Weatherford Democrat


December 14, 2009

The decade in travel: Technology and terrorism


Technology has even changed the way we drive to our destinations. MapQuest started offering directions online in 1996, the same year GM introduced Onstar. Google Maps dates to 2005. An early handheld Garmin GPS device sold for $589 in 2003; today's Garmins start as low as $89. But you might not need one if your phone has a mapping app.

A few other noteworthy travel trends from the last decade:

—Americans make more international trips than they used to, but they are choosing more exotic destinations.

In 2000, 61.3 million U.S. residents traveled abroad. In 2008, the number climbed to 63.5 million.

But the number going to Western Europe declined about 20 percent, from 12.9 million to 10.4 million. In contrast, travel increased from the U.S. to many other regions: Eastern Europe and South America, up 30 percent; and travel to India, China, and Vietnam, roughly twice in 2008 what it was in 2000, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce, Office of Travel and Tourism Industries.

—The old saying that "cruises are for the newlywed, overfed and nearly dead" is no longer true. The last decade has seen innovations in cruising as in no other mode of travel. Ships have become small cities, carrying 4,000 people, with amenities like ice rinks, rock-climbing walls, planetariums, surfing machines and water slides. Some cruises cater to families, with kids' programs; others are magnets for partying singles, offering easy spring break trips to sunny climes. And you don't have to live in Florida to catch a ship. There are year-round home ports in New York, Galveston, Texas, and many other coastal cities.

"Cruising, once the territory of the rich and famous has become a mainstream vacation today, and provides a well-packaged floating vacation with all the basics included in the price: accommodations, meals, sports/fitness facilities, and entertainment," said Douglas Ward, author of the "Berlitz Complete Guide to Cruising and Cruise Ships 2010." ''It has become a particularly good vacation value for families with children — hassle-free, entertaining, and safe."

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