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World's Most Important Travel Innovations

World's most important travel innovations: noise-canceling headphones

Courtesy of Bose Corporation

When intrepid British traveler Freya Stark visited remote parts of the Middle East, she carried pen and paper to take notes for her subsequent books. It was the mid-1900s, so she had no GPS device, no wrinkle-free, sun-protective clothing, and no Foursquare app to aid her along the way.

In the decades since, these and other clever innovations have transformed travel in ways that Stark couldn’t have imagined but that tourists now take for granted. In honor of Travel + Leisure’s 40th anniversary, we’ve singled out 40 innovations that have made discovering the world smoother, safer, healthier, or simply more fun.

Consider the digital photography revolution. There’s no more running out of film or crossing your fingers for two weeks to find out whether you got the exposure right on your vacation photos. Now travelers get the instant gratification of checking each shot in the moment—and then sharing it immediately with friends back home through a quick upload to social media sites.

Many places we want to photograph might have languished if not for the introduction of the UNESCO World Heritage List. Nearly a thousand places are on it, among them, the Sydney Opera House, the Dalai Lama’s seventh-century Potala Palace in Tibet, and the low-lying atolls and islands of Papahānaumokuākea, northwest of Hawaii. The list heightens public awareness of tourism’s role in preservation, and we find a similar sense of responsibility reflected in the development of green housekeeping hotel policies and eco-friendly resorts.

Hotels and resorts certainly aren’t the only options when it comes to lodging. Swapping your house to vacation in someone else’s has been just a click away ever since HomeExchange launched in 1992. The phenomenon has empowered travelers to visit exotic destinations they might not otherwise afford while granting the feeling of living like a local with the conveniences and charming quirks of a true home away from home.

Authenticity and ease are recurring themes among our list of 40 innovations that have changed the travel experience, whether you’re exploring far-flung countries like Freya Stark did or hanging out at a Caribbean beach.  —April Orcutt

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