No one should feel sorry for me after you read the title of today’s blog post. I feel fortunate that I can pursue my love of travel and know that many people don’t have the opportunity to see the world like I do. But the process of booking travel, or more specifically airline tickets, is not pleasant. It causes me tremendous stress every step of the way.
I feel great excitement every time David and I start to discuss our next trip. We have been traveling together for over 20 years and have visited some amazing places. I quite enjoy the process to research flights and dates and airlines. The evolution of the internet into a space where I can sit on my couch and find almost anything has been quite helpful to me.
Years ago, I had to contact a travel agent or the airline directly and was at their mercy to learn information or find a good deal. Now I can do my research on my own at my leisure. I always challenge myself to find a good itinerary and fair price, and I am capable of spending hours in front of my computer, scouring the internet to find the best fit for me and my family.
My problem is that while I love the chase I don’t necessarily like to pull the trigger of booking travel. Travel is expensive, and for the most part, airlines are not easygoing about changes or refunds. I find it tremendously stressful to click that final button that says “confirm your purchase now” or “click here to finalize your booking.”
With airlines, booking travel seems so final, and it bothers me that I have no control over my purchase once I have made it. If I buy a sweater online and don’t like it then I send it back. I can book a hotel on the internet, and If I change my mind I can cancel with no penalty usually up to 24 hours before the scheduled check-in date. I can buy a new iPhone from Apple, load it and use it and have 15 days to decide if I want to keep it or return it for a full refund.
Some airlines give customers up to 24 hours to change their minds, but for the most part clicking “purchase” is quite final. And unless I am willing to spend hundreds of dollars more for a flexible fare, it can cost me two or three hundred dollars to make a change like a different date or time.
If I want to secure a good price I usually need to make my ticket purchase months in advance. With three young children and a busy schedule it’s hard to make a decision like this so much before we want to travel. If my plans change then it’s either tough luck or pay up.
How did airlines get this kind of power?
I faced this stress last night as David and I sat in front of my computer to check prices and dates for our trip to Israel next spring. We also prefer to travel on a European airline and spend a few days in a different city on our way home from Israel. We like to visit our family and friends in Israel as often as we can, and it’s been a few years since our last trip. Our niece is also joining us for the upcoming trip, so it means booking six tickets (the baby goes on my lap but I still have to pay a small fee for a ticket for her).
I found a great price weeks ago and was too nervous to pull the trigger and make this big purchase. Then I was scared to check prices again the last few weeks in case my great price had disappeared. But last night I dared to check and found an even better deal. While my hands shook as I followed each successive step on the British Airways website, I finally pressed that final button and made the purchase. My gosh it was stressful.
But now the fun part of booking travel begins. Once the stressful part of the airline ticket purchase is over I can focus on the search for a great deal on rental cars in Israel, a few nights of hotels in London and many day trips. I guess the stress is worth it.