June 20, 2012— -- There's no disputing that travelers are infinitely more connected -- to work, to friends, to family, to the Twitter followers they've never met -- than just a few years ago.
But just how connected are they? And how does it change their travels?
A new survey by Intel Corp. found that travelers had an emotional bond with their mobile devices to the point of feeling calmer and less stressed when they could tap into their technology while vacationing. Almost half of U.S. travelers admitted they felt anxious traveling without a mobile computing device.
Among young adults, 87 percent actually reported they felt happier when traveling with their devices. Respondents to the 2,500-person survey even ranked losing their mobile computing device as more stressful than losing their wedding ring (77 percent verus 55 percent). The only thing more stressful than losing a mobile device was losing a wallet.
"We found a stark contrast in the way people used to travel and the way they travel today," said Mike Fard, Intel ambassador, which means he translates technology concepts for the less-savvy. "They have an increased expectation of what technology can do and to always being connected."
Fard described a personal scenario many travel techies can relate to. He recently found himself moving from Starbucks to Starbucks trying to find the perfect outlet and seat combination. He's not the only one desperate to stay connected.
"They'll unplug other people's devices and even sit inside a bathroom," said Fard. "They'll choose a restaurant or coffee shop based on the availability and location of outlets." Intel has coined a phrase for this behavior: Outlet Outrage.
And if you had to choose between packing your technology and packing your hairdryer, which would you choose?
Sixty-four percent of survey respondents said they have sacrificed their personal appearance ? giving up hairdryers or styling tools, toiletries, sunscreen, workout clothes and even shoes ? in favor of making space in their luggage for their devices.
If these travelers don't worry about the style of their shoes or clothes, what are they concerned with? It's all about the tech. More than 60 percent said they considered their device to be a personal style accessory, and 20 percent reported experiencing "tech envy" over other people's devices.
"We feel people associate their own personalities with their mobile computing devices," said Fard.
They don't just admire from afar, however. More than half admitted to looking at other people's screens, even though they said it was one of their own biggest pet peeves when another traveler did the same to them.
Almost 30 percent said they've caught someone else looking at their screens. Despite this, nearly a quarter of respondents fail to take basic security precautions with their mobile devices: They report using unsecured wireless networks, entering credit card details in public, viewing sensitive documents on their device and even leaving their devices unattended.
Which explains why you often see laptops plugged in and alone at the airport, but very few wedding rings lying around.