Travel Mishaps: Name (Mis)Spelling Edition

Last week, I was fortunate enough to attend the Digital Humanities Summer Institute (DHSI) at the University of Victoria. I had been looking forward to the trip for months. I was enrolled in a class on TEI and Primary Sources, I knew a few colleagues and friends would also be making the trip (including fellow ProfHacker Ryan Cordell!), and British Columbia in June would provide a bit of respite from the muggy South Carolina summer.

ProfHacker has featured travel posts before:

The majority of these post, as these links suggest, focus on things that travelers should do or can do to make things easier or more efficient while on the road (or in the air). I love to travel and take advantage of every opportunity that I can, and I also direct the study travel programming for my own institution. And yet, I made a major rookie mistake that nearly prevented me from making the trip to DHSI.

I misspelled my name.

I’m still not sure how it happened, but somehow when purchasing my plane tickets (on Travelocity), I ended up with an extra letter in my middle name. Worse, I didn’t notice until the night before when I tried to check in for my flight online. I called Travelocity immediately, and after 45 minutes (much of which was spent on hold while their agent called the two airlines that had issued my tickets), I was much more stressed and no closer to having my problem resolved. I was informed that several factors contributed to the problem–the major two were the fact that I was traveling on two different airlines and the fact that I was traveling internationally. Ultimately, the Travelocity agent couldn’t resolve the issue, and I was left with even more questions than before I had called.

I wondered what to do:

  • Should I risk flying to Seattle and possibly end up stranded at the border?

  • Should I make other arrangements to cross the Canadian border and book a different flight home? The agent explained that if I didn’t take all flights in my itinerary, the trip would be cancelled.

  • Should I cancel my trip? Should I try to book another flight with less than 24 hours to travel?

At my wits’ end, I called the airline to see if perhaps they had any more suggestions or advice different than what I had heard from Travelocity. That airline agent was more helpful. He told me that most likely it would be fine, but to be safe, I should go to the airport “really, really early” (when I asked him what he meant by “really, really, early,” he said “at least two hours before the flight leaves) and talk to someone at the check-in counter. He said that once they could verify my identity with my passport, I should be able to proceed without any problems.

So I went to the airport “really, really early.” And I went to the counter and asked the agent if he could help. He did. I was still very nervous about boarding the planes, but my misspelled name turned out to be a non-issue. Still, you can bet that I immediately checked the spelling of my name on my upcoming reservation, and I will check and double-check it on every booking foreverafter.

The moral of the story is this: while autopilot might be fine for actual pilots, it’s not fine when booking travel–especially if you are traveling internationally.

There were a number of places for me to fix my mistake before the morning of my trip. Had I been less rushed and more careful when I booked my ticket in the first place, all of this stress and fretting could have been avoided. Had I looked carefully at the confirmation email that I received within minutes of booking my tickets instead of filing it away in my “travel” folder, I could have corrected the problem quickly and easily. Had I paid attention to the email with the schedule change from one of the airlines . . .

Have had a similar mistake or have experienced other travel mishaps that you are willing to share? How did you address your situation? Please tell us about it in the comments section below.

[Creative Commons licensed image by Flickr user swimparallel]

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