Do you panic as your finger hovers over the “Submit Payment” button? It never happens when I’m impulse buying a case of Mt. Difficulty Roaring Meg Pinot Noir, but, when it’s travel-related, I immediately assume that a terrible mistake is about to happen that will cost me thousands of dollars in non-refundable fees. This carries over to my evening slumber and after booking, I’ll continue to wake up startled wondering if I’m supposed to be somewhere and, if so, where that somewhere is supposed to be.
I’ve recently learned that my fear is rational because this kind of stuff happens all the time. Take the plight of medical student Emmanuel Akomanyi. He attempted to fly from his country of residence, Ghana, to Guyana, where he was to receive a scholarship, but landed, as booked, in the Brazilian city of Goiania. Oops. The Telegraph article goes on to relay more “mistakes”. Imagine curling up in your coach seat, expecting to wake up in Lebanon, New Hampshire, and arriving in the Mideast instead. And, when it comes to San Jose, apparently no one knows the way. Are you going to Costa Rica? Puerto Rico? California?
Although I dream about it often, I’ve only had one misbooking reality. My friend’s mom passed away and another friend asked if I wanted to attend the funeral. I had a clear schedule so I hopped on to JetBlue and booked a roundtrip shuttle to Buffalo. When checking in, I kept getting rejected at the automated kiosk, so I wandered up to one of the navy-clad helpers skittering around the check-in area. She looked at my paperwork, and at my face, back at the paperwork, and said in a polite, corporate-trained manner, “Dear. Your flight’s scheduled for next Thursday.” What she was thinking was, “Idiot.”
At that point I had a decision to make. I could have started ranting and blaming this poor woman for the boner that I had pulled off entirely on my own. In a moment of travaphasia, I had somehow mangled my calendar and hit “Submit Payment” without double and triple checking. So I paused. And breathed. And torrentially apologized for being a fool and was there something she could do because there was a funeral I needed to get to. Yada yada yada. She listened politely and rectified my ticket gaffe and did not charge me a change fee. Yes. Nice wins. Travel guru Johnny Jet brings chocolates and gives them to flight attendants and desk agents just cause it’s a nice thing to do. If I had to deal with stupid people like me every day, I’d really appreciate a hit of chocolate.
Since the Buffalo Debacle, I have implemented several steps to avoid a repeat incident.
1. Do not book when you are tired, angry, or drunk. Pretend that online-travel booking is like operating heavy machinery. If you wouldn’t get in a backhoe, don’t open the laptop.
2. Have a large, paper calendar in front of you and circle your travel dates with a RED SHARPIE. I can’t be more clear about this. Those little pop-ups are useless. And it gets more confusing when traveling to countries that reverse the months and dates. Realizing you booked a hotel for April 11 instead of November 4 is a very bad feeling indeed.
3. Check your itinerary. Again. And again. And, if you have the option to save your itinerary for 24 hours without a fee, do it and check it one more time before the cooling off period expires.
4. Print out everything after booking and, need I repeat, check it again. For names. Dates of birth. If you’ve made a mistake, now’s the time to fix it. It’s easier to do when your travel window is still wide open rather than when it’s about to crash down on your neck.
5. Be nice if you find that a snafu has happened. Remember it’s your fault. Not the computer’s. Apologize. And beg.
Remember when you could yell at a travel agent for friggin’ the whole enchilada? Now we’ve got no one to blame but ourselves. And it’s pretty easy to understand why. After all, you say Grenada and I say Granada.