VACATION

Is this a scam? A vacation package never received

the-oceanThe offer looked like an incredible bargain. For just $1,749, Judy Citko and her fiancé could fly from California to Florida and enjoy a three-day Caribbean “cruise and stay” package.

But that’s not all. The price covered three adults and six children – a total of nine travelers.

The catch: Citko had to pay for it with a wire transfer from her bank. No credit cards accepted.

No surprise that the tickets never came and that the vacation didn’t happen. (What gave it away? The wiring money or the too-good-to-be-true price?)
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My dog needs to have surgery. No, seriously.

Pixellating Dachshund. / Photo by Mr. T - Flickr
Question: I booked a trip a few weeks back to Regent Palms in the Turks and Caicos through a website called SniqueAway. It didn’t allow for any refunds or changes. The booking appears to be made through a company called Classic Vacations.
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Nothing says “I’m sorry” like airline miles

Not something special in the air. / Photo by Simon Sees - Flickr
Question: My family of four flew from Chicago to Salt Lake City on American Airlines during spring break. About a half-hour into our outbound flight, we were told that the landing gear did not come up and that we had to return to O’Hare.
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Vacation rental scams are a growing problem

Tania Rieben thought she’d scored a bargain on a one-bedroom condominium in Maui for spring break. She’d found the vacation rental through a popular Web site called VRBO.com and then negotiated directly with the owner.

But after she wired $4,300 for a six-week rental, the person claiming to represent the property stopped answering her e-mails, and she soon made a stunning discovery: The “owner” was actually a scam artist who had obtained the real owner’s e-mail password and assumed his identity.

“Now the money’s gone,” Rieben says. “And I don’t have a condo.”
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Can this trip be saved? My vacation rental was a dump and I want a refund

When Marcella Knight opened the door to her vacation rental property in Rehoboth Beach, Del., a few weeks ago, she saw a dump. Not only was the unit dirty, but it was also in dire need of maintenance, she says.

So Knight did what any self-respecting traveler would do: She complained to the real estate agent who had rented her the condo. The agent tried to find her alternate accommodations, but couldn’t. She offered to have the home cleaned, but that didn’t address all of the issues.

Knight and her family reluctantly stayed in the shoddy rental one night, then checked out and asked the agent for a full refund.
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Case dismissed: They promised a refund but they’re keeping my money

Diana Somerville was looking forward to a week in Canada with her family last Thanksgiving.

But the weather gods were not smiling upon her. Just before she was supposed to drive up to Victoria, a major blizzard struck near her home in Washington State, making the roads impassable.

“All highways and airports were shut down so I called and cancelled the reservation,” she says. “Extended forecasts said still more snowstorms were on the way so I sadly relinquished the idea of our holiday weekend vacation.”

But EMR Vacation Rentals, which handled her reservation, did not.
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A lost vacation day and nothing to show for it

Question: I need your help with an Apple Vacation trip from Philadelphia to Cancun, Mexico. We were recently notified that our direct flight would have a stopover in Pittsburgh, which added two hours to our travel time.

Each person was offered a $50 voucher for the inconvenience, but it could not be used during our vacation. It had to be used within one year for future Apple vacation travel.

A few days later, we were notified that one entire day was being removed from our schedule. Our 6:30 p.m. flight was rescheduled for 10 a.m. the next day. So we no longer have the 8-day, 7-night vacation I paid for. Apple offered us $50 again.

When I made my annoyance known, they told me I should have taken the insurance for another $650 — then we could have canceled our vacation.

How dare they just remove an entire day from our plans? We had arrangements to meet with another group of friends. This will now have to be canceled. Apple vacation has been very callous in their behavior. Our family was looking forward to a delightful travel time and they have made this very distasteful. — Sandra Sitarski, Ambler, Pa.

Answer: When an airline changes its schedule, you’re entitled to either a refund or a flight of its choosing, under its contract. But when you’ve bought a package vacation, it’s not that simple. There are hotel rooms and activities to take into consideration. Apple’s $50 offer was reasonable but too restrictive, because it required you to buy another trip.
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Beaches vacation goes bust, but how about that ticket promise?

Jen Knight’s family was looking forward to an all-inclusive vacation in Ocho Rios, Jamaica, until the resort sent her some bad news: Her hotel, Beaches Boscobel, would be closed for renovations.

A Beaches representative verbally agreed to rebook the family at a sister property, Beaches Turks and Caicos. She was also told the company would cover the difference in airfare as well as the fees for changing their tickets from Jamaica to Turks and Caicos.

Case closed? Not quite.

It turns out that neither of the airlines on which she’d booked various family members — JetBlue and Airtran — flies to Turks and Caicos, nor do they codeshare with anyone who does. But both airlines will allow them to cancel their reservations and receive a credit for the value of their flights that must be used within a year, less applicable change fees.
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Three years later, Alitalia still owes me $528 for my lost baggage and ruined Italian vacation

Noah Markewich’s lost-luggage case had “lost cause” written all over it when he contacted me last week.

Why? It involved Alitalia, the historically troubled Italian airline.

It was more than three years old. Old cases are almost always unsolvable.

And it involved misplaced baggage, which is a problematic complaint category.

Still, Markewich epic, four-page, single-spaced letter is such a stunning documentation of an airline’s awful customer service, that I wish I could publish it in its entirety. It describes how Alitalia ruined his Italian vacation by losing his luggage — and when I say “ruin” it may be something of an understatement.
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“Please, can we go back?”

When Kathy Potvin told her grandson she was considering breaking a tradition of visiting Ocean Park, Maine, last summer, the 7-year-old protested.

“But we’ve always gone there,” he told Potvin, a librarian from Nashua, N.H. “He said, ‘Please, can we go back?’ ”

Her family had returned to the same hotel every year since her grandson was 18 months old. She couldn’t say “no.”

“He spent almost an hour in the car on the way up, talking about going to Snail Rocks, catching crabs, walking to the ice cream store, feeding the seagulls, riding his boogie board, going to Chicago Dogs,” she recalled. “Honestly, I was thrilled. It’s those kind of traditions and memory buildings that is a huge part of the appeal of the same old, same old, and make us behave like Capistrano Swallows.”

This is the time of year when most winter vacations are booked, and Christmas and New Year’s getaways tend to be repeats like the Potvins’ — a trip to a favorite mountain resort or a city near family.

Redundancy has a lot of value, both for travelers and for the travel business.
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