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Yesterday, I spent an hour sitting in a rental car at the Atlanta airport car rental center, unable to leave the airport and unable to return to the rental counter to solve the problem I was facing.

The problem? The rental agent had forgotten to include the actual rental contract in the handful of papers I got, and I didn't notice that as the agent directed me to follow the signs and leave. On the far side of the garage, at an exit booth, I was told I couldn't leave. Or go back to the right floor and spot in the garage. Or leave the car and go on foot to get the papers.

Long story short, eventually the hard-to-understand-on-a-bad-phone-connection agent emailed me a copy of the contract, which was good enough to get me out (although I later got a call asking me to return to the airport to sign a paper copy (which, of course, I didn't.))

ANYWAY, it did get me thinking of how much things have changed in travel in the age of computers and the internet. No more paper multi-part air or rail tickets. ATMs and credit cards have replaced travelers' checks. Airbnb and hotel websites have ended the paper back and forth of renting.

And yet... paper persists, or at least its electronic equivalent in the form of saved emails and pdfs. Many of us had clear reminders of that over the past few years when vaccination cards and Covid test certificates mostly had to be on paper or displayable on-screen.

And, I've had occasions where a hotel or car rental company has tried to change the rates or dates and my cache of 'electronic paper' has saved the day. Even though some airport security checks are now going biometric and self-service is spreading, I doubt anyone is planning to leave their passport home!

So, at the end of this possibly over-long reflection, a suggestion, one I follow almost to the point of obsession. Before I leave home, all the emails concerning the trip are forwarded to a GMail account I keep just for the purpose. All the documents, tickets, reservation confirmations that are in them are downloaded and saved to a folder in 'the cloud,' Dropbox being the one I use, but OneDrive and GoogleDrive are similar choices.

That pretty much means that, unless someone fails to give you the contract at the rental counter, you have everything accessible from anywhere... even if you lose your phone and have to rely on another computer. I've never had that happen... yet... but I've gone into those files often from on the road.

The best part of every trip is realizing that it has upset your expectations

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