Supported by Starling Bank

From start to finish: The best tech to streamline your holiday this summer

By John Still 12 July 2017
Image: Getty/sturti.

Ready for a summer break? Tech can ensure your holiday planning is plain-sailing.

It’s hard to believe that planning a trip used to be something of a long-haul experience.

Whether it was thumbing through well-worn brochures in a musty travel agent’s office, or scouring Teletext before calling to secure the best deal – just discovering a desirable destination was quite a journey in itself.

Digital has removed much of the friction. Tech-savvy travellers can research and book their dream trip with a couple of taps of an app, swiping through peer-reviews to find the best local food and accommodation.

We may be accustomed to a more streamlined travel experience, yet some bumps in the road remain. What solutions can tech provide to ensure that each trip is plain-sailing from first swipe to the last sangria?

Skyscanner and Kayak have become go-to names for flight search.

Planning your dream trip

The internet offered access to low-cost flights, and providers such as EasyJet and RyanAir made new cities more accessible.

Suddenly it was as cheap to get to Helsinki as it was to Hull.

As the market grew so did the choice available to potential travellers, with myriad options to scan through. Tech has a solution, with flight aggregators helping to find the best deals.

Skyscanner and Kayak have become go-to names for flight search. It’s big business, with the former being sold to Chinese tourism group Ctrip for £1.4bn in 2016.

While these travel-specific aggregators have streamlined flight searching, Mezi is looking to go one-further. Aiming to put ‘a travel agent in your pocket’, the virtual assistant app (which recently pivoted to focus on travel) uses an AI chatbot to handle not only search, but booking too.

Finding the right accommodation is easier than ever, and Airbnb has become a major player in the travel industry. The app lets anyone find unique, peer-reviewed accommodation and get a local feel for their destination.

The days of flicking through leaflets of local attractions in hotel lobbies are also long-gone. Beyond simply listing properties, sites such as Mr and Mrs Smith and Vayable offer unforgettable holiday experiences, like a landscape tour of Berlin or a cookery school break.

Your choices of holiday entertainment are now far wider than simply beach or bar.

Even Delsey has made its own smart connected-luggage with its Pluggage range.

Getting packed

While digital can help build an itinerary in a few clicks, it can’t pack a suitcase for you.

But a new wave of smart tech products are making sure the pitfalls associated with hauling luggage are easier than ever to avoid.

The headache of lost luggage remains a huge travel industry issue, with over 23m pieces of baggage being misplaced by airlines in 2015 alone.

Despite industry progress, the wait by the carousel to see if your belongings have also arrived remains a nervous one.

To allay those fears, LugLoc is a small GPS tracking device that connects to a smartphone app, turning any case into a ‘smart case’ which can be tracked across the globe.

While tech can’t fully eliminate the risk of your bag turning up in Marrakesh rather than Madrid, it can help you at least locate your bags instantly, and maybe avoid some of the more labyrinthine airport processes.

For travellers looking for an integrated solution, how about a suitcase that not only tracks itself, but weighs itself and charges devices on the go?

The Bluesmart range of connected luggage contains a GPS tracker, a digital scale and enough power to charge a smartphone six times. After the popularity of their initial product, Series 2 has recently been crowdfunded on Indiegogo, reaching over $1m in pledges already.

Delsey Pluggage, another piece of connected-luggage, utilises the LugLoc tracking system, and also offers a fingerprint ID lock.

As the suitcase locks itself and weighs itself, all that remains is to get to the airport on time.

Failing that, Modobag has produced the ‘world’s first rideable luggage’. Sure to impress anyone who’s ever been jealous of a kid with a Trunki, this suitcase-scooter could help cut valuable minutes off a last-second dash to the departure gate.

On the move

If a smart-suitcase’s built-in scales have it weighing-in a little heavier than expected, it could be better to choose a courier service rather than pay excess baggage fees.

Guaranteed door-to-door bag delivery services such as SendMyBag have sprung up in recent years offering a good alternative to ensure your luggage will reach its destination.

Entrepreneurial travellers are also using services such as Grabr, which turns a weekend break into a money-making opportunity.

Grabr provides a marketplace for the passenger to sell their baggage allowance and courier goods or luggage for other people.

Those extra holiday spends need to go somewhere, and mobile tech is also changing the tedious, and often costly process of foreign currency exchange.

With a Starling Bank debit card you can spend your hard-earned money abroad in the local currency without worrying about being stung by expensive exchange fees or surprise charges.

Not only that, but during your dream trip Starling will tag and keep track of your holiday spending, with real-time insights to keep your trip on-budget.

Could artificially-intelligent robot kiosks cut queue times?

Bon voyage

Even the arduous wait at the check-in desk may become a thing of the past.

Artificially-intelligent robot kiosks, which can pinpoint the longest queues and chase-down passengers to check them in, are set to start reducing queuing times.

There are some wrinkles that are still to be ironed out; legroom issues, in-flight food choices, and (until Hyperloop is pinging us around the world) difficult transfers and long hours spent in the air.

But, as these innovations show, tech has already brought the travel industry a long way.

So, where to next?

Planning your own dream trip? Starling is the mobile banking app worth packing, it’ll keep track of your holiday spending and help you avoid surprise charges. Find out more today.