What Was It Like Travelling in the 80s?


The 80s was an unforgettable golden age of pocket-maps, postcards and endless packing. 

Getting lost in a foreign town was actually possible, sight-seeing was far more interesting and people really enjoyed living in the present. Travelling during this time was a raging fever that spread everywhere.

If you miss cruising around town listening to some Bon Jovi, going to a seaside picnic in neon shorts, or are just feeling nostalgic, we’ve got you covered! Here are 10 things that’ll definitely jog your memory of the great 80s!

1. Paper Maps were everyone’s pick

Senior woman looking at a paper map sitting in a car

Yes, paper maps were actually a thing.

Nowadays, exploring has become a bit of a task, because you can look up images of the area, pre-book a hotel and find online guides. These things make it harder to explore new, unfamiliar sights.

Back in the 80s, however, you didn’t have these distractions. All you carried was a paper map and a hope to not get lost. 

That’s why having a friend with decent geography knowledge tag along was also a focus before heading out on a long trip. 

2. Human interaction was a thing

Talk about an introvert’s tormenting nightmare.

If you were even slightly shy, the 80’s would be a tough time to live in. Firstly, if you planned on booking a ticket, you had to call an actual person. They would take time searching for available flights, and took even longer when comparing rates.

And get this kids; you didn’t have Siri to guide you around a new town. You had to interact with strangers, ask them for directions, thank them for their help and sometimes even hold a conversation! 

If you’re an introvert and made it through that, give yourself a pat on the back!

3. Sending Postcards was a priority

Long before selfies, FaceTime and Skype took over, there were the timeless postcards.

And they were an essential; after all, your grandparents needed something to pin to their fridge or wall.

You had to write all the fun details about your itinerary, draw awkward sights, put some photos inside the envelope and mail it to members of your extended family. This was a way for them to experience your vacations.

4. There were in-flight movies

We have plenty of in-flight entertainment now, with a personal screen for everyone. You can pay for in-flight wifi, listen to music and play games on your iPad.

Back in the 80’s, the only real entertainment were in-flight movies. A movie played on the main screen in front of everyone, and you had to pay for the headphones that were connected to it.

This sweet memory did sound costly back then though, with many of us understanding the plot through subtitles (we were usually wrong though).

5. The airline food was a culinary nightmare

80’s also remind us of how far we’ve come in regards to airplane food.

Today, it doesn’t actually matter if you travel Economy or First Class. Your food will be pretty basic in either, with the only difference being a variety in menu.

In the 80’s however, this wasn’t the case. Sure, if you travelled first class you would be served hot gravy on a medium-rare lamb chop. But if you were travelling economically, it’d be better to stay hungry.

And let’s be honest here; the flights were actually expensive, and Economy was the go-to option. With that being said, the food included a peach floating in gravy, burnt rice and some very weird combinations. We’re glad that nightmare was short-lived.

6. Bum bags were a fashion choice everyone made

If you weren’t wearing a bum bag in the 80’s that matched your outfit, were you really there?

In the 1980s, bum bags were a trendy accessory for vacationers. For items like passports, cash, and keys, they allowed for hands-free transport. Tourists and hikers who wanted to carry their belongings securely also favored bum bags.

Being the cool kid was all about how many bum bags you owned. Everyone who tried to keep up with fashion was wearing a bum bag around their waist. This pouch would carry all the essentials; from sunscreen and hand sanitiser to cash and map guides.

While fashion did grow even more atrocious, with the horrible semi-casual clothes and makeup of the 2000’s, any true 80’s kid would miss having a bum bag and have a hearty chuckle remembering it.

While bum bags fell out of favor in the ’90s, they’ve recently made a comeback as a hipster accessory. These days, you can get a bum bag in just about any size and style, and they serve dual purposes.

7. You had to actually wait for photos to arrive

Taking photographs in the 1980s was a very different experience from what it is today. In those pre-instant-gratification days, the film had to be developed before pictures could be viewed. This was especially the case for tourists, who typically had to wait until they got back home to view the photos they had taken while away.

Shocking for the new kids, but you had to wait several weeks for your photos to develop and arrive. All the snaps you took were processed, while you faced killing anticipation. 

Once they were home, you had to deal with whatever photos you got, and it was bittersweet if something photobombed your memory. And teens nowadays think going through 100 selfies is a task.

8. Phone Booths were literally everywhere

It’s hard to imagine for those born after mid-90’s, but you couldn’t call home with a simple touch on your mobile phone. Instead, you had to venture out, ask locals to guide you to the nearest payphone booth, and walk some distance.

Once you got there, you had to stand behind a long queue. When it was finally your turn, you had to dig deep in your pockets to find a change.

The conversation was usually brief, with just an update or two. People got really frustrated if you kept it going too long, so it was best to talk less. 

The worse part, however, was walking back to your room. Well, at least there were payphones every half a mile, right?

9. Carrying a ton of luggage wasn’t an issue

This may sound straight up weird, but luggage wasn’t an issue with any airlines. You could be hanging 8 carry-ons and nobody would bat an eye.

Airport security went through your stuff manually, so if you lacked patience, you probably didn’t carry a lot anyways. But being able to take as many suitcases, with being charged for them quite rare, let’s just say that life was easier back then.

10. Smoking on the plane wasn’t a big deal

The last point may seem shocking to some, but it’s true. All airlines had a designated smoking area, which was not very intelligent as smoke eventually wafted everywhere. 

In fact, tobacco cigarettes were sold during the flight in many airlines. We even remember people buying a few packs.  

Another fun fact about flying in the 80’s is that you could go ahead and meet the pilot if you wanted! We would surely put flying as … an experience.We’re feeling nostalgic as we reminisce these travel memories from the 80s.

What about you? Do any of these moments help you take a trip down the memory lane? Let us know in the comments section below. 


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