I don’t know about you, but I certainly get a rush when there’s a race-against-the-clock type of deal – it sends a huge amount of adrenaline surging through my veins, and I feel like I’m cloud 9 when it all works out nicely. I can most certainly bet that I’m not alone with this feeling; and frankly, like any addiction, it’s probably why I’m addicted to all things deals, points, and miles to begin with.
There have been numerous occasions this year alone that have given me a rush – such as the sub $300 round-trip fares to Israel from New York (I vividly remember pulling over at a rest stop in NoWheresVille, Connecticut just so I could quickly book a ticket right there on my iPhone). There were also the infamous 4-mile HKG tickets on United that set people on a booking frenzy, along with $30 round trip fares between NYC and Chicago, just to name a few.
After everyone comes down from the highs of booking mistake fares, we all simmer down and wait… and wait… until we hear final and official word about whether or not the tickets would be honored. Ahhhh… the game we play…
While I’ve had my share of awesome trips thanks to mistake fares and fare deals, I knew there would come a point in time where it just wouldn’t work out as planned, and I’d be stuck with nothing more than… a mistake.
There’s a first for everything…
Most recently, a few months ago, a friend of mine sent me a message alerting me of a really cheap Etihad business class fare from Seychelles (SEZ) to Dublin, that allowed a stopover in Abu Dhabi (and would also earn AAdvantage miles). My impulsive-self immediately resorted to my “act now, think later” motto, and I booked a ticket from Expedia UK, without hesitation, for travel over Thanksgiving week.
My itinerary started from Seychelles, and then included a 36-hour layover in Abu Dhabi, before continuing on to Dublin. I was so excited about the fare that I told myself I’d deal with the rest of the logistics later (such as the tricky positioning on both the start and end). After all, Expedia has a 24-hour risk-free cancellation policy, right?
…Or so I thought. That was the start of one mistake after another…
- Mistake #1: I previously mentioned that I booked this ticket through Expedia UK, not Expedia – there’s a difference, and I learned the hard way. Along with most of the major airlines, US-based online travel agencies such as Expedia offer a 24-hour risk free cancellation policy that guiltlessly supports the practice of “booking now and thinking later” when a time-sensitive deal comes our way; however, I later learned that Expedia UK only allows free same-day cancellations up until 12-midnight UK time. I was stuck.
- Mistake #2: In my booking frenzy, I peer-pressured my parents to get in on the deal as well. Unlike me, Dad is the type of traveler that does not do well when things are poorly thought-out and unplanned, but I reassured him over and over to just trust me and book. Now I feel like an idiot for dragging them into the same mess I got myself into.
- Mistake #3: As I mentioned above, sure it was a pretty darn good deal to visit such a beautiful and exotic destination, but having to position to Seychelles meant that I had to burn valuable miles to get there (and back to NYC from Dublin). Thinking about the positioning headaches made me question if this deal was even worth it.
- Mistake #4: I have already visited Abu Dhabi back in June, and I concluded that 12 hours was enough. This SEZ trip had a built 36-hour stopover in Abu Dhabi, which seemed wasteful to me.
- Mistake #5: There’s very few things in life that I hate more than paying penalties and fees. I waited and waited for months hoping that Etihad would come forward and allow ticketed passengers who got in on the mistake fare to simply cancel their tickets and receive a refund, but they stuck their ground and were offering a refund for a $150 penalty per passenger (which is reasonable and standard). Naturally, I was thinking of other ways to avoid having to pay the cancellation penalty such as praying for a schedule change (related post), or perhaps even a doctor’s note since I would be in my 3rd trimester at the time of my trip. Unfortunately, the airline had adhered to a strict “no-getting-around-the-cancellation-penalty-unless-the-ticketed-passenger-had-died” rule… a category I thankfully don’t fit into.
A Pricy Lesson
In the end, I finally took it upon myself to load up my Skype account with enough money to call Expedia UK to cancel my ticket. I bit the bullet and paid the cancellation fee in order to get the rest of the fare refunded to me. Losing out on the deal was upsetting to me, but in the end, I learned to be more mindful about deal-specifics before immediately diving in.
On the Plus Side…
Instead stressing out about a trip that was obviously not in the cards for me from day one, I am turning it around – my entire family and I will be going to Maui instead, and the trip was booked entirely on points and miles (planning in progress post coming soon). I still am a firm believer that impulsive travel is chicken soup for the soul, and I won’t stop anytime soon – I’ll just be mindful that things can and will go wrong once and in while. I am very grateful for all of the bargain traveling I have been able to do thus far.
My Advice to You
Still take risks, and enjoy the excitement that comes along with this hobby. At the same time, be mindful about cancellation policies, and be realistic. There have been and will be hundreds of awesome flight deals per year. Don’t feel bad if you have to “sit a deal out” once in a while. Let’s face it – life lesson #101 states that not every deal will work for everyone (duh). It also doesn’t hurt to know the cancellation policy once and in a while.
Have you ever booked a trip in the heat of the moment, mistake fare or not, and later regretted it? If so, how did you handle it? Feel free to share your stories below – I know I can’t be the only one to come forward!