Travel is an experience everybody should have. Whether you’re taking a road trip across your own state or country or going international, there’s something special about venturing into a space you’ve never been to.
Do it right, and travel can open your mind, expand your awareness, and help you to meet like-minded people. Adventure awaits, and it’s out there for the taking! And these days, tech is on your side.
You can use virtual reality to enhance your travel experiences from start to finish. Everything from planning to itineraries can be made easier, more convenient, and more fun with VR. Here’s how you can use it to your advantage.
What Is Virtual Reality in Travel?
Virtual reality—often abbreviated to VR—is a modern, digital, and immersive way to experience travel. People often think about VR in terms of 360-degree video or photo experiences that place you at the heart of a particular place, immersing you in the environment and allowing you to interact in certain ways.
This is definitely one way of experiencing virtual reality travel. You can “travel” without ever leaving the comfort of your own bedroom! But that’s not the only way you can use virtual reality to enhance your travel experiences.
If you’re planning on heading off on a physical trip, VR can be invaluable in the planning process. There are multiple ways it can be used to help smooth your travel planning, which we’ll talk about below.
What Gear Do You Need for Virtual Travel Experiences?
Wondering if you have the necessary gear to experience virtual travel? Here’s what you’ll need to start upgrading your travel experiences.
A Virtual Reality Headset
To be clear, you don’t need a VR headset to experience virtual reality. If you have the budget to get one, it’s highly recommended, though, because it will place you right inside the most immersive experience you can get.
Virtual reality headsets block out your existing surroundings, so all your senses are focused on the projected image in the headset. It’s an amazing experience, but don’t think you have to go spend top dollar on one. You can still experience VR without one.
Smartphone, Tablet, or Laptop
Almost everyone has a smartphone or a laptop. At a minimum, this is all you need to start experiencing the VR side of travel—you can get a fairly immersive experience just on the screen without a headset.
We do recommend investing in a good set of noise-canceling earphones if this is how you want to do your VR. This helps to shut out the outside world so you can focus more closely on what’s happening on your screen.
VR content is quite a wide umbrella term, but it covers things like 360-degree video and video/photo walkthroughs. It’s important to understand that “true” virtual reality involves a headset and possibly even sensory feedback—think 4D movies with surround sound, moving seats, wind, and water splashes.
But some less immersive content can also be considered VR, like video walkthroughs of houses or businesses. For these, you don’t need a headset—you can simply zoom, pan, and swivel around the video or photo on the website to get a semi-immersive experience.
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Types of Virtual Reality Being Used in Tourism
Tourism has really grabbed the VR idea. Many tourism boards have spent top dollars investing in virtual reality experiences to entice travelers to visit their cities or countries. Here are the main types of VR used.
This is one of the most popular VR content types out there in tourism, allowing viewers to look around the scene in any direction, almost as if they were right there. It’s becoming more and more common in popular tourist destinations, allowing people from all over the world to “visit” these places without even needing to leave home.
360-degree video is also used in accommodation, so prospective guests can take a virtual walkthrough of a home or hotel before deciding if they want to book. This kind of VR can be immersive to a degree, but the majority of it is simply viewing.
Some good examples of travel-related VR in this type of tech are Google VR, National Geographic VR, The Smithsonian VR app, and TripAdvisor VR.
3D modeling is a form of virtual reality that’s based on hyper-realistic representations of real-world places or objects. With this kind of tech, virtual tours can become even more immersive, with realistic user experiences built into the technology.
Augmented reality is a different kind of VR experience that superimposes a CGI image, auditory snippets, or even haptic vibrations or scents over your real-world content, usually seen through a camera lens.
A good example of augmented reality is Pokemon Go. You open your camera, look at the real world through your camera lens, and you’ll see a superimposed Pokemon. It’s obviously not really there, but in your gaming experience, it’s there.
What Are the Benefits of Using Virtual Reality for Travel?
You don’t need to go all into VR travel. If you still want to get on a plane and go somewhere, you can use virtual reality to enhance your travel experiences. Here’s how VR can help.
Helps You to Save Money
Exploring different destinations, accommodation options, and activity choices with VR can help you to make better choices that help you stick to your budget. The ability to walk through accommodation that looks great from the outside can give you better insight into the actual living conditions, preventing you from wasting money on inferior accommodation.
It’s also a good idea to explore “budget” locations before deciding if it’s somewhere you want to go. This could give you a better idea of just how rural the location is, so you can get a good feel of what you might be going to in terms of safety, culture, and experience.
Overcome Travel Anxiety
Those who suffer from travel anxiety over the unknown aspects of a trip can benefit from virtual reality! The ability to virtually experience a location before actually going there in person can help to alleviate worries about things like the location of your accommodation, the quality of the lodgings, its proximity to town/activities, and even the safety of the area.
Experiencing the destination in VR beforehand can help to make anxious people feel more at ease when doing it for real. This is a significant benefit that may help to improve the quality of life for those who suffer from anxiety.
Helps You Be More Environmentally-Friendly
“Traveling” from the comfort of home isn’t just convenient—it’s also environmentally friendly! If you’ve always yearned to experience other places but are conscious of your carbon footprint and how travel impacts the environment, VR allows you to experience various destinations without contributing to damaging the planet.
If you still want to head out somewhere, VR can help you to find more sustainable locations, hotels, and activities.
Meet New People From All Over the World
There’s also an opportunity to meet new people and make new, like-minded friends using virtual reality. Virtual tour groups and people you meet in online travel groups can become long-term friends, and every traveler needs someone to share their experiences with!
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Using Virtual Reality to Enhance Your Travel Experiences
Here’s how you can take advantage of virtual reality to enhance your experience of traveling from start to finish.
Explore Destinations Before You Go
Do a “dress rehearsal” beforehand so you can get a feel for the spot you’re planning on visiting. It’s a great idea because you might just spot things that may put you off—dirty streets, rough waters, etc—which can then end up saving you from spending money on a vacation that turns out to be not so great.
But on the other hand, it can drum up excitement about the location before you actually get there. Wander around virtually and make a note of things you see that you want to visit for real. It’s the most fun way to do research!
Help You Plan Your Trip to Make the Most of Your Time
Spending some virtual time at your destination before getting there can help you to create an itinerary that flows well so you don’t waste time. Choose the landmarks you want to visit and plan according to which ones are close to each other. You can do this without VR, but it’s much easier when you’re actually looking and seeing how close certain places are to each other.
Get a Feel for the Local Culture
One of the most helpful things virtual reality can do for you is to give you a feel for the local culture. Not only does this help you to decide what kind of cultural experiences you’d like to partake in, but it can provide you with valuable knowledge so you can treat the local people with respect.
Make Your Trip More Memorable With Interactive Maps
Virtual reality can help you make more accurate estimations of distances and travel time, as well as figure out the most efficient routes. Interactive maps provide important information that can help you make more informed decisions about the places you visit.
You can also find real-time information on things like traffic or overcrowding, so you can adjust your plans on the go to make sure everything runs smoothly.
Some places allow you to virtually tour their rooms or homes before you book a stay. This is handy because you can make sure it’s got the facilities you want and need. Plus, it makes it much harder for dishonest hosts to give you substandard accommodation that doesn’t match what’s online!
Find the Best Deals on Hotels and Flights
There are plenty of VR apps out there that help you compare prices of accommodation, flights, and activities. Use these to find the best deals and save money!
Making Travel a Reality for Everyone
Unable to travel or a little scared to really get out there? Virtual reality makes travel a reality for everyone, no matter who you are or how you feel about physical travel. Whether you’re bedridden, ill, nervous, too young (or too old) to travel alone, or if something else is holding you back from traveling, VR is the perfect way to experience it!
- Explore the world from the comfort of your home.
- Take a virtual reality guided tour of a place you love.
- Experiences can be personalized to your interests.
- Accessible to people of all ages and abilities.
- An immersive experience that makes unique memories.
- Experience adrenaline-inducing activities without the risk!
Virtual reality isn’t just something fancy for websites or tech businesses! It’s accessible to you right now—all you need to do is know what it is and how it’s involved in whatever you’re doing.
If you’re planning on traveling soon, why not use virtual reality to enhance your travel experiences? You may be surprised at how helpful it is, how much easier it is to make good decisions about destination and accommodation, and how it can help you save money and be a decent, responsible traveler.
Even if you love physical travel, you may want to opt for something different and try a virtual trip at some point, just because you can! Either way, enjoy your travels and explore the world. It’s too big to be unexplored!
About the AuthorPaul Wheeler runs a web design agency that helps small businesses optimize their websites for business success. He aims to educate business owners on all things website-related on his own website, Reviews for Website Hosting.