From smart bags to social media, spring break is becoming a surprisingly digital and high-tech travel period in the U.S.
The words “spring break” evoke all kinds of mental images. Beaches, cruises, family-friendly trips to Disney World, family-unfriendly trips to Tijuana, service projects (for the altruistic and ambitious) and countless tattoos treasured for a week and regretted for a lifetime all generally make the list. But generally, we don’t think much about it being a terribly technical or digital experience.
Vacations are an opportunity to unplug – except from Instagram, of course (how else would everyone see the beauty of the beach you’re sitting on?). Starting in late winter and running through spring, articles bloom across the internet warning spring breakers about the do’s and don’ts of vacation posting. Amid the tips about good lighting and effective storytelling, many strongly advise against mixing alcohol, travel and Instagram.
But apart from booking trips on travel apps, hunting online for discounts and using social media to post the highlights in real time, we don’t tend to think about how technologically advanced a vacation can be when it comes to payments and commerce.
Tech won’t just get you where you’re going – as of spring break 2019, it will also make sure your stuff is still there when you get back, and that everything you brought and everything you bought gets back home with you. It may even help you find love – or at least an interesting date – while on the road.
The Luggage That Thinks (and Gives You a Lift)
The latter-day bastion of all things cool, Teen Vogue, had several unsurprising recommendations in its 17 essential pieces of travel tech. There were the purely practical items, like the waterproof phone case and the wireless tracking tags for high-value items. Then there were the more specialized: the hair-dryer/straightener combo that can fit comfortably into a carry-on bag or the “smart ring” that will vibrate, glow and buzz when one has an important message or call coming in on their smartphone (if said phone is within range).
And while we wonder if a $300 ring that only alerts you that your phone is ringing when you are close enough to hear it ring yourself is the best possible pre-travel investment, we can’t help but admire a different smart travel gadget. The Bluesmart Black Edition Smart Carry-On Suitcase comes with a built-in battery charger, luggage scale, Bluetooth remote lock, GPS tracker and companion app.
On the downside, for the $599 price tag, it seems only fair that the bag should also fold and pack one’s clothes as well.
As it turns out, the limited-edition Bluesmart is about the middle of the road when it comes to price and function. If one wants to explore the top of the line when it comes to smart luggage, there is the Modobag, the only piece of luggage on the market that doubles as an electric scooter.
“Our product, Modobag, is a carry-on piece of luggage," Modobag's Chief Marketing Officer Tim Ryan told WGBH. "It can be pulled behind you. In less than 10 seconds, it can transform into a mobility device and you can ride it at speeds of up to seven miles per hour for a range of 11 miles."
We, of course, look forward to the day Uber launches its first bag-sharing application.
But it may be a while until we can use our laundry as our official transportation from the airport to the hotel. Since the asking price is $1,500 for a new Modobag, it might be easier to just stick with an Uber this spring break.
But luggage is not the only area in which consumers can enjoy a tech upgrade this spring break season. There is always finding love … at least for a week.
Tinder Wants to Aid Amor During Spring Break
Spring break has come to Tinder. Yes, the app has always had a spring break mentality – but now there is a specific mode for the occasion.
The new feature will allow students to swipe through potential matches before heading to their destinations. Between March 4 and March 31 this year, Tinder users in 20 popular spring break cities – Cabo, Lake Havasu, Las Vegas, Miami, New Orleans, Puerto Rico, Puerto Vallarta, San Diego and others – were able to see the Spring Break card while swiping. With a tap of the card, they could enter Spring Break mode to get a sneak peek at the other Tinder users who would also be there. Their destination was then shown to potential matches through a badge on their profiles.
According to Tinder, the move was inspired by the sudden spikes in usage seen in certain cities in March, which correlated to the spring break season.
In addition to using its own data from past spring breaks, Tinder also consulted with its users about which destinations to include.
“Spring break, like Tinder, is a staple for many college students across the country,” said Jenny Campbell, chief marketing officer at Tinder, in a statement. “We’ve historically seen huge upticks in Tinder usage during spring break in these destinations, and we are excited to give users the unique experience to connect before they pack their bags.”
Though Tinder in the past has rejected its status as the nation’s favored fast hook-up app, in recent months it has changed its position and told investors it would begin marketing itself as an app for those interested in enjoying the “single lifestyle.” Tinder had also begun an online publication, Swipe Life, and is running various advertising campaigns related to this initiative.
There is risk in focusing on younger, less capitalized users, as college students are less likely to pay for Tinder Gold subscriptions. But, according to Tinder, the greater focus on quick matches and a la carte features built around special events like spring break will be critical to its future monetization.
Depending on those features, Tinder might have a point. If they can help people book the infinitude of first dates they go on in their 20s – and get a piece of all the “cups of coffee” their customers share – they might not care quite so much about those Tinder Gold package sales.
So what are the high tech lessons we can learn from spring break 2019? Don’t drink and Instagram; a smart bag with GPS is good, but a smart bag with GPS that will carry you through the airport is better; and Tinder has given up on pretending it helps people find lasting love, but has embraced the idea of helping single people mingle – and spend money – wherever they may travel.
Enjoy the beach!