How to Recoup Your Ruined Vacation

Consumer protection, Travel

ruined vacationEveryone’s bound to have a vacation that doesn’t turn out exactly as planned; you miss a flight, your hotel is less than satisfactory, or a family member passes right before you’d planned to leave. Can you get your money back when your vacation doesn’t work out?

Scenario #1: The Airline Makes You Miss Your Connection or Cruise

Frequent travelers are bound to know of the anxiety that comes with a delayed flight, which can create a domino effect of missed flights thereafter. When your first flight runs late, you could miss your connection, meaning you could miss your next connection, cruise, or business meeting, all while paying for a hotel you’re not using while stranded at the airport. If all of your travel was purchased through the same vendor, you may be more likely to be compensated for your loss, but not if flights or cruises were purchased separately. Only when you purchase trip insurance are you protected in these situations.

Article 19 of the Montreal Convention states that a carrier can be liable for damages caused by delay; however, if the airline took all necessary measures to prevent the delay (planes were maintained on schedule, etc.), you’re out of luck. Delays caused by increased airline security measures, unpredictable mechanical failures, or bad weather won’t get you a refund.

In some instances you can at least be refunded taxes and fees for unused services; for airlines, the ticket is considered used once you buy it, so taxes and fees are non-refundable; for most cruises, tour operations, trains, and buses, you are officially entitled to get your taxes back for unused tickets. Give your vendor a call if your taxes are not returned; some vendors actually have a full no-refund policy, so they don’t have to return your taxes.

Scenario #2: You Have to Cancel or Postpone Your Trip

Airlines have varying policies about refunds on canceled flights; some tickets are fully refundable for up to 48 hours or so after purchase, while others airlines will give you a travel voucher to use toward future travel in the next six months to a year. To protect yourself when it comes to hotel deposits or non-refundable charges from airlines or cruises, get travel insurance. Traveler’s insurance also applies if a death, disaster (weather, terrorists), or jury duty summons prevents you from taking your trip. You can also purchase travel interruption insurance, for when you have to return from your trip early due to an unexpected illness or other mishap.

Beware when purchasing travel from a third-party discounting travel service like Expedia or Travelocity. Part of the reason airlines are able to offer such great discounts to these bulk ticket sellers is because they offer fewer protections. You may search for tickets with flexible cancellation policies on these sites, however, and you can purchase travel insurance (which covers cancellations) for a fee.

Scenario #3: The Service Stinks

Maybe your hotel’s outrageously misleading marketing photos led you to stay at a dump, or construction disturbed your peace and quiet.  Whatever the case, it can be very, very hard to get your money back from a sketchy hotel. Your best bet when planning a vacation is to get advice from friends on where to stay. Always use a credit card when paying for travel; this way, you can dispute charges when something goes wrong. Also, keep evidence of everything that went wrong with your hotel stay, as well as copies or recordings of correspondence with management. Keep copies of the hotel’s online ad pictures and your own pictures of the state of your room if that’s the issue.

For lost luggage, your travel ticket will often state liability limits (don’t expect to get paid for your pricey Louis Vuitton bags). There are a few things you should do when your luggage is lost, according to Even if the airline assures you your bags will be on the next flight, insist they fill out a form and give you a copy. Get the name of the person you spoke to about the issue, and confirm (and get it in writing) that the airline with deliver your bags to you, free of charge, when they are found. If your luggage ends up being officially lost, you will need to submit a second, more detailed report. If the airline doesn’t fully cover your loss, check with your homeowner’s or renter’s insurance to see what they can cover. Some credit card companies and travel agency insurance plans may also cover items lost while traveling.

Whatever happens on your vacation (or doesn’t), do your homework before taking off. Get insurance, use credit cards, use reputable services, and keep faithful records. Now you can relax on that beach instead of spending your trip stranded at the airport or trying to get your money back from a dirty hotel.