traveling in the 90s

How was traveling in the 90s: Then vs today

Ever wondered how traveling in the 90s used to be like without any GPS or cell phones?

I was only a kid back then but I do remember quite a few things about how traveling in the 90s used to be like. For those of us who can relate to this; I am sure reading this article will bring back those good old memories of your own travel journeys blended with a tint of nostalgia!!

So, let’s get started! 😊

  • People read lots of travel books and magazines to plan the trip

Nothing was digitized or available online back then. Therefore; the only choice people had in those days was to immerse themselves entirely into books and magazines.

My dad scoured as many travel books as he could get his hands on.  These books were like a treasure having an exhaustive list of places worth visiting all over the world. You could find just about every detail — how to reach, when to visit, hotels for stay, where to shop, places to see, mouth-watering delicacies, the history behind it, etc.

They also had a whole bunch of colorful pictures that I and my brother found extremely fascinating to look at than the rest of the stuff.

  • KODAK was truly a part of our lives capturing what they called ‘KODAK MOMENTS’
Pic of the camera we used back then!

By Joydeep – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

Digital photography wasn’t yet a part of our lives and certainly not in India.  There were manually operated cameras with reels that fit inside them.  Each reel gave about 36 clicks. And in those days they were expensive.

My dad stocked up those tiny cylindrical KODAK reels well in advance each time we traveled.

As soon as we came back home; he would head to the photography studio to get the photos developed and would later stack them amongst the pile of other albums from our previous visits.

  • The idea behind ‘the perfect picture’

Digital photography has been revolutionary. You can now click hundreds or thousands of pictures of just about anything. And, all this at no extra cost plus you get to easily share this everyone in no time.

However, in the 90s; you couldn’t afford to click multiple shots in various poses just to get ‘the perfect picture’ as reels were expensive.

So, it was made sure that every click mattered. We just took one picture that captured the essence of it all well and as a matter of fact; we were quite content with it. Each picture was candid and realistic.

  • Planning the whole trip was hard

Planning for a holiday or trip was undeniably hard especially if you are traveling somewhere you haven’t visited before. There was no internet or Google back in those days that could just pour down a plethora of options for you with just one click.

In the 90s; you could only book your travel tickets in advance.

People made reservations for lodging and travel itinerary after they reached the destination. They would look at different hotels comparing their prices, lodging arrangements, etc. There were also several tour operators who would readily plan the activities for you during the stay.  

  • a sense of Community

It used to be a long journey.

Unlike today, the journey used to be a long one. You couldn’t hop into a plane and reach comfortably in a few hours. And we also didn’t have technological innovations crying out for our attention. Therefore, we made our own plans to make the journey enjoyable. Children carried board games (good old ‘Ludo’ and ‘Snake & ladder’) and some other comics.

Adults usually spent time gossiping around with other co-passengers, sharing their homemade snacks & sweets over the way, telling each other stories from their life, having serious discussions on politics and the state of the country, and so on. The train bustled with the noises of people talking, kids laughing and vendors trying to sell all sorts of snacks and refreshers.

People were more willing to open up and eager to know others.

  • The ‘photographer’ usually went missing in most of the family pics

There was one person in every family; who captured all the lovely moments of the holiday. The cameras available in the market were mostly manually operated and not everyone knew how to use them.

In my family, it was my dad. He is missing in most of our family pics unless luckily; there was someone who kindly volunteered.

Mostly, he loved capturing our happy faces more than anything else.

Today, we have mobile phones inbuilt with cameras that allow us to pose for umpteen selfies.

  • The concept of perfect travel destination didn’t exist back in the 90s

The idea of perfectionism has attained quite the prime spot for us in today’s world. Even after trying so hard to make everything perfect; it’s somehow never perfect.  And in this attempt; we miss out on the trivial and unexpected joys that come along with leaving things in the best state we can and not worry about it.

So, back then there was no one to compare to. You traveled freely to explore and relish the beauty of the place. The locals were friendly and would occasionally tell you stories about the place. No one cared about the perfect spot or the perfect stay. It was more casual and spontaneous.

  • Local and public transports were the most common modes for commute

Today; airlines have become an essential way of life ensuring that traveling time can be reduced to a minimum.

However; traveling in the 90s was mostly done by railways and buses that connected to almost every destination.  People also traveled with their own cars to their native place however if the destination was somewhere far, railways were the only mode of transport.

You could just take in all the sights and smells all along the way.

Travel wasn’t just about the destination but more.

  • Book your Journey tickets 3 months in advance

There wasn’t even a faint possibility that you could travel the instant you make a plan which is the case these days. Railways reservation window used to open 4 months before the traveling date. You could miss your chance if you didn’t book the tickets 3 months in advance.

  • Stand in long queues to book your tickets

There used to be long queues for ticket booking at the railway reservation counters. These counters were located in only a few designated places in the town. You could either stand in the queue for 2-3 hours to get your travel tickets or arrange an agent who booked tickets on your behalf with a small commission. This part was tough.

  • WALKMAN – the only portable music player and the ‘most coveted’ gadget

We can now tune in to our favorite music on our phones while traveling for a more relaxing experience.

However; in the 90s; Walkman was the only portable music playing device that you could carry around anywhere with you. We were so jealous of anyone who had a Walkman. CD players that played CDs and DVDs were also there, but they weren’t portable.

Neither I nor my brother ever got a walkman. But it was such a coveted gadget of the 90s!

  • Somethings were just so much fun

This is a picture of the hotel room where we stayed for a while. In those days, landlines were just so rare and you wouldn’t find them at everyone’s house. Friends and family usually came over to spend evenings. We too didn’t have landlines at our home until later.

Out of curiosity; my mom picked the receiver of the landline phone(at the hotel), put it close to her ears and tries to speak something without even dialing the number. We burst out in giggles and laughter and I think my dad captured it there.

Tell me about your Stories…

So, this was how traveling in the 90s looked like for me. I hope you enjoyed reading.

I’d love to know some of your travel stories in the 90s. Please do share how traveling in the 90s looked like for you in the comments section below.

Featured image credit: Photo by JK on Unsplash

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