The one detail that could ruin your overseas trip

Su Olson and her family were excited for their long-planned three-week trip to Croatia.

But when they arrived at the airport in Seattle on their departure date, an airline representative announced she was going nowhere because her passport expired in three months.

Surprised? You shouldn’t be.
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The ship sailed, but they didn’t

At the dock without my glasses. / Photo by bimiers – Flickr Creative Commons.
When Antonia Giannasca called Carnival Cruise Lines this year to book a vacation to Mexico for her extended family, the sales representative assured her that she had all the travel documents necessary to board the ship.
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When airlines misread passport rules, who pays?

Question: My husband and I were scheduled to take a Spirit Airlines flight from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., to San Jose, Costa Rica. The afternoon before my flight, my dog chewed a corner off the front page of my husband’s passport and we were concerned about having proper documentation.

We arrived at the airport almost three hours early in order to have enough time to ask a ticket agent. He seemed seasoned and professional, and he assured us that there would be no problem with the passport, as the number could still be manually inputted.
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Their passports sailed to the Bahamas, but they didn’t

Anne Newman’s holiday cruise from Baltimore to the Bahamas on the Carnival Pride got off to the worst start possible when two members of her party — her brother and father — were left standing at the dock because of a paperwork problem.

No, they didn’t bring the wrong birth certificate. Instead, they had inadvertently packed their travel documents in their bags and checked them.

Newman wants to be compensated for their denied boarding, and she wants me to help her.
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Passport mix-up leads to a missed tour

When Doris Lemonovich booked a vacation package for two to Costa Rica through Gate 1 Travel, she thought the passport requirements were clear: All she needed was a passport that wouldn’t expire for the next month, according to the State Department.

She though wrong.

When she arrived in San Jose, the customs agents told her she couldn’t stay in the country.
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Case dismissed: A little visa problem that sank their family cruise

Port separation anxiety is a term I use to describe the sudden decision some cruise passengers are faced with when a member of their party has to be left behind — usually because they don’t have a passport or the right kind of birth certificate.

It’s never an easy choice, but it’s particularly difficult when a family is being separated. Do we leave Mom and Dad behind and take the cruise, or do we turn around and go home?

But that was the decision Ananth Channaveer had to make when he tried to board Royal Caribbean’s Rhapsody of the Seas in Seattle recently.
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Here’s the real reason so few Americans have passports


Less than one-third of Americans have passports, compared with more than half of Canadians. And if you’ve ever wondered why, then it’s probably been a few years since you tried to get one.

I applied for three passports yesterday, and I’m here to tell you the real reason why most Americans lack a passport.
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Now that’s a classy hotel: Banff Fairmont saves ruined vacation

fairmontJim Kohlman almost lost his entire vacation on a technicality. And he would have, were it not for the help of a hotel that understands the hospitality business.

Kohlman and his wife had booked a package through Travelocity that included flights, car rental, and a week-long stay at The Fairmont Banff Springs. But things took a turn for the worse when they checked in for their flight in Sacramento.
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Elliott’s E-Mail/May 7, 2008

Read this week’s issue online or subscribe to the RSS feed.

In this issue …

See you in court?
Yellow fever, red light: paperwork problem sinks Costa Rica vacation
Room with a wrong view
Beware of this Cancun all-inclusive fax scam
Paperwork problems
How to reach yours truly
Support this site

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FIRST | Random thoughts about the week in travel

See you in court? Given the current state of the travel industry, no one should be surprised, that more people are heading to court to settle their differences with an airline, car rental company or hotel. In this week’s MSNBC column, I break it down for you. Don’t forget to check out the blog posts on a wide range of fascinating topics, from fax scams in Cancun to Yellow Fever-induced paperwork problems.

You did it! Many thanks to everyone who participated in the spring fundraiser. Your financial support has ensured that this site’s survivial. Congratulations to Joan Moyers and James Cozart, who will receive an Expertflyer subscriptions. If you meant to become an underwriter, there’s still time. Here are the details.

Burning question … housecleaning hell? Have you recently had a run-in with an insistent hotel maid? They have a schedule to keep, and sometimes don’t let little things like “do not disturb” signs get in the way of their job. What’s your story? Send me a note and please don’t forget to include your full name, city and occupation.

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BLAZIN’ HOT BLOG POST | What’s burning up my bandwidth this week?

Yellow fever, red light: paperwork problem sinks Costa Rica vacation — Whose responsibility is your travel-related paperwork, like visas and vaccinations? If you said “mine” — you’re right. (From Elliott Blog) JOIN THE DISCUSSION — leave your comment!

Elliott’s E-Mail is also underwritten by, which lets you search and compare flights to find the lowest-priced airfare for your next trip. Get the details at

SIGHTINGS | Noted Elliott appearances online and offline

Room with a wrong view — Bob Ledford is promised a room with a two-sided ocean view when he books through Expedia. But when he arrives, the view isn’t what he expected, the hotel doesn’t seem to care, and Expedia won’t post the negative review of the resort. What’s wrong with this picture? (From The Troubleshooter)

See you in court: 5 times when you should just sue ’em — Lately, I’ve noticed people’s patience with the traditional complaint process — writing a letter, waiting for a reply, sending a probable appeal — is wearing thin. It’s as if they know they’ll be turned down and think they have a better chance of getting compensated by getting the law involved immediately. (From

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BLOGGED | New posts on Elliott’s Blog

Beware of this Cancun all-inclusive fax scam — You already know that if something looks too good to be true, it probably is. But clever scammers also know that you have an “override” button. Like invoking a well-known travel brand. Or using the name of a trusted media outlet. (From Elliott Blog)

Point taken: how hotels deny your hard-earned awards — Poof! There go your hard-earned points. Employees at budget hotels are using a variety of strategies to deny travelers their rewards, including typing the wrong name in a guest’s reservation or failing to include important frequent-stayer information. (From Elliott Blog)

Life in the Fast Lane: Transportation Department goes blogging — Is there a federal agency out there that doesn’t have a blog? The U.S. Transportation jumped into the blogosphere today with a site called Fast Lane that promises postings from none other than Secretary Mary Peters and other senior officials. (From Elliott Blog)

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FLASHBACK | A retrospective from the Elliott archives

Paperwork problems. More document dilemmas.

Your passport’s no good — An American Airlines ticket agent tells Nancy Dreher that she can’t board her flight to Costa Rica. It seems her passport is valid — but not valid enough. That ends Dreher’s vacation, but now the airline won’t respond to her requests for a refund. What, if anything, does the airline owe this passenger? (From The Troubleshooter)

Passports: who needs ‘em? Who cares? — When it comes to passports, Americans are ignorant. And stupid. That’s the conclusion of a survey conducted by the Travel Industry Association and marketing firm Yesawich, Pepperdine, Brown & Russell. (From Elliott Blog)

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