A tourism insider changes his mind about Mexico

Mexico doesn’t need any more bad press. Between drug violence and natural disasters, it’s had enough, thanks very much.

All of which makes Dave Dudar’s story so difficult for him to tell — and for me to write.

Dudar has been a frequent visitor to Cancun since 1998. He’s also worked in the tourism industry as a former marketing official for Meet College Park Georgia, the convention and visitors bureau for the Georgia city that houses Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, as well as with Vail Resorts and United Airlines.

“This is the fourth time I have rented a car in this country in four years,” he told me.

It is probably the last.
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Should I visit Mexico?

I’m really excited to introduce a our newest columnist, Stuart Gustafson. His weekly feature, “Should I Cross That Line?” dovetails with his area of expertise: international travel. Gustafson spent his career in corporate sales at HP and today is an acclaimed novelist and sought-after public speaker. I can’t wait to see where he takes us next .

It’s the dead of winter. I bet you’re tired of the weather by now, and the prospect of six more weeks of cold. I know I am.

So where’s the easiest place to find a little warmth?
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I want a full refund for this Mexico vacation

Marnie Bute didn’t enjoy the Mexican getaway she booked through Sun Country Vacations. Actually, that may be an understatement. She hated it and she wants every penny refunded.

Normally, when someone asks for a full refund, it triggers a predictable amount of eye-rolling here in the office. It couldn’t have been that bad, we say to ourselves.

Then we read her story.

It begins with a frantic note to Sun Country on the day of Bute’s arrival at the Royal Decameron Los Cabos resort in San Jose Del Cabo.
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Help, my Mexican vacation rental pocketed my deposit!

Blue Orange/ShutterstockNancie Thomas had no reason to believe the owner of her vacation rental in Akumal, Mexico, would keep her $1,000 deposit. Her friends had rented the same house on three separate occasions, “and had a great experience each time,” she says.

Alas, the fourth time wasn’t a charm for Thomas.

Her first warning? The method of payment.

“We were surprised when the owner asked for a deposit check rather than credit card,” she recalls. “But we confirmed with our friends that they had always made the deposit by check.”

(Let me stop right here and say it: Always, always insist on paying by credit card. If Thomas had done that, we wouldn’t be having this conversation.)
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Who’s to blame for this timeshare disaster?

Consumer advocate William Leeper recently accepted a “Mission Impossible” case involving a questionable timeshare purchase in Mexico. What’s that? We had you at “timeshare”? But it gets worse. Much worse. I’ll let him explain.

Today’s timeshare story comes from reader Mark Golder and the timeshare he bought — or thought he bought — from Grand Solmar in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.

I’ll let him pick up the story.
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Do I deserve a refund after my destination turned dangerous?

Deep blue/Shutterstock
Deep blue/Shutterstock
Diane Austin’s problem isn’t that unusual, which is why I’ve decided to write something about it. In April, she booked a $730 roundtrip ticket in April through Orbitz on American Airlines to fly to Puerto Vallarta.

The purpose of her visit? To volunteer in a school in Tepic, Mexico, for two weeks. In order to cover her fare, Austin’s 80-year-old father used money from her Alzheimer’s-stricken mother’s bank account. After all, it was for a good cause.

But the trip wasn’t meant to be. When her partner arrived in Tepic a few days ahead of her, she says the area turned suddenly unsafe.
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Not so funny money tricks the travel industry likes to play

Maks Narondeko/Shutterstock
Maks Narondeko/Shutterstock

Hold on to your wallet. Businesses don’t just want to get their hands on your cash when you’re on the road — they also want more of your money, and on their terms.

Take what happened to Gordon Angell when he was visiting La Paz, Mexico, recently. Many restaurants in town display the “Visa” and “MasterCard” stickers, signifying that they accept credit cards.

But on Angell’s first evening, after finishing a meal at a restaurant, his server informed him the credit card machine didn’t work, and pointed to an ATM. He paid in pesos.

“The following evening we went to another restaurant called The Three Virgins,” he says. “We made sure that we asked them if they accepted credit cards and they said ‘yes.’ Surprisingly, when we offered to pay our bill, it was a repeat of the previous evening. Their machine was ‘not working.’ They told us to use the ATM.”
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Forced to buy car rental insurance that didn’t cover her

Aleksei Potov/Shutterstock
Aleksei Potov/Shutterstock
From time to time, a case comes across my desk that gets me turned upside-down, because it doesn’t make sense on so many levels. Julie Yu’s dispute with Dollar is one of them.

A few weeks ago, I shared a problem of one reader’s mandatory car rental insurance charge in Mexico. Basically, her vehicle ended up costing a lot more than she thought it would, even though she’d purchased insurance through a third party.

Turns out this happens often. But Yu experienced the same problem — with a dark twist.
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An extra $55 for taxes on my pre-paid car rental? Seriously?

Question: We booked a ten-day vacation package in Cancun, Mexico through that included air, hotel and a rental car. Taxes were included in the price of the rental car.

When we arrived at the Hertz rental counter, we were told there was an additional tax of about $55. I paid the additional tax at checkout, expecting to be reimbursed from

I’ve written two emails to, but both have gone unanswered. When I called the company, a representative told me the $55 charge was a “deposit” that would be returned to me. But a call to Hertz confirmed it was a tax and no refund was due.
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Hey, where’s that refund on my all-inclusive vacation?

cancunQuestion: I’ve read your columns frequently over the past several years and always wondered if I’d ever need your help. Well that day has come. I need assistance in obtaining a refund from Palace Resorts. I paid $2,785 for a seven-day, all-inclusive vacation at their Aventura Spa Palace resort in Cancun, Mexico a few months ago. I had no problems whatsoever with that reservation.

But last fall, the Palace had a sale, and I was able to cancel that initial reservation and book a new reservation for a cheaper rate, saving me $278. I was told by the agent that my refund would be processed in six to eight weeks.

It didn’t happen. The credit card with which I made the original reservation was lost, so I had to send additional information to the company. Since then, I have not received any communication from anyone at Palace Resorts regarding my refund. I have sent multiple emails, and have been told each time that someone else who can help with refunds would contact me. I’ve tried everything, including contacting their public relations manager on Twitter and using “live” chat.
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Why won’t RIU extend my hotel voucher?

Guido Akster/Shutterstock
When Dave Mootz checked into the RIU Playacar two years ago, he was greeted by trucks and construction workers where there should have been a quiet beach. The area was undergoing a much-needed beach restoration project — during his much-needed Mexico vacation.

Mootz was unhappy with the view and the incessant noise. So he complained to RIU, and after a lengthy back-and-forth, the hotel agreed to send him a two-night voucher, valid between Aug. 1, 2010 and Aug. 30, 2011. That made him a little more happy, but not by much. He’d asked for a partial refund, arguing that he couldn’t return to Mexico until 2013.
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Can this trip be saved? Charged $281 for three nights I never used

When Carol Pulido tried to check in to the Puerto De Luna Hotel in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, a few months ago, she got some bad news.

The suite she’d reserved and paid for through wasn’t available.

“They said they were overbooked and no longer had any suites, but they could give us two rooms,” she says. “I wasn’t very happy with the arrangement because we wanted to keep our party together. But we went along with it.”
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Can this trip be saved? “My wife got salmonella poisoning at a Mexican resort”

Chris and Shelley Harper had hoped for a week of R&R with their two young children at the Riu Tequila, an all-inclusive resort in Playa del Carmen, Mexico. But instead, Shelley ended up in the emergency room with apparent food poisoning.

I won’t bury the lede, as they say in journalism. She made a full recovery. The Harper’s bank account, however, is $1,849 poorer. (Wow, those Mexican hospitals are not cheap.) Who is responsible for her hospitalization, and who should pay?

Those are excellent questions, to which the Harpers still don’t have an acceptable answer.
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