Online Booking with a Guest Account – A Recipe for Difficulty!

ExpediaA member asks…

I purchased a ticket from Expedia, but I did it as a guest. I didn’t create or sign into an account on their website. Just a few minutes after I finished purchasing a ticket to Boston, I happened to see another flight that I liked better – plus it was cheaper! So I looked on the web page and saw that Expedia has a policy for a 1-day cancellation with no penalty, but I can’t figure out how to use that. When I click on Itinerary, it just shows me the flight I want and asks me if I want to book it. There’s nothing to click on to get to my already-purchased flight. Can you help?

Online purchasing as a guest has it’s upsides and its downsides. On the upside, you don’t have to give up any more information about you than necessary. But on the downside, this can get a bit tricky when you buy anything where you might change your mind about whether you really want it or not – for flights, theater seats, or any other type of reservation especially. It can be confusing trying to navigate your way to an order cancellation page even for normal products.

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This is because online vendors spend most of their website development dollars on making it easy for folks to create and use their website account to make purchases. Everything is tied to the user account. For guests, all you have is an order number, and it can be downright arcane trying to navigate through their website trying to get to a change or cancellation page for something you’ve bought but haven’t received or used yet. And each online vendor has their own rules and policies about cancelling orders – which can add to the confusion for you, the customer.

In the case of Expedia, the solution is a little offbeat, but does the job. Here’s what you need to do:

You have 2 choices:

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  1. Close down your web browser, clearing your browser cache. Then start up your web browser again, and go back to the Expedia website, then go to Itineraries. You’ll no longer have the temporary flight reservation in the way, and can then look up the itinerary by the order number you have.
  2. WebBrowserLogosIf you have 2nd web browser installed on your computer (the most popular web browsers are Google Chrome, Apple Safari, Mozilla Firefox, Internet Explorer, and Opera), you can use that to go to the Expedia website, click on Itineraries, and give your order number to retrieve the already-purchased flight. Keep your regular web browser open and on the page with the flight and price that you want to purchase.

As long as you are within Expedia’s 24-hour cancellation window, you can easily cancel an already-purchased reservation, then go back and start a new search for the ‘better’ flight or item you really wanted.

While the first method works, the 2nd method is actually preferred, because then you can keep your regular web browser on the page of the ‘better’ flight or item, and keep that item locked in for easy booking and purchase – at the price you see. If you start your search over again from scratch, you may find that the flight or item is no longer available or is priced differently. Lots of online vendors have this kind of floating pricing – they know that everybody is comparison shopping and looking for the best deal. So re-visits to the website may be priced the same as the first visit, or higher, or lower – it’s a coin-toss as to what you’re going to get.

To be prepared for this situation (and others that may arise), you should have at least two web browsers installed on your computer. For Windows PCs, Internet Explorer is included, while for Apple Macs, Safari is already installed. So click one of these links to download and install a second browser. Here are our favorites, in our preferred order:

shutterstock_155045258Now some of these travel websites have timers going, meaning that your ‘special’ price expires in 5 minutes or something. So you need to be quick about taking advantage of the best price – that may mean jumping on a booking. And although Expedia has a 24-hour, no penalty cancellation policy, you need to check on the current return, refund and cancellation policy for whatever online site that you use for online purchases.

Now just a hint of background: You may have heard of ‘cookies’ that websites store on your computer when you surf their pages. For online purchasing, these cookies can contain records of your activity, including what you’ve looked at, what you’ve purchased, and what you’ve added to your shopping cart. That can get in the way of navigating their website, and is likely the case for why the Itinerary button didn’t work right for you. Usually these cookies only last a short time, like however long you have your web browser open. But sometimes they stick around for awhile. This can be useful to you, making your shopping experience easier and faster. But sometimes it can backfire on the website designer and cause more problems for you, the customer. Feel free to tell Expedia about your experience, maybe they’ll figure out a better way of designing the website so your situation doesn’t spoil your shopping adventure!


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