What You Need to Know Before Booking Your Next Vacation
Travel company Sunwing made the headlines recently, after keeping 200 passengers stranded at a Cuban airport for hours, without any food or water. I recently had my own travel troubles with Sunwing.
In early November, I used Expedia to book an all-inclusive vacation with Sunwing to Mexico. The price included the airfare, ground transport in Mexico and resort stay.
10 days before my vacation, I received an email from Expedia telling me that resort I had booked (Secrets Silversands, recommended by friends) was no longer available. What??? I was informed I could a) choose one of two other resorts, b) try to find my own accommodations or c) get a full refund.
I was livid. I’d used Sunwing before (see below article) and vowed never to do so again. But the price was right and I caved. I hate it when I ignore my own advice. I didn’t want to cancel the trip because I had been really looking forward to it. I began scouring the Internet, trying to find another resort close by or even another destination altogether. But as it was just a few days before Christmas, options were negligible to non-existent.
Then I got on the phone. First with Sunwing and then with Expedia. The former was mum on the matter, saying they couldn’t (or rather wouldn’t) answer any of my questions, I had to deal with the booking agent, Expedia. When I called Expedia, they placed the blame on Sunwing.
How could they just change the resort on me? Seinfeld came to mind. “They could take the reservation, but they couldn’t hold the reservation.” Plus, the fact that I had prepaid really irked me. Did I want a full refund? What, after they had the use of my money for six weeks? I’m not in the habit of giving loans to travel companies.
Next, I wrote an email to Sunwing’s customer service department. On Christmas Eve, a representative responded, via telephone. By the time I got the message and called back, the office was closed. Due to the standard holiday office closures I didn’t get through to them until Dec 27th, the day before I was leaving.
Jeff the customer service agent was very apologetic, saying they had made an internal error on their part, plain and simple. Secrets was overbooked. He assured me that the new resort would be as good or better. He offered to reimburse me the money I had paid to prebook our airplane seats. He also gave me $100 off my next Sunwing trip. (Next Sunwing trip? Right.)
Travel expert Claire Newell says “stop sells and oversells do happen and they happen a lot more over the holidays. As with flights, sometimes they overbook the hotels a little bit. And consumers should note, it is in the small print. They do have the option to change your hotel.”
But why did this happen to me and not the other guy?
“They will look at the date you booked. They will also look at how you booked.” Newell says. Meaning, booking through Expedia implies I went for a bargain basement price, which gave me less negotiating clout.
While there is no guarantee that something like this won’t happen to you, Newell did give me some useful trips.
- Book early. I.e. Spring if you plan to travel during the holidays, which is considered the busiest time of year
- If this happens to you, contact the travel provider immediately. (In my case, Sunwing.) There may be others in the same boat and you want to get first dibs on whatever they’re offering as compensation.
- Get the best hotel option that you can, and then go for whatever else you can get on top of it.
- If they offer a travel voucher, ask for cash instead (Something I neglected to do.)
- Use third party sites like Expedia or Travelocity for research. But when it comes time to book, go through a travel agent or the vacation provider directly. You’ll have more recourse.
The resort was nice and we have a lovely time. But was it as good as the one I had originally booked? I don’t know. If you’ve stayed at Secrets Silversands and Valentin Imperial Maya, please let me know which you preferred.
Meanwhile, anyone want a $100 voucher for Sunwing? I’ll find out if it’s transferable.
The lazy river pool at Valentin
Beach near Valentin