‘I spelled my husband’s name wrong on his plane ticket’ – and other marriage-ending travel mistakes

Even the savviest of travellers can find themselves in the midst of a holiday nightmare, especially after two years off the road. It happened to me recently in New York. I forgot to pack a credit card. No problem, I thought. I have several payment cards stored in my phone’s Wallet and I was carrying two plastic debit cards. 

I checked into the Pod 51 Hotel in Manhattan at 11pm at night and handed over a Starling Bank debit card. Declined. Then my RBS debit card. Declined. No problem, I told the weary clerk, I’ll pay with the Halifax credit card on my phone. 

“We need to see a physical payment card,” she said smugly. “If you can’t pay, you can’t stay.” 

I accept that this was a cheap hotel (for New York) but it did already have the security of holding my credit card details in its booking system. 

As visions of bedding down in a doorway on Third Avenue swam before me, RBS pinged a message. “Did you just try to pay £482 for Pod 51 in New York,” the bot asked? I sent back a Y for Yes and my account was reactivated immediately (it can take up to 10 minutes) and I sank exhausted into bed. Lesson learnt.

Here are 10 common mistakes that can turn your holiday dream into an expensive nightmare. All are scenarios regularly experienced by readers who have contacted Ask the Experts for help.

You put the wrong name on a flight ticket

This is the No 1 error. It’s easy to make. You book a ticket for a friend called Jon but his passport name is Jonathan. Your parents-in-law surprise you with tickets to the Maldives for your honeymoon but book them in your married name before you have applied for a new passport.

Air tickets must be issued in the exact name written in your passport. Otherwise, you will be refused travel by the airline.

Some airlines will correct names free of charge, or put what they call “a note on the booking” for a small mistake; others charge up to £200. A few still insist the ticket is cancelled and reissued, incurring high cancellation charges.

If you have booked through an agent (Trailfinders excepted), you will find them very unhelpful in this regard. It will be a battle of wills to get the change made – even if the airline allows it.

You buy the wrong flight 

I know this may sound patronising but it is a really, really bad idea to buy a flight ticket in the evening. This is because: (a) you are tired; (b) the cut-off for correcting a mistake free of charge is often midnight on the day you book, and (c) the correction will probably have to be made by phoning a call centre, which will have closed for the day. Not all airlines allow you to change dates or destinations once you have clicked “Buy” but quite a few allow a grace period of 24 hours.

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