Q: Back in 2019, I made a reservation for me and my wife to go on Vantage Travel’s “Croatia & Culinary Gems of the Adriatic Coast” tour. Other members of our family were also planning to join us on this trip. I made the final payment of $20,655 for our trip in Oct. 2019.
As part of the cost of the trip, I paid $999 per person for a “cancel for any reason” travel insurance policy from Trip Mate. Part of the reason I had booked it was in case my sister-in-law’s cancer returned. Unfortunately, it did, and she died before the trip.
In early 2020, we canceled our tour and initiated a refund request through Vantage Travel. I also submitted a claim to Trip Mate. Because of the pandemic, Vantage canceled our tour before its scheduled departure.
Trip Mate reviewed the claim and approved it in mid-2020, but said payment would be made by Vantage.
I have emailed Vantage multiple times and have made several phone calls. Twice on those phone calls, a representative provided the projected dates of when we would receive a refund. However, we have not received any refund or a written assurance as to when we will receive one. Can you help me get my $20,655 back? — David Maddox, Arlington, Virginia
A: I’m so sorry about the loss of your sister-in-law.
You should have received a quick refund on your prepaid, nonrefundable expenses after Trip Mate approved your claim. I don’t know why you didn’t, but I know you aren’t alone. Many travelers had the same problem during the early days of the pandemic. It was a confusing time.
You handled this one by the book. You bought the correct insurance for your needs. A “cancel for any reason” policy will allow you to cancel your vacation for any reason and receive a partial refund. But, some restrictions apply. Your Trip Mate policy, however, was a little different from the standard “cancel for any reason” policy. It lets you cancel, and you’ll receive your entire prepaid, nonrefundable trip cost “in the form of a Vantage Travel Certificate for the cancellation penalty amount.”
So, the best you could have done was a voucher. But, Vantage also canceled your cruise. In that situation, you should have had a choice between a voucher and a refund. It looks like things got confused between your claim, the Vantage cancellation and your refund request.
I publish the names, numbers and email addresses of the Vantage executives on my consumer advocacy site at www.elliott.org/company-contacts/vantage-deluxe-world-travel/. A brief, polite email to one of them might have “un-confused” the process.
Bottom line: You should not have to wait years for a company to refund your purchase.
I contacted Vantage on your behalf, and it refunded your cruise.
Christopher Elliott is the chief advocacy officer of Elliott Advocacy, a nonprofit organization that helps consumers resolve their problems. Elliott’s latest book is “How to Be the World’s Smartest Traveler” (National Geographic). Contact him at elliott.org/help or [email protected]