Online booking mistakes — slow down for better travel

Online booking mistakes can happen easily and are hard to undo

online booking mistakesThanks to technology, travel can be booked with a few quick swipes and clicks. For most people, it means the process is much faster. It also means more online booking mistakes.

Any reader of this site will no doubt be familiar with stories of a small error turning into a big problem. And, many of those problems can be solved by doing one thing: Slow down.

The most common error: dates. Without an old-fashioned calendar, it’s far too easy to look at dates, not notice the day of the week, or look at the wrong month. Then, the entire trip can be off.

Looking at European and US dates takes patience and attention. What comes first? Day or month?

Look at the simple problem of abbreviations for months. Many in the travel industry have horror stories involving June and July, or March and May: Their three-letter abbreviations, JUN / JUL and MAR / MAY are only off by one character.

In a similar vein, bookings with European sites may have the date and month reversed by American standards. This might be easy to catch on any date late in a month, i.e., 26-10-2021, but much harder when both the day and month are the number 12 or under, i.e. 8-10-2021.

As a travel agent, I use outdated Global Distribution System (GDS) reservation technology, but many hotel websites work with calendars where you swipe to move the calendar ahead. It’s really easy to swipe too far or not far enough for availability.

Add to that booking on a small phone screen, and it might be a while before the mistake is noticed.

Christopher Elliott and other advocates can attest to problems with booking the wrong hotel. It’s far too easy to book not only the wrong dates, but also the wrong hotel, especially with chain hotels. In most large cities, there are several Marriotts, Hyatts, and Sheratons. One client recently told me they made a mistake with the wrong Ritz-Carlton. And, absolutely always slow down enough to read the cancellation rules and penalties.

Itineraries change. Always keep the latest at the top of your screen.

Irritated by hotel resort fees?Another issue is that anyone who shops around or who changes their itinerary before confirming may have multiple itineraries in their inbox, especially when using a travel agent or administrative assistant to make bookings. In theory, it should be simple: keep the most recent copy. But on an increasingly regular basis, I’ve encountered people who’ve either deleted the correct one or searched an old itinerary out of their inbox.

And sometimes new itinerary changes might match, or have a trivial difference. Perhaps a flight number changes. Other times it can (and has) meant showing up at the completely wrong flight, car company, or hotel.

Sometimes luck will work. Other times, forget easy solutions.

In one case, I had a client who was undecided about a hotel choice in London. She was rushing to get ready and couldn’t find her final itinerary, which showed everything paid in full. So, as she told me later, she decided not to bother me for another copy and went with a two-month-old first draft without the subsequent itinerary changes.

That draft, alas, had her first choice hotel, and she had decided that another property would be more convenient for her plans. But, feeling a bit fuzzy after her flight, and not remembering the details, she had her taxi take her to the wrong hotel. Fortunately, both properties were part of the Red Carnation Group. The tour operator was miraculously able to change the reservation and transfer the money she had paid back to the original hotel. But that was pure luck.

Some apps can help, but you need good info in the first place.

Apps like TripIt can help, but not when the wrong information is entered in the first place.

It’s not just flights, cars, and hotels. A client recently booked a ride to the airport using the Wingz app, which is pretty easy to use. But in typing in his pickup address, he didn’t notice that the same street existed both in Palo Alto and San Francisco and only discovered the morning of his flight that the car was dutifully awaiting him in the wrong city. (Fortunately, he was able to get another ride, and just lost the cost of the first ride.)

Admittedly, with all this time-saving technology, we are still more time-crunched than ever. But as a wise boss once told me, if you don’t have time to do something, you really don’t have time to do it over.Join Us for Cybersecurity Benefits

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