If you want a hotel refund, you can’t wait one year to ask

Judith Levine was happily looking forward to her trip to Peru when disaster struck, and she had to cancel for medical reasons. Although she had travel insurance coverage, she couldn’t get a hotel refund. ¡Qué lástima!

“Isn’t this what travel insurance is for?” asks Levine. “I am appalled and incensed that I got no help.”

Levine’s case carries several reminders: When planning a complex overseas trip, make sure you have travel insurance coverage for the entire trip — and know what your policy covers. And don’t wait too long to ask our advocates for assistance.

A Peruvian vacation, interrupted

Levine booked a travel package to Machu Picchu for May, 2017, through Backroads, an online travel agency. Her travel package included travel insurance coverage through Trip Mate. She also booked a stay at the Hotel Monasterio through another travel agency, Dimensions in Travel.

But when Levine needed surgery, the only trip she ended up taking was to the hospital.

Levine canceled her trip upon receiving orders from her doctors not to travel. She submitted the necessary paperwork for a claim on her Trip Mate insurance policy. Trip Mate reimbursed all her costs except for a Hotel Monasterio charge of $470 for one night.

No hotel refund for a cancellation within 30 days

The Hotel Monasterio declined Levine’s request for a hotel refund because she was canceling within 30 days of her scheduled stay. Dimensions in Travel was unable to assist Levine in securing a hotel refund from the Hotel Monasterio.

Levine unsuccessfully appealed Trip Mate’s denial of the Hotel Monasterio charge. But Trip Mate responded that because Backroads did not make her hotel booking, its policy did not cover this charge: “It appears that the Hotel Monasterio was not booked through Backroads. Unfortunately, hotels not booked directly with Backroads are not reimbursable by the plan.”

Levine then turned to our advocates: “Does it make sense to you with travel insurance that this policy isn’t exempted? It doesn’t to me. Everyone is ‘passing the buck.'” (Executive contact information for Trip Mate is available on our website.)

Our advocate’s response

Unfortunately for Levine, our executive director, Michelle Couch-Friedman, didn’t have good news for her. Michelle responded to her request:

It looks to me that this particular hotel was not included in your travel insurance coverage because Backroads didn’t book it. That seems to be what’s going on here.

Michelle also pointed out that Levine had waited too long to ask our advocates for assistance:

Since your travel agent, Backroads and your trip insurance company have all turned down your request for a reimbursement — and this original reservation was over one year ago — I don’t think that there is anyone that I can appeal your request to. The hotel has already declined to refund or credit your card. I really have nowhere to go with your appeal.

A year ago, our advocacy team might have suggested that Levine find out whether her credit card offered coverage for the hotel room. But it’s highly unlikely that any credit card would refund her hotel room charge over 13 months later.

And as Charles Mills recently found out in a similar situation, we can’t get insurance companies to reimburse costs that their policies don’t cover.

Moral of the story

Always make sure that the travel insurance you purchase covers your entire trip. And make sure you understand exactly what your policy includes and doesn’t include. If you make any bookings separately from your main package, get additional coverage for those costs.

And ask for help on a timely basis. Don’t wait a year, as Levine did, to contact our advocates. Otherwise, as with Levine, our advocates won’t be able to assist you.

Should the Elliott Advocacy team take cases that have stretched beyond one year?

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