Case dismissed: No refund for my canceled Middle East vacation

Here’s another cautionary tale — as if we needed one — on the dangers of choosing an interesting destination for your next vacation.

How about Egypt? It’s got pyramids, museums – and a riot or two.

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Catherine Green certainly got more than she bargained for when she booked a March 26 tour to the Middle East through On The Go. With all of the warnings being issued by the State Department, she was certain the tour operator would cancel the Egypt trip and offer her a full refund.

It didn’t.

“They are demanding that I pay $3,532 for a trip that I canceled with all reasonable prudent person beliefs that On The Go would not be able or interested in trying to assure my personal safety in a civil war torn country,” she told me.

On The Go, it turns out, is living up to its name. It isn’t letting a little revolution get in the way of its business. Despite a violent regime change, it continues to run tours to Egypt.

I contacted On The Go to get its side of the story. A representative pointed me to its terms, which say Green missed her window for a refund and warning her of the perils of traveling to a region that isn’t exactly known for its stability.

“All bookings are accepted on the understanding that the Client appreciates such risks and hazards and that they undertake all tours at their own volition,” it says.

It also reiterated that it wouldn’t be refunding her tour.

“Please note that on her travel dates, the US State Department and the British Foreign office both deemed Egypt safe for travel in turn we were and still are operating tours with great feedback,” a spokesman added.

On The Go did, however, offer Green an opportunity to reschedule her vacation later this year, so she could feel more at ease with visiting Egypt.

Green doesn’t consider that a reasonable offer. “I no longer respect them,” she told me. “I’ve saved five years for this trip, and $3,532 is no trifling matter. You might think they would be eager to provide a full refund to exemplify excellent customer service in hopes of gaining my continued travel arrangements.”

While I agree that $3,532 is no small sum, I think On The Go’s offer to reschedule Green isn’t out of line. She might want to consider taking them up on it.

For the rest of us, there’s this takeaway: In these uncertain times, choose your vacation destination very carefully. Which is to say, if you want a sure bet, visit Canada or England or Western Europe, but avoid places that are dicey, like Mexico, parts of Central and South America and the Middle East.

And if you do go there, be sure to read the State Department warnings and buy a good travel insurance policy. Otherwise you could end up paying $3,532 for a vacation you didn’t get to take.

(Photo: Sim ona Scolari/Flickr Creative Commons)