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Plan Safer Trips with Travel Tech

Most travelers know the feeling of relief when technology saves the day.

Perhaps that means searching online for the nearest eatery for a “hangry” group member. Or it could mean Googling a quick group game to occupy travelers when an unexpected wrench is thrown into the day’s itinerary.

With the current pandemic travel restrictions, technology can also help make travel safer. These technologies are especially vital in today’s world, perhaps even more so than others, since they help passengers feel safe enough to book the trip in the first place.

To prepare yourself for when your members feel ready to hit the road again, think through these technological options that can prove indispensable for modern group travel.

Cleaning Checklist

During the pandemic, group travel providers have brainstormed how to safely load groups back onto the motorcoach. Companies like Motor Coach Industries (MCI) have shared information on new technologies that can reduce the risk of onboard contamination.

For your next trip, consider chartering motorcoaches that have UV-C lighting for heating, ventilating and air conditioning systems designed to reduce airborne viruses, bacteria and mold by up to 99.9%. Another motorcoach protection is a new roof-hatch ventilation kit that keeps fresh air circulating. Airborne viruses are more of a concern in an enclosed space like a bus, and this method mimics the outdoors with more air movement.

To keep drivers safe, many motorcoach and bus companies sell transparent shields and partitions for around the driver’s cockpit. This and the other methods have already been tested by bus companies across the country.

Motorcoach companies like MCI have also released recommendations for cleaning procedures. MCI advises a daily whole-coach disinfection using low-pressure fogging technology. Other ideas given for group leaders include clear partitions between passenger seating rows and unavailable seats clearly marked to properly space travelers.

MCI shares safety checklists that group leaders and tour operators can customize before sending them to their members to make sure everyone feels safe with the protocols.

Wishing for Wi-Fi

Under normal travel conditions, wireless internet (Wi-Fi) is one of the most sought-after technologies for motorcoach travel. Though seniors rarely request it, as more boomers try out group travel, the desire to stay connected with family, friends and work via the internet will intensify.

If wireless connectivity is important to your travelers, you can either charter a motorcoach that already offers Wi-Fi or install a Wi-Fi system yourself. For commercial-grade Wi-Fi vehicle capacities, you might expect to pay between $273 and $651 for the setup.

Other motorcoach amenities popular for groups are onboard restrooms, DVD players and electronic charging outlets. For an upscale experience, some motorcoach companies even provide satellite TV. Watching live sports while on the road can prove quite enjoyable for passengers.

To keep your technology flowing throughout the trip, choose hotels with free Wi-Fi. Hotels that charge for internet can irritate travelers, so choosing properties that provide free internet access will help keep your travelers happy. Sometimes, you can also work with hotel providers to bargain for free internet as part of your group’s package.

International Calling and Data

All travelers abroad must decide for themselves what to do about their cell phones. For group leaders who need to stay in contact with work associates back in the states, as well as call for local help, ensuring connectivity in a foreign country can prove imperative.

Loyalty program directors sometimes receive this additional plan for free if they have a phone issued by their company. Other times, directors are left on their own to figure out how to continue to call, text and post on social media while on a trip.

Perhaps the simplest way to ensure a seamless transition is to purchase an international plan with your phone’s carrier service. Before you automatically choose this option, read through the various plans carefully. With many carriers, users can rack up fees from unknowingly using too much data, even with an international plan.

If you have cellular data turned on, many of these international plans may be activated by background data from apps refreshing, email syncing and device updates. Add international plans to each device before your trip or turn your phone to airplane mode if you wish to avoid fees.

Frequent travelers often cite carriers’ international plans as a reason to switch companies because these plans can vary widely in price. AT&T and Verizon’s international plans are similar because they offer a day pass for $10, then discounted rates for longer stays, which also differ depending on how much data you need.

Many travelers relish T-Mobile and Sprint’s international plans because they both provide some free international texting and basic data at no extra cost. For faster data and more services, both charge extra fees.

Other options for group leaders include international and local SIM cards. You can either use these SIM cards with your own unlocked, GSM-compatible phone or rent or purchase a phone when you arrive. Check the rates of these different options, though, because these cards may end up more expensive than carrier plans.

If you don’t need to make calls or text with a local phone number, you could consider GigSky, an international SIM card just for mobile data. The pricing is less expensive than many international phone plans, depending on the carrier. Google Fi is another inexpensive option that can provide data by switching between cellular networks to use Wi-Fi to call and text whenever available. Check to make sure your phone is compatible before you purchase either option.