I need to cancel my Groupon Getaway. Can I get a refund?

She needs to cancel her Groupon Getaway to China

Joan Johnson-Roegner needs to cancel her Groupon Getaway. Her tour operator, Reward Travel China, suggests the terms of her vacation are flexible. So why is she stuck with an unusable tour — and is there anything my fearless crew of advocates can do to help her?

Johnson-Roegner’s case is a sad reminder that talk is cheap and that the fine print overrides any verbal promises a representative makes. It also underscores the highly restrictive nature of some Groupon Getaways, as well as the importance of a reliable travel insurance policy.

Why she needed to cancel her Groupon Getaway

Here’s what happened: Johnson-Roegner and her husband paid $2,498 for a trip to China through a company called Rewards Travel China. The 10-day tour looks almost too good to be true.

(By the way, pardon the verbal infelicities.)

Explore China on this must-see tour of Beijing Shanghai.

Walk along the Great Wall of China, stroll through Tiananmen Square, and then lost yourself within the Forbidden City while in Beijing.

See the exquisite architecture and pleasant surroundings at the Summer Palace.

Explore Shanghai’s Bund Waterfront, the fascinating Shanghai Museum, and walk on the pedestrian-friendly Nanjing road.

End your tour off with a visit to an ancient water-town to see traditional architecture, stone bridges & meandering river ways, and then have some time to explore Shanghai at your leisure.

All your China dreams, packed in 10 days.

Wow, all my China dreams in 10 days. Where do I sign up?

Why, on Groupon, of course!

Mind the fine print on your Groupon Getaway

Ah, but there’s a catch. Once you’ve pushed the “buy” button, you can’t change anything. Ever. Don’t even think about it.

Once you purchase a Groupon Getaway, you're stuck with it.

And, of course, Johnson-Roegner’s problem was: She thought about it.

“My husband had an operation on his spine twice and is not able to walk,” she told me. “He will not be able to go on the trip.”

Johnson-Roegner didn’t have travel insurance, which would have reimbursed her for canceling her trip. So she phoned Rewards Travel China to see if his part of the trip could be transferred to another person.

“I am 74 years old and would like a person with me for safety,” she says.

A Rewards Travel China representative told her she could transfer her husband’s ticket for just $150. But when she tried to change the reservation, a Groupon representative told her she couldn’t make any changes to the itinerary. Either her husband, who couldn’t move, went to China with her, or they’d lose the entire amount they paid for the vacation.

“Now it is not possible to transfer the trip to anyone else,” she says. “Could you please help us? Time is running short.”

Can you cancel a Groupon Getaway and get a refund?

So, can you cancel a Groupon Getaway and get a refund?

I answer that question in our frequently asked questions section about tours. In short, it’s complicated.

As I noted:

When an airline cancels a flight, you can get your money back. When a hotel turns you away, you’re entitled to a refund. Same thing when your cruise is canceled, or your car rental company doesn’t have the vehicle for which you prepaid.
Put it all together into a package, however, and curiously, the rules change. Your tour may not be refundable at all. Don’t believe me? Check your participation agreement and see for yourself.

In other words, tour operators impose their own restrictions on refundability, which they outline in their participation agreement. But buy through Groupon, and there’s another layer of restrictions that override the tour operator’s agreement.

And Groupon’s restrictions were crystal-clear.

The bad news in the fine print of the Groupon Getaway deal

Toggle over to the “fine print” tab for the bad news:

Final sale: once reservation is made, it is non-refundable and non-changeable.

So can she cancel her Groupon Getaway and get a refund?

Can Johnson-Roegner cancel her Groupon getaway and get a refund? Let me tell you something about this case. My advocates pored over the fine print to find a loophole that would have allowed us to help her. We sympathize with anyone who, for reasons entirely beyond her control, can’t take a vacation.

But in the end, it was clear that this was a more complex problem. The individual components of the tour might have been refundable if Johnson-Roegner had purchased them separately. But bundled together in a tour, they were subject to her operator’s terms. While the operator said it could help her, there were more terms — the ones imposed by Groupon — that overrode both the terms of the travel companies and tour operator.

This is a very unfortunate problem with no solution. Johnson-Roegner should have considered a travel insurance policy, but it’s too late for that. I’m sorry we couldn’t help the Johnson-Roegners.

Underwritten by

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by AirportParkingReservations.com

With nearly 20 years in the industry, over 128 airport covered in the U.S. and Canada, and over 1,000 Hotel and Parking Partners-we provide travelers the best options on how to get to the airport when flying. Whether you want to; drive yourself and park near an Airport (Airport Parking), stay the night before your flight at an airport hotel and leave your car (Hotel and Parking Package), or take a shared Shuttle/Private Car/Limo to the Airport- we got you covered. The best deals can be found online, and booking a reservation has never been easier. You can explore all of our options by visiting us at AirportParkingReservations.com, ParkSleepFly.com, AirportParking.com, and ShuttleFinder.com.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Generali Global Assistance

Generali Global Assistance has been a leading provider of travel insurance and other assistance services for more than 25 years. We offer a full suite of innovative, vertically integrated travel insurance and emergency services. Generali Global Assistance is part of The Europ Assistance (EA) Group, who pioneered the travel assistance industry in 1963 and continues to be the leader in providing real-time assistance anywhere in the world, delivering on our motto – You Live, We Care.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Seven Corners

Seven Corners has helped customers all over the world with travel difficulties, big and small. As one of the few remaining privately owned travel insurance companies, Seven Corners provides insurance plans and 24/7 travel assistance services to more than a million people each year. Because we’re privately held, we can focus on the customer without the constraints that larger companies have. Visit Seven Corners to learn more.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Sodexo North America

Sodexo North America Sodexo North America is part of a global, Fortune 500 company with a presence in 80 countries. Sodexo is a leading provider of integrated food, facilities management and other services that enhance organizational performance, contribute to local communities and improve quality of life for millions of customers in corporate, education, healthcare, senior living, sports and leisure, government and other environments daily. Learn more at Sodexoinsights.com.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Travelex Insurance Services

Travelex Insurance Services is a leading travel insurance provider in the United States with over 55 years combined industry expertise of helping people dream, explore and travel with confidence. We offer comprehensive travel insurance plans with optional upgrades allowing travelers to customize the plans to fit their needs. Compare plans, get a quote and buy online at Travelexinsurance.com.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by AirHelp

AirHelp is the world’s leading flight delays compensation company, helping passengers apply for compensation following a delayed or canceled flight or when boarding has been denied. It is AirHelp’s mission to fight for passenger rights by holding airlines accountable for flights disruptions that are out of passengers’ control. AirHelp has already helped 5 million people, taking the stress out of applying for compensation and making it as hassle-free as possible for travelers around the world.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Allianz Travel Insurance

The Allianz Travel Insurance company has built its reputation on partnering with agents all around the world to provide comprehensive travel insurance for their clients. Contact Allianz Travel Insurance for a comprehensive list of coverage.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Chubb

Chubb is the world’s largest publicly traded property and casualty insurance company, and recognized as the premier provider of insurance for successful individuals and families in the U.S. and selected international markets, offering coverage for high-value automobile, homeowners, recreational marine/aviation, valuables and umbrella liability coverage. As an underwriting company, Chubb assesses, assumes and manages risk with insight and discipline, and combines the precision of craftsmanship with decades of experience to conceive, craft and deliver the best insurance coverage and services to individuals, families and business of all size.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Fareportal

Fareportal’s portfolio of brands, which include  CheapOair and  OneTravel, are dedicated to helping customers enjoy their trip. Whether you want to call, click, or use one of our travel apps, one thing is clear: We make it easy to take it easy.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Insuremyrentalcar.com

An independent provider of low cost CDW/LDW insurance for use with rental cars. Up to $100,000 cover with no deductible. Policies available on a per day, per trip or per year basis. Also works with overseas rentals. Try  Insuremyrentalcar.comnow.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by G1G.com

Since its inception over three decades ago, G1G has continued to revolutionize the travel insurance industry by being the only aggregator to operate a customer portal, placing all of the user's primary needs in one place. We have continued to innovate and disrupt the market by reimagining the way travel insurance can be delivered to the end user in ways no competition can. Simply put, no one knows the market as well as its founders and no one else shares G1G values and mission.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Mediacom Communications

The nation’s fifth-largest cable operator, serving the smaller cities and towns in the Midwest and Southern regions of the United States. We are a high-performance broadband, entertainment, and communications company that brings the power of modern technology and quality customer experience to life inside the connected home by combining ultra-fast gigabit speeds with personalized local and over-the-top entertainment choices that fit your lifestyle. Details at  Mediacomcable.com.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Arch RoamRight

Arch RoamRight is one of the fastest growing, most-highly rated travel insurance companies in the United States. Travel advisors love working with us, and travelers feel protected with our trip cancellation and travel medical insurance coverage. We also make it easy to file a claim online with our fast, paperless claims website. Learn more about RoamRight travel insurance.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Virtuoso

The leading global network for luxury and experiential travel. This invitation-only organization comprises over 1,000 travel agency locations with 17,500 advisors in over 45 countries, and holds preferred relationships with 1,700 of the world’s finest travel companies. Virtuoso advisors collaborate with their clients to create personalized itineraries featuring exclusive perks, while also providing advice, access, advocacy, and accountability. For more information, visit  Virtuoso.com.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by VisitorsCoverage

VisitorsCoverage is one of the world’s most trusted providers of travel insurance for millions of global travelers in over 175 countries. Working with top-rated travel insurance partner providers, VisitorsCoverage’s award-winning search, compare and purchase technology simplifies the travel insurance process and finds the best deals for the coverage you need to explore the world with confidence. Get insurance for your next trip at VisitorsCoverage.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by MedjetAssist

Medjet is the premier global air-medical transport, travel security and crisis response membership program for travelers. With a MedjetAssist membership, if you become hospitalized more than 150 miles from home, we will get you from that unfamiliar hospital all the way home to the hospital you trust. All you ever pay is your membership fee. MedjetHorizon members add 24/7 personal security and crisis response benefits. Elliott.org readers enjoy discounted rates. Travel safer with  MedjetAssist.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Southwest Airlines

The mission of Southwest Airlines is dedication to the highest quality of Customer Service delivered with a sense of warmth, friendliness, individual pride, and Company Spirit. We are committed to provide our Employees a stable work environment with equal opportunity for learning and personal growth.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by TravelInsurance.com

TravelInsurance.com makes it fast and easy to compare and buy travel insurance online from top rated providers. Our unbiased comparison engine allows travelers to read reviews, compare pricing and benefits and buy the right policy with a price guarantee, every time. Compare and buy travel insurance now at  TravelInsurance.com.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Squaremouth

Squaremouth helps travelers easily and instantly compare travel insurance policies from all major providers. Only companies that meet the strict requirements of Squaremouth’s Zero Complaint Guarantee are available on the website. Compare policies on  Squaremouth.com to save over 70 percent on your next purchase.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Travel Leaders Group

Travel Leaders Group is transforming travel through its progressive approach toward each unique travel experience. Travel Leaders Group assists millions of travelers through its leisure, business and network travel operations under a variety of diversified divisions and brands including All Aboard Travel, Andrew Harper Travel, Colletts Travel, Corporate Travel Services, CruCon Cruise Outlet, Cruise Specialists, Nexion, Protravel International, SinglesCruise.com, Travel Leaders Corporate, Travel Leaders Network and Tzell Travel Group, and its merger with ALTOUR. With more than 7,000 agency locations and 52,000 travel advisors, Travel Leaders Group ranks as one of the industry’s largest retail travel agency companies.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Travelers United

If you’ve been mistreated by the airlines, Travelers United is your voice in Washington. Join the #1 travel advocacy organization working with Congress to improve and protect travelers. Plus, get $400 of annual benefits you can use for travel for only $29/year. Add your voice to ours. Make travel better.  Join today.