What You Need to Know Before Booking Your Next Vacation

Tuesday, 21 January 2014 | Tags: , , , , ,

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.

  1. Book early. I.e. Spring if you plan to travel during the holidays, which is considered the busiest time of year
  2. 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. 
  3. Get the best hotel option that you can, and then go for whatever else you can get on top of it.
  4. If they offer a travel voucher, ask for cash instead (Something I neglected to do.)
  5. 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 



top of page | | back to posts |
  • Subscribe to the A&K Newsletter

  • Sherry Schruder

    Sorry to hear about your frustrations especially during the holidays. Thanks for the review. If the $100 is transferable I’ll take it! Ha anything to save a penny ;o)

  • Dimitar Aleksandrov

    Traveled with sunwing more than 10 times and never had a problem. Right now on my flight with them too.

  • Danielle G

    We had an AWFUL experience with Sunwing a number of years ago, booking a vacation for my husband and I fairly last minute. I found a great price online via their website and called to book, they assured me it was a new, 5 star resort that had high ratings (Memories Paraiso Azul, Cayo Santa Maria Resort, Cuba). We were not seasoned travellers at the time, and while we read some reviews the good reviews were very very divergent from the bad.

    When we arrived at our destination, we found out that the resort was not in fact new – it was newly owned – by Sunwing. The resort was old, dilapidated and awful. We had paid for a booked a diamond club junior suite which was to come with a King Bed, Ocean View, “Diamond Club” which we paid another 1800$ to upgrade to. When we arrived we had a room that had a running, leaking toilet, two double beds that were old and hard as rock, and a room without a safe, and the ocean view was of a run down tennis court. The bedding was dirty and very obviously unchanged from the last people who had used it (feces on the sheets, sun tan lotion on the blankets). We attempted to contact Sunwing a number of times, but lo and behold every time we spoke either to the Sunwing rep in the hotel, or the customer service, their hands were tied “they were doing their best”. When we returned home, we read the poor and terrible reviews on Trip Advisor of the resort and each and every one of them rang true.

    It was terrible. I truly believe that the reviews of Sunwing owned hotels and resorts have been trumped up by hired reviewers. There was no possible way that any good review could have come from what we dealt with for a week. The photos on the website look lovely, but the resort itself was in disrepair with staff who were overworked, exhausted and seemed to be absolutely done with trying to rectify problems with a resort that promised a five star experience and was only able to offer 2 star accommodations. And we were aware that Cuba’s 5 star is much much lower than say, a 5 star in Jamaica, Bahamas or Mexico.

    We travel annually now, both with our family and as a couple, and always, always book through a local agent. They’re able to find us the best prices, and offer us assistance via a quick email if the need arises. We will never fly Sunwing again.

  • Susanne Brzezina

    I am planning on booking with sunwing to go to varadero with my boyfriend and I haven’t been anywhere tropical or with a white sand beach. I heard mixed reviews but I am skeptical now. But I will still probably book with them as I have days to use up before the end of may.

    Thank you for writing about your experience and offering the $100 voucher . If you are still planning on giving it away I would be more than happy to take it, if that is an option!

    Would love to finally go to a tropical place with my low budget haha.