Besides the hoverboard, of course.

By Anya Hoffman
October 21, 2015
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Each year, the editors at T+L predict the most important travel trends for the coming months. (Using your phone as a room key? We were on it.) But in honor of the 30th anniversary of Back to the Future, we decided to forecast out a bit farther. What will travel look like in 2045? And what would we most want to see come to life? Here are a few of the futuristic travel innovations we fantasize about:

1. Self-Packing Suitcases

We’ve spent a lot of time perfecting the packing process, but tricks like rolling clothes and using trash bags to prevent clothes from wrinkling can only take you so far. In our fantasy future, we’d like our suitcase to pack—and unpack—itself. Even better? If it also helped you plan your outfits.

2. Cruise Ship–Style Aircrafts for Long Trips

The joy of taking a cruise is in the journey. Themed buffets, rock-climbing walls, water aerobics—the best cruises keep passengers entertained, well fed, and active. And in 30 years, we’d like air travel to take a cue from its water-based counterpart with the invention of an enormous, amenity-packed aircraft in which passengers are free to move around. Picture the Death Star, only with optional Zumba classes and no storm troopers. Those 22-hour flights to Australia would no longer be dreaded; instead, passengers would prolong their trips to avoid missing Amateur Comedy Night. The industry would be transformed.

3. A Higher-Speed Alternative to Air Travel

Although the mode of transport we most yearn for is teleportation (instantaneous plus a low carbon footprint!), it seems unlikely that scientists will perfect the process within the next 30 years. On the other hand, it’s easy to imagine high-speed rail trails crossing the entire U.S. someday soon; trains going as fast as 350 miles per hour already race through countries like France and China, and construction has begun on a high-speed trail between L.A. and San Francisco that will travel between the two cities in less than three hours. But those trains are child’s play compared with Elon Musk’s Hyperloop, which would whisk passengers to their destination at a rate of 800 miles per hour. The Hyperloop—something of a human bank deposits tube—wouldn’t offer the glamour (or views) of good old-fashioned train trips, but it would definitely cut down on travel time.

4. Mind-Reading Hotel Rooms

There's nothing worse than climbing into your incredibly comfortable hotel bed after a long day on the town and realizing that the room is too hot, too cold, too noisy, not noisy enough, doesn’t smell like lavender—whatever highly specific and esoteric environmental conditions you need in order to sleep. The hotel room of the future will know your preferred temperature, lighting schemes, and white noise needs, and will load them up the minute you check in, making adjustments to the room as it detects changes in your body temperature and heart rate. This reality actually isn’t that far off: connected home technology is already being rolled out in many hotels. Also in the works: dancing robot butlers (called the “Botlr,” obviously) and mirrors that double as touchscreens for people who literally can’t stop working for the two minutes it takes to brush their teeth.

5. Instantaneous Translation

Although there’s a certain thrill and romance to traveling through a country where you don’t speak the language, there are times when you just really, really need to understand what’s going on. Think: deciphering a menu when you have a food allergy. There are some terrific translation apps out there now—farewell, pocket dictionary—but these all, of course, take time to use—moments you may not have when faced with a sign that reads “Danger Ahead: Turn Back” in a foreign language.

Instead, wouldn’t it be incredible if there were contact lenses that immediately translated all foreign words? Something like Google Glass, except not. Fingers crossed for a companion earpiece (or, since we’re talking about the future here, embedded microchip) that translated all audible language and directed your responses, like a futuristic Cyrano de Bergerac.

6. Comfortable Seating on Airplanes

The aircraft cabins of the future that we fantasize about have one thing in common: comfort. Real-life innovations that address the discomfort of air travel are already in development, from fixed-wing headrests to prevent nap-induced stiff necks to 3-D pods stacked on top of each other like beds in a train’s sleeper car. (Except these beds include flip-down screens and are completely walled-off from one another, enabling passengers to make it through an entire flight without having to touch or talk to anyone.) The one prediction we feel confident about: no one’s going to be complaining about the middle seat come 2045. (Fingers crossed.)

7. A Worldwide Ban on Selfie Sticks

Enough said.