Great Value Va­ca­tions trip wasn’t so great after all

South Florida Sun-Sentinel (Sunday) - - Travel - By Christo­pher El­liott Christo­pher El­liott is the om­buds­man for Na­tional Geo­graphic Trav­eler mag­a­zine. You can read more travel tips on his blog, el­, or email him at [email protected]­

QMy travel com­pan­ion and I bought two Groupons for the “Greek High­lights: Athens, Mykonos & San­torini Up­grade.” We pur­chased an ad­di­tional two nights, air­fare from St. Louis and in­sur­ance with Great Value Va­ca­tions.

Then my travel com­pan­ion couldn’t make the trip, and can­celed nearly two months be­fore our sched­uled de­par­ture. That gave her tour op­er­a­tor plenty of time to fill her reser­va­tion with an­other trav­eler.

It took four phone calls be­fore Great Value Va­ca­tions can­celed her reser­va­tion and pro­vided a credit. The trip cost $2,400 per per­son, yet even with the travel pro­tec­tion, Great Value Va­ca­tions would credit only $1,037, claim­ing the dif­fer­ence was for the “shared” ser­vices.

We shared only a ho­tel. Great Value Va­ca­tions would not al­low me to find a dif­fer­ent travel part­ner who also would pay for the trip to uti­lize the “shared” ser­vice. That way, my travel com­pan­ion could get her full re­fund, less her in­sur­ance premium.

I found out that the only way to get a full credit less the premium was if we both can­celed, which we ul­ti­mately did. The idea that the shared por­tion of the ho­tel cost Great Value Va­ca­tions $1,200 is ab­surd. Can you help me? — Linette War­necke, Troy, Ill.

A: If you had travel pro­tec­tion, you should have been cov­ered for a can­cel­la­tion. At least that’s what the av­er­age trav­eler would as­sume. But you had an itin­er­ary with lots of mov­ing parts, in­clud­ing the Groupon com­po­nent and the Great Value Va­ca­tions pack­age with air, ho­tel and in­sur­ance.

Great Value Va­ca­tions is just tak­ing the com­po­nents of your va­ca­tion and bundling them into a pack­age. It still must fol­low the in­di­vid­ual rules of each com­pany. So, for ex­am­ple, if the ho­tel has set a can­cel­la­tion re­stric­tion, then Great Value Va­ca­tions must fol­low it too.

The ques­tion is, when does your travel pro­tec­tion pol­icy kick in? When one per­son in a reser­va­tion can­cels, and that per­son has the trip pro­tec­tion, he or she re­ceives a credit for all non­shared ser­vices. But when you ran the num­bers on the in­di­vid­ual com­po­nents of your va­ca­tion, you con­cluded that Great Value Va­ca­tions was keep­ing more of your money than it should have.

Your travel pro­tec­tion plan, the terms of which are dis­closed on your car­rier’s site, comes with a ton of re­stric­tions. You can can­cel for any rea­son, but you will re­ceive a credit only for fu­ture travel equal to the full amount of all pay­ments made, less any pro­tec­tion costs and fees. Name changes also are pro­hib­ited. If you’d read these re­stric­tions be­fore your pur­chase, would you have changed your mind? You say you would have. But the av­er­age per­son wouldn’t care. No one thinks they’re go­ing to file a travel pro­tec­tion claim.

I list the names, num­bers and email ad­dresses of key cus­tomer-ser­vice ex­ec­u­tives at Great Value Va­ca­tions on my con­sumer-ad­vo­cacy site. You had al­ready found those con­tacts and were deal­ing with a man­ager, who re­fused to budge.

I con­tacted the com­pany on your be­half, and it cut you and your travel com­pan­ion a check for the full amount you were due un­der your travel pro­tec­tion pol­icy.

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