Travel Mistakes: Things That Make You Go D’oh

by Chris on February 19, 2011

Travel mistakes: Things that make you go d’oh. And I just made a doozy.

Even people who fly often can be prone to travel mistakes. And boy, I just made a doozy that cost me $1,000 to fix.

I discovered the problem yesterday, when I went to book a car for my upcoming trip to New Orleans. I had considered myself a savvy traveler this Mardi Gras and had saved money – I thought – by booking flights into nearby Baton Rouge.

Except when I checked the tickets again, I realized I booked the tickets on the wrong day.

Big deal, you might say. Mardi Gras goes on…..except that I’m riding on a float this year. Keeping the wrong ticket would have meant missing the parade. And my entire family is meeting me in New Orleans for the event. Cue panic.

I got on the phone with Orbitz (my friend Chris Elliott would tell me that booking through them in the first place was a bad decision. And he’s right. Airlines have more power to be flexible than third party sites).

Although the Orbitz agent was nice, he was firm: canceling the ticket would cost $180 in change fees from the airline and the service, plus any increase in fare. To make matters worse, there were no flights to Baton Rouge on the day I needed it. My best option was to book brand new tickets to New Orleans and take the other as a credit (which will still come with change fees).

Which is what I ended up doing in the end. So now there’s an extra $1,000 on our credit card that we didn’t need. New Orleans is shaping up to be a very expensive weekend.

The moral of the story: Check your tickets immediately after you buy them. Sometimes ticket agents will give you a break if the transaction hasn’t gone through. Besides making sure the dates are right, check to see that your name is exactly the same as the one on your ID.

My sister, a frequent business traveler, laughed when I told her this story. Her biggest oops? Accidentally booking a ticket to St. Louis when she meant to go to Kansas City – and then not changing it right away. “I assumed they’d be close together and I could just drive,” she said. “Same state, right? Um, no.”

Well, I hope I haven’t blown my credibility with y’all completely with this confession. It proves that everyone slips up sometimes – and that throwing money at a problem usually solves it. There goes our planned tasting meal at August.

What’s the biggest travel mistake you’ve made?

| Chris Gray Faust is a veteran journalist, travel expert, social media butterfly - and editrix of this site. Like what you read? Check out her writing, editing and social media services.

{ 27 comments… read them below or add one }

Gary Arndt February 19, 2011 at 12:37 pm

I once booked a flight on TAP Portugal from London to New York. I got online and checked out what terminal they flew from at Heathrow just so everything would go well in the morning.

I got to Hearthrow and went to check in for my flight at the TAP Portugal desk…..only to find out that the flight was flying out of Gatwick, not Heathrow. I never bothered to check the airport because I never thought that they might fly out of more than one.

I also missed a flight from Samoa to Tonga because I read the arrival time as the departure time.

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Chris February 19, 2011 at 2:13 pm

@Gary – I have friends who have made that same Heathrow/Gatwick mistake. And I once had to transfer between the two airports with just a few hours to spare. I made my flight, but it was very stressful (and this was pre-9/11 – I doubt I could make it now. I certainly wouldn’t try!)

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Anne February 19, 2011 at 12:48 pm

Ordering cervelle d’agneau for dinner in France because even with my limited French, I knew that agneau was lamb and my favorite meal is lamb chops. When my dinner arrived, it was clear that cervelle means brains.

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Chris February 19, 2011 at 2:14 pm

@Anne – Ew! Those are the times when ignorance would have remained bliss.

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Christopher Elliott February 19, 2011 at 12:49 pm

Chris, we still love you! (And we all make mistakes — take it from me.)

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Chris February 19, 2011 at 2:15 pm

@Chris – Aw, thanks Chris! I’ll never go against your advice again :)

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Kara @ The Vacation Gals February 19, 2011 at 1:19 pm

A few years ago I booked my family of four on flights from Denver to Cancun, just after I hung up the phone with the hotel-brand PR person who confirmed, ‘Yes, we’d love to have your family stay with us on those dates.’

As soon as I hit “Buy these tickets,” I had a sinking feeling in my stomach. Did said hotel-brand PR person mean I could stay at the RIVIERA MAYA property or the MAZATLAN property? Indeed, he meant there was availability in Mazatlan, not on the opposite side of the country.

Thankfully, because I’d quickly realized I’d screwed up, the airline was able to switch tickets without any fee/problem. Like you said, Chris, the transaction must not have fully gone through. Gosh, was I thankful!

Yes, we travel for work, and we screw up. It’s like therapy right here!

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Chris February 19, 2011 at 2:16 pm

@Kara – I must admit, I do feel better knowing that other people screw up too. My husband always yells at me for doing things too fast – and that’s exactly what happened when I booked these NOLA tickets. I’m just glad I noticed the change yesterday instead of the day before!

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Judy Wells February 19, 2011 at 2:33 pm

Wish we were born knowing how to do everything. I’ve screwed up on dates, especially when leaving on one day and arriving on another. Also mess up East and West and whatever you do, don’t follow me when I go from subway to street. I’ll head in the wrong direction every time, especially with map in hand. If nothing else it puts us on the level of novice travelers which, when we admit it, makes them feel better, misery and company and all that.

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Chris February 19, 2011 at 2:59 pm

@Judy – I’m pretty good with directions, except when I step out of a NYC subway so I’m with you on that. :)

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Kent @ NVR February 19, 2011 at 2:47 pm

I felt sick for you after reading the first line. Good to know we’re not the only people this stuff happens to. Details next time we meet up at West 5 :)

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Chris February 19, 2011 at 3:00 pm

@Kent – Thanks for the sympathy. And I definitely want to hit up West 5 and hear your screw-up story….although given the shape of our credit card balance now, you might be buying :)

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Don February 19, 2011 at 11:05 pm

I don’t know about Chris, but I not missing MY chef’s tasting meal at August in New Orleans.

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Kelly February 21, 2011 at 2:50 pm

When I was right out of college in the mid-80s, I had a job interview in Miami. It was my first time staying at a fancy hotel with a mini-bar and I thought everything was complimentary. I drank a couple of bottles of Baileys in the room and when I checked out I decided to take ALL of the small bottles of alcohol, just like one would the shampoo and conditioner. Remember, I thought it was free.
While standing in line to check out of the hotel, the guest ahead of me was asked if he had consumed anything from the mini-bar. That’s when I realized the liquor wasn’t complimentary. I rushed back upstairs to my room and dumped all of the alcohol from my suitcase on the bed.
I don’t know if the company interviewing me was charged for me cleaning out the mini-bar but needless to say, I didn’t get the job.

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Chris February 21, 2011 at 3:06 pm

@Kelly – I think this is my favorite story so far :)

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Kathy February 21, 2011 at 2:52 pm

I booked flight to Miami for a cruise leaving from Port Canaveral. When I got there I discovered the cruise ship was about 100 miles from the city! Oops. We ended up renting a car, driving to the port, parking the car for a fee of $75 for the week, then driving it back. THEN we discovered that there was a bus from the airport that only cost $25. I worked in the airline industry at the time. REALLY embarrassing!

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Chris February 21, 2011 at 3:06 pm

@Kathy – I think that’s the thing – that those of us affiliated with the travel industry are supposed to know better! Most of the time we do….but everyone slips up sometimes!

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Kelly February 21, 2011 at 3:25 pm

I have so many. When I was a sports writer in the late 80s, I was assigned to cover a bowl game in Jacksonville, Fla. I told the company’s travel agent Jacksonville and she assumed I meant South Carolina. Thankfully I noticed the mistake before departure and I was able to get my flight changed, but it meant flying on Christmas Day. That taught me to not depend on a travel agent to book the right city.

And I’ve learned to always check my baggage tag to make sure my luggage is booked to the right destination. Even with everything being computerized, errors still occur. Delta sent my luggage to Costa Rica instead of La Guardia. I realized the mistake when I looked at my computerized baggage claim tag during a layover in Cincinnati. It took several days for my luggage to reach me in New York. Thankfully I had taken a few days worth of clothes in a carry-on.

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donnadeau February 24, 2011 at 2:03 pm

A death in the family provides a really bad time to go online. At least that’s the excuse I use!

In the interest of full disclosure to readers I work in online travel, so this comment may be very biased, but Chris you have most likely saved many times over that $1,000 by booking online over the years, instead of via airline sites, especially when you have missed airline booking deadlines and especially when you would have missed a less expensive or more convenient option not revealed on an airline site.

After all, how many people know that Alaska Airlines provides nonstop service from Reagan National to LAX or that Air New Zealand does the same daily from Los Angeles to London?

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Chris February 24, 2011 at 2:33 pm

@Don – You know, honestly, that’s why I didn’t balk at rebooking the ticket at the higher price. I do save significantly on travel from online sites, especially with airfares. hotels and car rentals (I prefer to spend my money on meals out!) And I know the memories from this trip will be worth the price.

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Katie Hammel February 24, 2011 at 2:29 pm

The first time I flew to Iceland, I bought tickets from NYC to Iceland and from Chicago to NYC. All seemed fine until I realized my flight from NYC left from JFK and my flight to NYC arrived at LGA.

Luckily, I’d booked an hour and 45 mins between flights on the way there and 2 hrs on the way back, but it was super stressful trying to run off the plane, jump in cab, and then get checked in and back through security and to my gate in that time. The universe was on my side that day though – there was no traffic between the airports and the security lines were moving fast.

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Chris February 24, 2011 at 2:34 pm

@Katie – This is the US version of Gary’s Heathrow/Gatwick mistake! Good job getting between the airports so fast. I would have been dying of stress!

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donnadeau February 24, 2011 at 3:22 pm

@Chris, speaking of meals out, I am vicariously going to enjoy immensely when you dine at places like Galatoire’s while in New Orleans!

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Don February 24, 2011 at 8:29 pm

Don – at the last Mardi Gras trip, myself and Chris’ sister’s boyfriend ate ourselves silly. We went on a daily evaluation of the best New Orleans gumbo… I think we had at least 3 bowls per day, in addition to our regular meals.

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Chris February 26, 2011 at 10:48 pm

@Don – I’m not sure Galatoire’s is on the list this time, but we do have reservations at Jacques Imos, Commander’s Palace and John Besh’s American Sector. And I’m still obsessed with the bacon and oyster sandwich I had at Cochon two years ago….may have to go back for that! You just can’t go wrong, foodwise, in NOLA

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Charu February 24, 2011 at 3:44 pm

Well, once I did book my flight to favorite destination of mine during the week when I was supposed to cover a bunch of events! It ended up working out (hired two rookie writers who were happy to do so) but I will definitely look at my calendar twice before being trigger happy.

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Chris February 27, 2011 at 11:59 am

@Charu – That’s my problem! I get so excited about the trip and caught up in the logistics (and of course, the chase of finding a great fare) that I didn’t look at the dates. Oh well. It will all wash out in the end. Thanks for commenting!

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