erika moore
Erika Moore

Why America’s frequent travelers have a love-hate relationship with their smartphones

December 14, 2017

Majority are “lost” without their smartphones.

But many dream to escape and turn off the digital world.

by Erika Moore


Almost everyone is familiar with this famous Chinese proverb: “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” In today’s increasingly electronically connected world, and when applied to travel, the ancient proverb should be amended to say, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step---and a digital device.” Digital devices---particularly smartphones---are as ubiquitous in travel as they are necessary, for business and leisure travelers alike. Smartphones have become our 21st-century appendages, an evolutionary step in the digitally connected world, always in our hands or pressed to our ears. And never, ever far from our reach when we travel, particularly for Americans. 

Results from Travelport’s 2017 Global Digital Traveler research support this theory. Approximately 11,000 travelers in 19 countries were surveyed, including 1000 Americans. And, the research showed two out of three U.S. residents (67 percent) believe “I’d be lost without my smartphone when I travel.”

Smartphones, with all their instantly accessible functionality, have quickly replaced traditional printed maps, tickets, brochures and guidebooks as among the most essential resources and tools for travelers. For example, the survey found 50 percent of Americans are most likely to rely on their smartphones during their journey. Our reliance on smartphones is due in large part to convenience. Almost four out of five U.S. travelers say that digital boarding passes and e-tickets make traveling so much easier.

Once the journey is complete, close to 50 percent of us rely upon our smartphones once arriving at our destinations. But a smartphone is only valuable to a traveler if the traveler’s phone has access to data and power. The survey showed that, upon arrival, almost 70 percent of Americans say they avoid hotels that still charge for Wi-Fi, while three out of five responded they worry about their technology failing or running out of battery. Yes, American travelers are deeply attached to their smartphones. However, the survey also indicates a potentially wistful longing for a return to simpler, less digitally connected days. Four out of five travelers (80 percent) said having time to relax was important. And almost half of Americans agreed on the importance of “escaping the digital world and switching off all devices.”

Is escaping the digital world an option? Is it even possible? We proclaim to ourselves and to others that, once we depart on a trip, we will be out of touch, unreachable, out-of-pocket and unavailable. Yet, we inevitably find ourselves unable to avoid the siren song of our digital lifestyles, checking email or surfing the web, regardless of our best intentions to disconnect.

The love/hate relationship American travelers have with their smartphones and digital devices is a trend I don’t think will disappear anytime soon. We want to connect, but we want to be alone. Sadly, there is no app that will solve this issue. But as each of us takes that first step on our journey of ten, one hundred or a thousand or more miles, finding a healthy balance is something worth contemplating as part of our travel.




For more information on the 2017 Travelport Global Digital Traveler Report, or to download the four regional reports and detailed country reports for all 19 countries where travelers were surveyed, visit


Erika Moore is Travelport’s Vice President and General Manager for the U.S. She previously served as Vice President and General Manager for Travelport’s Latin America region, helping to make Latin America Travelport’s fastest growing region and a role model for growth within the company. Moore is recognized as an important and respected business leader, having been invited to speak recently at major global and regional events such as the World Economic Forum and the Consejo Nacjional Empresarial Turístico. Follow Erika on Twitter @MooreChalita