How travel has changed: Before TripAdvisor, smartphones, cash cards and e-tickets

Did you ever wear flannel and think it was fashionable? Did you once stop washing your hair for no apparent reason? Did you watch It's A Knockout? Do you know who Edward Furlong is? Do you think The Voice is just a rip-off of Young Talent Time?

Then the chances are good that you grew up in the 90s, a time of ripped jeans, bad hair, and countless hours spent playing Streetfighter II. There's also a good chance that you began travelling in the 90s, or at least in the early 2000s, and that you would remember a few hassles from hitting the road in that time that don't even exist anymore.

From lugging around CDs to trying to figure out how the hell to use an international phone card, these are the issues 90s kids dealt with that will never concern anyone again.

Guarding paper plane tickets with your life

Doing a round-the-world trip? Welcome to ticketing hell, where you were given a wad of paper as thick as War and Peace and expected to hold onto it in your wallet for the next 12 months. Lose the ticket? Good luck getting it replaced.

Remember these old things? Paper plane tickets.

Remember these old things? Paper plane tickets. Photo: iStock

See also: Why you should never post a photo of your boarding pass

Getting film developed

First of all there was the expense – buying the film, developing the film. Then there was the hassle of holding onto all of that film or all of those photos. Then there was the constant surprise of what was actually on those films. Huh? Where did I take that?

Looking for somewhere to burn photos to disc

I spent a fair portion of a trip in the early 2000s hunting around cities looking for a place to burn my fancy digital photos to a disc that I could then send home for safe-keeping. There was no carrying laptops back then – those things weighed about 20kg.

See also: Six stunning places you can get the perfect photo

Hanging around at internet cafes

The. Worst. You'd sit there for hours waiting for old mate German guy to finish sending his 20-page email to mum and dad, or watch as Swedish guy mucked around with internet gaming, oblivious to all the people sweating away on plastic chairs waiting for him to finish.

Remembering EasyEverything - the best internet cafe in the world.

Remembering EasyEverything - the best internet cafe in the world. Photo: Getty Images

Stupid tiny travel towels

Even modern-day travel towels are kind of dumb, but at least they cover your modesty in a hostel dorm. The originals were those chamois jobs that were about the same size as a Kleenex, and about as useful when it came to drying you too.

Carrying an actual calculator

"Um, hang on a minute," you'd say to the lady at the market stall while you dug around in your bag for an actual calculator to work out how badly you were being ripped off. Nowadays you just reach for your phone.

Making expensive international phone calls

Basically, you had a choice: call Mum and wish her a happy birthday, or buy five or six pints of beer. Usually the beer won out, because it's hard to justify the insane amount of money you used to have pay for an international phone call. Unless…

…Or figuring out a phone card

Unless you bought one of those cheapie discount phone cards that started to pop up around the world. Only problem then was figuring out how to use it. Dial a weird number, scratch off the 50,000-digit PIN, enter that, press hash… And by then the call had dropped out anyway. Time to give up. Unless…

…Or making reverse charges phone calls

Unless you took the real cheap-skate's route and attempted a reverse charges call, slapping your family with an enormous fee just so you could get on the phone and ask them to send you more money.

See also: Are travel SIM cards for mobile phones worthwhile?

Refolding maps

In case interpreting maps wasn't hard enough – "Where the hell are we now? Here? No wait… here?" – travellers would then have to deal with the ignominy of attempting to refold the stupid thing. I'd always end up just scrunching it up and shoving it into the bottom of my pack.

Carrying brick-like guidebooks

Right, got my Lonely Planet Vietnam book, my Rough Guide to Western Europe, my Europe of a Shoestring, my Thai Islands book, my guide to Africa… Aaaaand now I've got no room left for clothes.

Having an email address… And no one to email

I thought I was so awesome when I got my first Hotmail address before I went on a gap year overseas. I'd be able to keep in touch with everyone! Except I quickly found out that no one else I knew had an email address, rendering mine completely pointless.

Losing touch with people

Remember the travelling world before Facebook? You'd meet people, have a great time with them, get on like a house on fire, maybe even swap home addresses, and then pretty much resign yourself to never seeing or hearing from them ever again.

Carrying huge cases of CDs

There's no freaken way I was going overseas with Offspring's Smash and leaving Frogstomp behind. And what about Purple by Stone Temple Pilots? And Dookie? And Ten? And In Utero? And… Bugger it, I'm buying a bigger CD case.

Carrying travellers' cheques

Ah, the fear of losing your life savings, life savings that had been converted into little bits of paper and stuffed into your travel wallet – sometimes tens of thousands of dollars worth. I know there were safeguards, but it still felt weird.

Traveller's cheques - thankfully a thing of the past.

Travellers' cheques - thankfully a thing of the past. Photo: iStock

Having to stick to your original plans

Got a date to meet someone at 3pm in Trafalgar Square? Then you better be in Trafalgar Square at 3pm, because there's no texting anyone to let them know that the Tube is delayed and you're running late. Be there, or never see them again.

Staying in a place that hasn't already been reviewed 130 times

You'd book yourself into a hostel – by calling, usually with a long-distance phone card – with absolutely no idea of what it was actually going to be like. No ratings on Hostelworld or TripAdvisor. Just word of mouth, or dumb luck.

Camping

I know, you can still camp. But the traditional stripped-back, budget camping tour of Europe has all but disappeared. Gen Ys don't put up with things like washing their own dishes – they demand creature comforts. The dirty campsite tour is no more.

See also: The golden rules of going camping

Watching inflight movies on a single big screen

Is that Titanic they're playing up there? Or Forrest Gump? You were never really sure until you put your headphones on, because the one screen on the aeroplane was about 15 or 16 rows ahead of you and looked the size of a postage stamp.

Good riddance to centre aisle television screens.

Good riddance to centre aisle television screens. Photo: iStock

Having no clue what was happening in the world

OJ Simpson's been acquitted? There's been a landslide in Thredbo? Bill Clinton's been impeached? Homer Simpson is now cooler than Bart? If you'd been travelling during any of these events you'd have no freaken clue they'd even taken place. No internet meant pretty much no information.

Writing a diary. And carrying that diary

I still have all my diaries from my early travels – hand-written, cringe-worthy tomes listing all of my innermost thoughts and desires. Now I have a blog.

What hassles from the 90s will you never have to deal with again?

Email: b.groundwater@fairfaxmedia.com.au

Instagram: instagram.com/bengroundwater

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