The Golden Age of Travel Compared to Travel Today

It’s easy to become frustrated with travel these days. While we all love arriving at a destination, no one really likes the process of travelling, with hours spent stuck in airports, crammed into tiny plane seats, and then doing it all in reverse on the way back.

When it comes to flying, it was certainly a much different experience during the 1950’s, when you’d be able to enjoy a three course meal, with plenty of leg room, and of course those pesky glass dividers which liked to shatter during turbulence.

These days flying is the safest way to travel, and while you’ll have plenty of in-flight entertainment, those three course meals have been replaced by something which may or may not be food, and the legroom means fighting with the person in front of you for a few precious inches.


While the former was known as the “Golden Age” of travel, and it was definitely more luxurious, I think it’s easy for us to romanticise it when most of us haven’t experienced traveling in this age.

One thing that travel got right in the 1950’s comfort. In fact taking a vacation during the so-called “Golden Age” meant that you were actually going to be comfortable, with passengers throughout the plane enjoying anywhere from 3 to 6 inches more legroom than we get today.

There were also more flight attendants per person, which of course meant better service. However flying was incredibly noisy and bumpy, without inflight entertainment, and constantly subject to groundings and multiple stopovers which would be frustrating and boring.

Today what we call turbulence would be a drop in a bucket for anyone who flew during the 1950’s. It’s also a lot less noisy, and cabins are designed to be functional, and not elegant.

In fact if you want good food, comfort, and space to yourself, you need to upgrade to business or first class. Personally I’m grateful for the increased safety measures, and the fact that I’m unlikely to end up cut by shattered glass in the event that the flight gets bumpy.


For me, the biggest influence has to be the cost. These days travel is far more affordable than it was in the 1950’s, when only the wealthiest of people were lucky enough to travel. In fact traveling to Spain for a week would cost around 5 times the average persons weekly wage. That’s over a month of working for one week of holiday!

The actual travel-planning stage has changed quite a bit too! Traditionally, you were limited primarily to a physical travel agent to help plan and book an excursion. While physical travel agents are still popular, the advent of the Internet has led to a rise in DIY options and online travel companies (such as Latin America For Less). Nowadays, planning an exciting travel adventure can be done without ever leaving your home!

Because it was such a rarity to travel by plane, passengers would wear their finest clothes, while still trying to focus on comfort. These days people are more likely to dress down, focusing on shorts, sandals, and even track pants. Often Brits are so eager to escape the weather at home, that they’re dressing for the beach before they’ve even boarded their flight.

We also have the ability to go much further, in a much shorter amount of time these days. And while we may consider the 50’s the Golden Age of Travel, I have no doubt that in 50 years people will be saying the same thing about the early 2000’s.