By Christopher Elliott Travel columnist
Tribune Media Services
updated 12/9/2008 2:42:48 PM ET 2008-12-09T19:42:48
travel troubleshooter

Q: I'm at the end of my rope. I recently booked a trip to Mexico online through Apple Vacations for my wife, daughter, son-in-law and myself. As always, I also bought an insurance package.

  1. Don't miss these Travel stories
    1. Lords of the gourd compete for Punkin Chunkin honors

      With teams using more than 100 unique apparatuses to launch globular projectiles a half-mile or more, the 27th annual World Championship Punkin Chunkin event is our pick as November’s Weird Festival of the Month.

    2. Airports, airlines work hard to return your lost items
    3. Expert: Tourist hordes threaten Sistine Chapel's art
    4. MGM Grand wants Las Vegas guests to Stay Well
    5. Report: Airlines collecting $36.1B in fees this year

My daughter and son-in-law couldn't make it because of a new employment situation, so for the first time ever, I had to make a claim on our insurance. We were told by Apple that there were no penalties and to expect a travel voucher, minus the payment for insurance, within 10 days.

But that didn't happen. It turns out the insurance only covered a small portion of our trip. What's more, only one room had been booked for our group when I made the reservation online. An agent I spoke with suggested the error was caused by Apple's Web site.

Apple's position is that since we booked a room for four people, the remaining couple's rate would have to be adjusted to a double rate. It also based its refund on the prevailing double rate at the time of cancellation. The bottom line to me is that Apple has refunded only $544 instead of the $1,286 I believe I'm entitled to.

I feel like the little guy being taken advantage of by a large corporation. At this point I am about to give up. Can you help?
— Donald Dinsmore, Boothwyn, Pa.

A: Apple Vacations or its insurance company should have refunded your daughter and son-in-law's share of the trip at the time of the purchase. I can't think of any reason to recalculate the rate and offer a refund based on a new price.

But in reviewing your letter and Apple's response (I'll get to that in a second) I'm left with a laundry list of errors on both sides.

Let's start with Apple. When you bought your Mexico vacation, you should have been able to book the two rooms you wanted. When an Apple representative promised a refund within 10 days, you should have received one. The insurance you purchased through your online agency should have covered you for the full amount of the trip, if that's what it promised.

You, on the other hand, should have reviewed your reservation immediately after you made it. Then you would have known about the room problem immediately. You should have read your insurance policy carefully, which would have indicated only part of your trip was covered.

How could you have prevented this? Asking yourself “is this a good time for a vacation?” might have prompted you, your daughter and your son-in-law to reconsider the Mexico trip. I wouldn't plan a getaway if I anticipated a job change in the near future. Most employers take a dim view of new hires that take a vacation right after starting a job.

Second, and more important, you should have written more letters and made fewer phone calls. In fact, you really only needed to make one call to Apple Vacation — to get the e-mail address of the appropriate customer service contact. That way, when you need to escalate your complaint, you can do it with a few keystrokes instead of spending half an hour talking with a customer service representative who is unfamiliar with your case.

You bought an insurance policy through your online travel agent at the time you booked your vacation package. I might have shopped around a little. The first insurance offered by a travel agent isn't necessarily the best one, and any travel professional who advises you not to kick the proverbial tires on a few policies doesn't have your best interests in mind.

I contacted Apple Vacations on your behalf. The company says it was already working on your refund request before my inquiry. It refunded an additional $742. Without going into specifics, a company representative told me there were “a few technicalities” with your case. I'll say.

Christopher Elliott is the ombudsman for National Geographic Traveler magazine and the host of “What You Get For The Money: Vacations” on the Fine Living Network. E-mail him at

© 2008 Christopher Elliott ... Distributed by Tribune Media Services, Inc.


Discussion comments


Most active discussions

  1. votes comments
  2. votes comments
  3. votes comments
  4. votes comments