There’s no graveyard for items irrelevant in the travel world.
But perhaps there should be as we recall the days, some not long ago, when hotel keys were really keys, not encoded plastic cards, and ladies boarded flights with a chic vanity case in hand.
In some cases, travel relics stir a nostalgic response. What hotel guest wasn't tickled by the presence of a vibrating bed in their room? A fistful of quarters to feed into the slot meant a fun, shaky night ahead.
In other instances, it’s a case of R.I.P and "don’t let the door hit you on the way out".
There was a time when flying the friendly skies meant smokers could light up with abandon from the time they boarded a flight to the time they left. Since 1989, smoking on flights has been prohibited; but on older planes, you still might see ashtrays in the arms of the seat and light-up no-smoking signs.
Modern technology has also lead to the devise of things like traveller’s cheques. With the arrival of debit cards and worldwide ATMs, their usefulness has been eclipsed.
And no one misses the days when airline staff handwrote boarding passes and luggage tags. Speaking of luggage, when it comes to suitcases, we’ve come a long way, baby.
Before commercial flights began, travelling any kind of distance meant packing up a trunk for the long journey ahead. When we began to fly, suitcases arrived and, as we turned into chronic over-packers, they sprang two wheels, then four, and then swivelling ones to boot.
So before we jump into space travel and beyond, let’s pay homage to the travel items we have loved and lost over the years. May you rest in peace.
10 Forgotten Travel Relics
Matchbooks & Ashtrays
The adoption of no-smoking policies has hampered the efforts of souvenir collectors. An ashtray nicked from your hotel room was an easy thing to stash into your luggage. And there was a time when colourful matchbooks from restaurants, resorts, and bars were only you needed to evoke memories. Now these mementos have gone up in flames.
Back in the day when a woman wouldn’t dare be seen in public without wearing lipstick, she would take flight with a breadbox-sized, vanity case in hand. Popular in the '50s and ’60s, she would take everything needed to put on her face and do her hair. It’s a no go these days, even if a gal wanted to bring one, because of the security ban on liquids.
Once upon a time, bag tags were handwritten. In 1882, Michael Lyons from New Brunswick patented the separable coupon ticket where the upper-half was affixed to the bag and the lower part to the passenger. A leap to the '90s brought barcodes to airline tags, increasing securing and reducing AWOL luggage.
Before ATMs, travellers avoided walking around with a pocketful of cash. Instead, they bought travellers cheques, which were treated like money without the risk of loss. American Express was the first to introduce a comprehensive travellers cheque system in 1891. Their days are largely over now that they're a pain to cash while other countries have outright rejected them.
Since the '80s, hotel keys stopped being keys and fobs and became plastic cards. How unromantic. In decades prior, hotel keys could be dropped into mailboxes by forgetful guests and be returned to where they came from. And before you headed out for dinner, you could give them to the front desk for safekeeping.
With airports spreading over an area equal to small towns, it’s almost impossible to navigate them without wheels on your luggage. When they first met suitcases, it wasn’t a good match: you either had to bend down low to roll the bag across the floor. Years later, you had to drag them by long leashes before they flopped to the ground. Wheels, we adore you.
There was a time when if you needed directions, you’d ask someone --like the dude who pumped your gas (a service that’s pretty much a relic, too). If that didn't work, you might even buy a road map. Today, most of us use a GPS, or an app on our phones. Perhaps if road maps were easier to fold, they would have survived.
There was a time when any no-frills motel would have complementary stationary available to its guests and typically included some letter head, envelopes and even a postcard of the place to show off to the folks back home. Now, that’s gone the way of the 8-track tape. If you’re lucky, you might find a luxury hotel that still creates customized stationary for its patrons -- Mr. Skip Town: In Residence.”
Cruising the highways, bumper-sticker jealousy were once commonplace. The car next to you could be slathered in them – Grand Canyon! Banff! Magnetic Hill, New Brunswick! Atlantic City! Now, these adhesive boasts are now limited to “Support Our Troops!” and “Baby on Board.”
When is the last time you sent a postcard? Exactly. And that’s why they're on the endangered list. With computer access widely available, wish-you-were-here photos can be uploaded to Instagram and posted on FB in seconds. At the peak of postcards’popularity, the US Postal Service saw 4.5 million sent in 1951. Since then, there has been a drop of 75 per cent. So long postcards, it was nice knowing you….
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