Travelling light in a digital world

By Kim Browne

It’s been a month shy of 21 years to the day that I first travelled to New York and it is still as clear to me as if it happened yesterday. Last year we gave our daughter, Zoe, the choice of experiencing London, Paris or New York as a “gift” for her 16th birthday. She chose New York (clever girl).

Preparing for the trip has been an experience in itself and I’ve been struck by just how much things have changed. Almost everything has been done online.

Our visa applications were relatively painless and 80% of the grunt work was completed online. Airplane tickets, seats and even boarding tickets, which I have in my bag, check. Hotel booking – got an awesome deal at the Waldorf Astoria with

New York Pass for entry into a number of museums and places of interest, plus bus transport – booked online. Ice hockey, theatre and ballet tickets – booked, printed and in my bag. Forex ordered (and delivered to my door) – you guessed it – all done online. Horse drawn carriage ride through Central Park – got the tickets, walking tour of Wall Street – ditto and priceless shopping tips from a local New Yorker – sorted.

I explained to my daughter that we used to use travel agents for this in the past and she looked at me blankly. In fact, on that unforgettable first trip we had to go to the Jamaican consulate in New York and spend a day there to process our visas…

The Internet has given us control and changed our lives to be even faster and more efficient – so we can get on with the experience of living – unfettered with the banality of waiting in unnecessary lines.

I can even register and book for a soul cycle, with a specific instructor at a specific studio at a given time – in case the weather doesn’t play nicely and we need to let off some steam indoors!

Hell, the one thing I wanted to do was visit the Dyckman Farmhouse. I went to their website, only to find they are closed – but no worries, I could do a virtual tour with Flickr. Armchair travel has taken on a whole new dimension!

My Kindle means I can have all the latest books I want to read in my carry-on baggage, without excess weight concerns and my iPhone means I don’t have to worry about packing a camera, I’ve got music sorted and I can even watch a movie or two if I really want to. No need to pack my iPad or Mac.

With everything that’s available online, I’ve probably pre-experienced New York ahead of our trip – but could it replace the real deal of actually travelling there and experiencing things first-hand? Absolutely not. The tactile experience still wins every time.

Which is why digital is in addition to and not instead of. It’s given me better control of the planning and helped me ensure we maximise our time doing what we want to on our own schedule – but it’ll be real experience of actually doing it that’ll make it memorable.

Take a trip!