Always carry the hard copies

Rely exclusively on gadgets at your travel peril. An earlier contribution from Canadian Super Counsel discussed at length the perils of relying on e-boarding passes. It is prudent to always carry hard copies of key travel documents, particularly in international travel.

Immigration and customs officials are generally unmoved by glowing screens waved in their faces. So too, airline check-in agents who insist on incorrect policies. And of course, the toughest species encountered in air travel, the airport lounge reception agent (‘lounge dragons’).

The Rapid Traveler always carries printouts of his reservations and key policies such as for luggage and flight changes. When he lived in China, hauling gifts and purchases for friends in China each return from the US, his battered Northwest luggage policy for elites, allowing 70 lb per checked bag for trans-Pacific flights was used numerous times.

For this week’s trip to Chile and Argentina, with a transfer in Montevideo, Uruguay, The Rapid Traveler carried his Diners Club card and printouts from the Diners Club website of the airport lounge access policy for each airport. Causing much self-kicking in rump, The Rapid Traveler forgot to carry the card on his October trip to Easter Island, Bolivia and Peru.

Santiago and Buenos Aires were no issue, but the lounge dragon in Montevideo insisted that Diners Club had instructed that lounge to only grant access to cards beginning with 36 for Diners Club International, excluding the 54 and 55 of Diners Club US & Canada. But the Diners Club US cardmember site links to Diners Club International for lounge access and lists no such exclusion (see here for Montevideo). Only by making a photocopy of the printout to show to her boss did the lounge dragon relent and make an exception, “only this time.”

Not having lounge access would not have been a big deal, though the fresh squeezed orange juice was excellent, but the same principle applies in serious cases, such as airlines/hotels/car rental agencies losing reservations or attempting to charge a higher rate. In one car rental in Miami a few months ago, a system issue with rates changing drastically due to pick-up a half hour later than planned resulted in nearly $100 extra on a two-day rental, again only resolved through the hard copy of the correct, original rate.

A few sheets of paper do not weigh little, but are weighty. Print and carry; after the trip shred and recycle.

Readers, when have hard copies saved the travel day for you?

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  • Cook

    YES, Yes and More YES! That folio of paper may be annoying at times, but when you need it, you NEED it. In most cases, the most important components of that folio are the selected lines’ published policy on items that are likely to be of concern. For the benefit of the seriously confused agent, highlight the relevant sections. And of course, don’t just toss the folio in the agent’s face! In all cases, be polite, just suggesting that a policy review may be in order. Even without the hosepower of your printed policy documents, being polite is usually enough. All airline employees have supervisors, usually folks with a bit more experience. If you need a supervisor, ask for one, but always remain polite. It works.

  • KC

    I always do this and it has been useful on more than one occassion.