Paying Double for One Wrong Letter — Reader Mistake Story

Dec 12, 2018

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Today, I want to share a story from TPG reader Tony, who made a common mistake while changing a rental car reservation:

Our family made a rental car reservation for a trip to Yosemite National Park. We were flying into San Jose, CA to save on flights, knowing it would be a three-hour drive to the park. Our original reservation was at a downtown location instead of the airport, since the rental was $100 cheaper and only required an $8 Uber ride from the airport.

A month before our trip, I saw a deal through Delta to receive miles and rental car points if I booked through their site, with seemingly fantastic prices from the airport location. We canceled our original reservation and booked through Delta for half the price! Great, right?

All was good until we arrived at the San Jose airport rental car counter to learn that our reservations were not for San Jose, California but for San José, Costa Rica! Our original reservations were in California, but when changing them, we hadn’t caught the finer details of San José, CR versus San Jose, CA. The agent at the counter told us this happens often.

So there we were, renting a car for one week at the last minute (and at the airport, no less), and needing to take a car at whatever cost. That ended up being double what we would have paid with our original reservation. Lesson learned: we’ll check the city AND state/country from now on!

From mixed-up airport codes to confusion over date formatting, stories like Tony’s are common. It’s easy to mistake one letter or number for another, but such a simple error can have a disproportionate impact on your travel plans. That’s why it’s so important to check and re-check your reservations to make sure all your information has been entered correctly. I recommend looking over every last character once before you finalize your booking (especially if you use auto-fill settings online) and again after you receive your confirmation to make sure nothing is amiss. It’s tedious, but that attention to detail can help you avoid more hassle and expense later.

Booking at an off-airport location is an easy way to save on rental cars, since you’ll often find lower rates there, as well as fewer taxes and other surcharges. In my experience, city rental offices tend to also provide superior customer service, since they don’t keep the same frenetic pace as their airport counterparts. On the other hand, they also keep shorter hours, so it’s important to make sure the office you select will be open when you arrive. Priceline and other third parties sometimes get those hours wrong, so you should confirm with the office directly.

I appreciate this story, and I hope it can help other readers avoid making the same mistake. In appreciation for sharing this experience (and for allowing me to post it online), I’m sending Tony a $200 airline gift card to enjoy on future travels, and I’d like to do the same for you. Please email your own travel mistake stories to, and put “Reader Mistake Story” in the subject line. Tell us how things went wrong, and (where applicable) how you made them right. Offer any wisdom you gained from the experience, and explain what the rest of us can do to avoid the same pitfalls.

Feel free to also submit your best travel success stories. If your story is published in either case, I’ll send you a gift to jump-start your next adventure. I look forward to hearing from you, and until then, I wish you a safe and mistake-free journey!

Featured image via Shutterstock.

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