I didn’t get what I booked

cruiseAfter 26 years in the travel industry I consider myself a travel educator. I talk to people every day that need education – where they want to go, what there is to see and do in each place, what the categories of hotels, rooms, inclusions mean, just to name a few.

With the information that is currently available on line, the customer quite often comes to the agent or into the agency with a firm handle on what they would like to book. There are times when they are so sure of what they want, they book on line and book the wrong thing. This story is one of those times.

I answered the phone the other day to a woman who had already embarked on her family cruise out of New York for March break. She was very upset and had already spoken to two or three different agents and since she wasn’t getting the answers she wanted, she was more and more distraught.

When I was finally able to get her reservation number I pulled up her file to read the notes on the file. She booked online the day before. She booked what is called a guarantee cabin. What that means is that she is not assigned a cabin number at the time of the booking. Due to the last minute nature of the booking, she would be given her cabin at the pier.

She researched her cruise and wanted a specific cabin, a family mini suite which has a bathtub. She knew the square footage, the location of the cabins, that it had a bathtub so she could bathe her child (travelling with two small children). That all sounds great, except that is not what she booked. She booked a family suite, and on guarantee so a specific cabin number would not be booked.

She refused to listen to three agents tell her the same thing. She booked on line which means that she is her own travel agent. She chose the promotion she booked which was a B2 Guarantee, not a Family Mini suite as she wanted. Over and over she said that ‘we’ changed the booking and downgraded her without her knowledge. I said, how could we do that. We did not make the booking, you made the booking. No, someone took over my reservation at your company and changed my cabin.

Of course the ship was full. It is a march break sailing and she booked the day before the cruise, which is even surprising she found a family balcony suite to begin with. The cruise line told  her that there was nothing they could do. She was now demanding we give her the credit difference from the category that she “thought” she booked. I told her that was not going to happen. She wasn’t happy with that and wanted to speak to someone above me.

Be an educated consumer. If you are going to be booking on line please ensure that you review in full what you are booking for yourself before you put your credit card in and confirm your reservation. Once it is booked, you are fully responsible for your actions. There is no turning back. This client was so upset about the error of the reservation  (and not accepting any liability for it) that she has probably ruined her vacation because of it. A vacation she said was ten years in the making since they were married and had two children.

Is that worth it? When in doubt, book with a professional. That is what we are here for. To educate and provide professional travel services.

Travel safe, travel smarter.



Starbucks and the Magic Kingdom

mug1It has been a few years since I started collecting Starbucks mugs from the destination I was travelling to. I remember when I heard that they were planning on opening up the chain in the happiest place on earth (AKA Disney World) that I couldn’t wait to get there to get the Magic Kingdom mugs.

My cupboard is already pretty full and not just of Starbucks mugs. Back in the day when Disney movies were released on VHS tapes (yes, remember those?) I used to buy two VHS tapes (one to open one to save for ‘selling’ later in life) and a matching mug from the movie. I digress.

Fast forward to my visit to the parks this past November. We arrived at the Magic Kingdom and started to walk down main street to the castle. I asked a cast member where the Starbucks was. Right there on your right ma’am. Off I went. I figured it get the mug now and then I don’t have to worry about it.

If you are familiar with Main Street USA you know that all the buildings are decorated like small town USA. Inside the Starbucks it looks like your everyday location. I picked up the mug2Magic Kingdom mug and started to chat with this guy. I said to him, “I wonder if they have for all the parks?”. He said, of course they do. I said, great show me the other mugs. Nice try you novice (said to self). You have to visit each park to get the specific mugs. Damn you Disney geniuses, making us go to all four parks to get four collector mugs.

I wasn’t going to buy more than one mug. I swear I wasn’t. Two days later we were at Hollywood Studios and we were so busy I didn’t have time to think about where the Starbucks was. We left there and went over to Epcot. When it was time to leave there and go back to the Magic Kingdom I was content with my one mug….until….I saw a lady walking with a coffee and asked her where the location was. Of course it was on our way to the monorail. I had to go in, just to look I said to my friend (and myself).

mug3Walked into the location and low and behold there was a beautiful Epcot mug. I couldn’t resist. The colour scheme was purple and blue. The inside of mug was purple, I was one.

Disney Mugs – 2 Lisa – 0. Disney wins.

I love my mugs, all of them. I don’t have a lot of space in my condo for more mugs, but I don’t think I will stop buying from my travel experiences. They bring back so many great memories.

What do you collect from your travels? I would love to hear from you.

Another Magical case for Travel Insurance

In a previous post I shared a story about the important of purchasing travel insurance and the potential results personally if you don’t have it and something unforeseen should happen to you.

The definition of unforeseen is not anticipated or predicted. Synonyms are unpredicted, unexpected, unanticipated, unplanned. All of those words are all reasons for being properly insured. Whether it be travel related, home and auto or life.

Case in point today a customer of mine called me. He, along with his family and another family are set to leave on a Disney/Universal family vacation at the end of next week for March break. A vacation that was booked back in early December. If you have done an Orlando theme park vacation you are well aware of the costs of this trip.

At the time the booking was made insurance was offered. Both clients thought they may have coverage on their credit cards. We have a website that actually shows what each card covers and for how much. These cards did not have cancellation insurance on them. After discussion, they both still chose to decline insurance.

The clients have their tickets, their passes, their Magic Bands, they are ready to go on this trip. Until today, the husband was calling from the hospital to say that he has a medical emergency and may require surgery.

Here are some of the questions we are asked in these situations:
Can I get credit for a trip in the future so I don’t lose all my money?
Can I change the names so someone else can go?
Can you help me?

This close to departure the answers to the questions are not in the customers favour. The cut-off to modify any reservations is 22 days prior to departure. Inside of 21 days the travellers are at 100% non refundable status for their bookings.

I am waiting to hear back from my client if he will be able to take his family on vacation or not. I really hope he is okay as I am sure it would be heartbreaking to not be able to take the family trip, but to lose all your money as well.

I can’t stress enough how important travel insurance is for every trip. Even if you think you are covered, you need to do your due diligence and confirm. Your agent will offer it to you and you should not decline. How much is it worth to you?

Travel safe, travel smart.


Let’s talk about travel insurance

There is a lot to talk about when it comes to travel insurance. To me, both personally and professionally it is something I believe in 100% and to quote a famous American Express ad, I never leave home without it. Even when I am covered with my extended benefits from the workplace, I still purchase it every time.

The call I took yesterday was a man who was upset about his current booking situation. He has (had) a trip booked and his wife had a miscarriage. He was travelling to one of the destinations that have had reported Zika cases. The tour operators were allowing passengers that were pregnant special consideration. If this was your special circumstance, and you had a doctors note confirming pregnancy and advice not to travel, you could cancel your booking. Sadly, since they had miscarried, the note only read that due to the circumstances he was recommending she not travel. Not a valid reason for the cancellation due to Zika.

Here is the part of their story where I come into play. When the husband is speaking to me on the phone he advises me that “we always take travel insurance, it wasn’t offered to me”. Since I wasn’t the one who booked this client, I can’t say for sure if it was or if it wasn’t. What I know for sure is that “we”, travel industry professionals, in Ontario are mandated by TICO (Travel Industry Council of Ontario) to offer insurance with every sale.

Here is the direct quote from their consumer website:

Travel insurance is always recommended; in fact, your Ontario travel agency is required, at the time of booking, to advise you of the availability of trip cancellation insurance and out-of-province health insurance, if applicable. While nobody ever expects to cancel their vacation plans, unexpected situations can occur, and cancellation charges levied by airlines, cruise lines, hotels and tour companies can amount to as much as 100% of the purchase price. Ask your agency about out-of-province health insurance for travel outside of Canada. OHIP may only cover a portion of your expenses if you become ill or are involved in an accident. Make sure that you have adequate coverage for the country that you are planning to visit. Ensure that you carefully review the policy of any insurance before purchase.

I did speak to the agent who booked these specific clients and she confirmed and sent me the email to prove that she had in fact offered them insurance and they did not purchase it. This is significant in this case, as if they had insurance, suffered the miscarriage, been given a note recommending that they should not travel, they would have been covered to cancel.

There are a lot of people that have coverage (or think they do) on their credit cards or through their places of employment. Credit card coverage is something that is becoming more main stream, however, not all coverage is the same, and not all coverage is full coverage.You have to be careful and always read the fine print.

One of the big objections we encounter every day is the ‘extra’ cost over and above the cost of the trip. Like I said at the start of this post, you need to consider it as part of your trip. One thing I hear ALL the time is, “I am going no matter what”, to which I always reply “if you fall on the ice and break your leg the day before your trip, you aren’t going”. Then they say, “well if that is the case I won’t worry about a couple of thousand dollars”. Except, you will. You will be very upset and then try to find blame for the fact that you didn’t buy insurance. Believe me, you will.

Insurance is for the unforeseen circumstances, the same way as you insure your car to drive, or your house that you live in and let’s not get started about life insurance. Insurance is a part of the package with home and auto, and it needs to start being considered as part of the package for your travel packages as well.

I would like to end with something that I believe in strongly, work with a trained travel professional. They are trained to answer your questions about insurance, what the best coverage is for your personal trip and concerns, and they will guide you through the process.

Travel safe, travel smart.