Travelling the world is a life-changing experience. Sadly, the onset of the pandemic and subsequent travel restrictions have put our travel plans on hold.

Thankfully, as vaccination rates continue to rise across Singapore and internationally, travel for leisure could be a viable possibility by the end of 2021. With discussions in the works for destinations like the United Arab Emirates, Hong Kong, and parts of Europe, making travel plans might not be quite so unrealistic, especially with Singapore’s new Vaccinated Travel Lane (VTL) to Germany, Australia, Canada, South Korea, Spain, and more! In the meantime, looking back on how technology has transformed travel might satiate your wanderlust.

With mobile international roaming, AI-driven translation services, and social media, seeing the world has become more convenient than ever before. Here, we reflect on the rise of tech-based travel tools.

How Technology Has Transformed Travel

For as long as the travel industry has existed, technology has reshaped how we plan, book, and embark on our travels, and these grew increasingly pronounced during the 1980s. Avis introduced the Roving Rapid Return, a handheld computer terminal for people to bypass the Avis car rental desk for bookings. Now-defunct Northwest Airlines added 2.7-inch LCD on-demand video systems to its Boeing 747 fleet, and Singapore Airlines installed jackpots and portable video game consoles for in-flight entertainment.

Over the last 20 years, the rise of high-speed internet has sent ripples through the travel sector. With smartphones and GPS maps, the fact that we can find our bearings in any part of the globe is amazing. Backed by technology like M1’s Unlimited Data Roaming, experiencing the world is made so much easier.

1. Follow Your Instincts

Travelling abroad is sometimes done on impulse. Thankfully, being backed by technology means you don’t have to worry about the only hotel in town being fully booked when you arrive because we can use our smartphones to organise everything on the go.

Rather than spending an hour at a travel agent's, we can pick the next flight out and head straight to the airport. Similarly, we can book our accommodation just seconds before you step through the door.

With more freedom to travel, ever-evolving travel technology has made exploring the world accessible.

2. There’s an App for That

It doesn’t matter what you need to organise your travel plans, there's almost certainly a smartphone app for that.

We now have highly convenient banking apps which ensure you always have access to cash. There are even Netflix subscription plans for when you have a moment to yourself and can tap into an available fibre broadband internet or your international data roaming to catch up on the latest shows on your mobile phone.

Exploring countries around the globe is an exciting time, but you need to make safe decisions too. Fortunately, there are travel safety apps like bSafe, GeoSure, and TripWhistle. These ensure you remain in touch with loved ones and avoid danger.

3. Never Get Lost Again

One of the most transformative changes new technology has brought to travel is the ability to know where you are. In-built smartphone GPS-es are a godsend, saving you from getting lost for hours. There are even fully-featured offline services such as Maps.Me.

These tools are especially great when you touch down and need to find your accommodation while jet-lagged. You'll get live traffic updates and public transport schedules! With advances like these, it’s hard to imagine how people travelled in the past.

Virtual Travel

Even if we can’t experience the real deal right now, there are other ways to immerse ourselves in international travel.

Through innovations in online media, travellers can visit the world’s most iconic destinations. Although some virtual travel platforms have existed for a few years, the pandemic pushed many organisations to create their own.

Whether you’ve always wanted to see the Northern Lights or take a tour at a world-class art institution on the other side of the globe, everything is made possible with virtual travel.

As a recent example, Singapore-based travel community, The Travel Intern, launched a 21-day virtual itinerary from April to May of 2021. During this time, they delved into various fascinating destinations with compelling POV content and daily discussions. An itinerary at the cost of zero dollars, platforms like The Travel Intern were able to offer followers a slice of the world from the comfort of their home.

Of course, seeing the world through your screen is incomparable to physically being there. But you can still find plenty of inspiration for your next holiday destination. So, if you missed The Travel Intern community’s online discussion, consider the following:

1. Travel to Far-flung Natural Landmarks

Want to cross another once-in-a-lifetime experience off from your bucket list? Pay a visit to some eye-catching destinations right now. See the Northern Lights through a 24-hour feed from the Churchill Northern Studies Center in Manitoba, Canada.

Elsewhere, Austria’s Official Travel Portal has put together a list of virtual experiences. From heart-pumping VR downhill mountain biking in Innsbruck to beautiful alpine Großglockner – Austria’s highest mountain.

2. Keep in Touch with Travel-lovers

What makes travel so special is the new people we meet along the way and learning about where they come from. The Nomadic Network, an online platform dedicated to passionate globetrotters, hosts weekly events that explore a range of travel-related topics.

These include everything from the importance of travelling sustainably to putting together the perfect itinerary. They even host live events, like a virtual tour of the Pacific Northwest! You can join the Zoom call and hear from some of the world’s leading travel experts for a token sum.

Founded by Matt Kepnes, also known as Nomadic Matt – one of the internet’s first-ever travel bloggers – dive into the website’s forums and join the community to learn helpful tips for your next adventure.

3. Visit the World’s Best Museums and Art Galleries

If you’re an art and culture aficionado, you don’t have to wait to explore. Whether you prefer modern or classical art, there are so many virtual tours to enjoy.

Amsterdam's Rijksmuseum is home to 80 galleries and 8,000 artifacts, and you can find a series of carefully curated guided tours on their website. Plus, they even offer weekly art lessons you can enjoy from home!

There are also virtual tours available for the Louvre Museum in Paris, and The Met 360° Project offers a close-up perspective on the most iconic spaces in The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.

4. Stream an Inspirational Travel Movie or Documentary

Once you’ve finished your virtual reality tours, find a travel film or documentary to satisfy your wanderlust even more. A Netflix deal and home broadband plans from M1 means you won't miss out. Once you’ve signed up to any of the Netflix subscription plans, be sure to catch Sue Perks's docuseries. The Mekong River with Sue Perkins and Japan with Sue Perkins are 2 shows in which the host dives deep into exploring the culture of each country she visits.

If you'd rather a touching film, Lion is based on a true story about a young boy adopted by an Australian couple, who sets out to find his lost family. Eat Pray Love, starring Julia Roberts, is an inspiring tale of a woman on her journey of self-discovery, and features incredible scenery. Both movies are available on Netflix in Singapore!

Faces Places is a beautiful documentary featuring renowned street artist JR and legendary French filmmaker Agnès Varda. In the film, they explore a series of small towns across France and capture the stories of local residents. Although this documentary is not available on Netflix in our region, it’s definitely one worth keeping an eye out for.

Explore Your Own Backyard

Travelling overseas is thrilling, but there are still plenty of incredible things to see and do here in Singapore. Rather than remaining indoors until you can board a plane, consider visiting some of the top tourist destinations within the country. You might be surprised by how many you’ve yet to visit!

As an extra incentive, the government has given SingapoRediscovers Vouchers to encourage locals to support the local tourism industry. With so many options to choose from, here are a few of our favourites:

1. Gardens by the Bay

Situated along the Marina Bay Waterfront, is the iconic Gardens by the Bay. Recognised by travellers the world over, this is the perfect time to explore Gardens by the Bay if you’ve yet to. Spread across 101 hectares of reclaimed land, this place, usually overflowing with tourists, is much quieter right now.

With several impressive environments to explore, including the Flower Dome, the Cloud Forest and the Supertree Grove, Gardens by the Bay has won numerous international awards, including the 2012 ‘World Building of the Year’ award at the World Architecture Festival.

2. Singapore Zoo

With over 2,000 animals calling this place home, one-third of which are threatened species, this is your chance to see everything from rare white lions to adorable marsupials like eastern grey kangaroos.

Singapore Zoo is divided into 11 sections, with each with its own theme. For instance, the Fragile Forest – featuring a 20,000 cubic metre biodome – is where you'll find lemurs, two-toed sloths, frogs, and salamanders. Meanwhile, the Great Rift Valley of Ethiopia sees Nubian ibexes right alongside Hamadryas baboons.

3. Jurong Bird Park

Situated at the highest point of Jurong, visitors will find a stunning landscape spanning over 20 hectares featuring 5,000 birds from 400 species.

In Jurong Bird Park, which celebrated its golden jubilee in 2021, there are 4 free-flight aviaries designed to replicate the natural environments of various species. The Waterfall Aviary is the park’s biggest walk-in aviary with 600 different species inside, including endangered sun conures. There’s also the Lory Loft, where visitors are welcome to hand-feed a collection of vibrant lories and lorikeets.

4. Red Dot Design Museum

Following in the footsteps of the acclaimed Red Dot Design Museum based in Essen, Germany, the second iteration of this much-loved museum opened to great fanfare in Singapore in 2005. It’s a design-lovers paradise, with its namesake, the Red Dot Design Award considered one of the most prestigious in the entire world.

Here, visitors will find all kinds of cutting-edge products and industrial design, with around 200 award-winning futuristic works to enjoy. Having relocated to a stunning glass structure along Marina Bay in 2017, head there on a quiet day to experience its massive exhibition spaces.

Give Back to the Community

Organising plans to see the world is fantastic, but it’s even better to reach a hand out to others who may not have the same privileges we do. Many in Singapore need a helping hand from time to time, so why not take this chance to do something for another?

Redeem your SingapoRediscover Voucher for migrant workers at the Singapore Flyer. Your voucher will go towards a 30-minute ride on the stunning observation wheel, plus a 30-minute wander through the Time Capsule.

You can also donate guided tours for Singapore’s top tourist destinations to underserved communities. With a donation of S$50 from your SingapoRediscovers vouchers, you can gift someone a half-day walking tour of fascinating areas, including the Singapore River, Balestier and Telok Ayer.

Travel Wide with M1

If you’re getting ready to put your travel plans into action, M1 has a range of globe roaming services so you can stay connected from virtually anywhere in the world. Across Unlimited Data Roaminginternational data roaming prepaid SIM cards, and amazing Data Passports for over 70 destinations, experience freedom by enabling your data roaming add-ons on your iPhone or Android! So, if you’re about to hop on a VTL flight any time soon, plan your trip with M1 to cover all your networking needs !