up only 50 percent of travel, consider this: Most group travel, most cruises, many complicated itineraries and even the majority of lodging reservations are still booked through a travel agent, by phone or in person, Quinby says.)
But the Internet's impact on travel is not just in booking; it's also in planning trips. Instead of buying a guidebook, today's traveler might consult a destination Web site. To find a restaurant, you might go online to Yelp or Chowhound, or ask friends for a recommendation through Facebook or Twitter. For hotels, you might visit TripAdvisor.com, which started allowing customers to post reviews in 2001 and today has over 30 million of them.