Never yell “Woohoo! Vegas!” before you board an Allegiant flight

vegas babyIt was supposed to be a special birthday celebration for Samantha O’Rourke and ten of her closest friends. They were flying from Appleton, Wisc., to Las Vegas on Allegiant Air. But it ended up being anything but special.

“We were treated horribly,” she says.
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No ‘super’ savings on my Las Vegas strip hotel

vegas babyQuestion: I hope you can help me with a Hotwire Hotel reservation. I booked a three-star “Las Vegas Strip — South Area Hotel” on Hotwire recently. I got a room at Hooters Casino Hotel for $47 per night, plus taxes and fees.

There are two problems with the result. First, it’s not on the Las Vegas Strip; it’s more than half a mile away. And second, it’s listed as a “Super Savings” rate, which Hotwire classifies as “more than 30 percent off retail price.” But most websites have the normal price at about $45 to $50 per night. Where’s the “super” savings?
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Socked with a $450 resort fee — is that fair?

You owe more for your room, baby! / Photo by imaqine – Flickr

Resort fees fall under the category of “nuisance” surcharges because they’re usually so insignificant that they’re not worth fighting. And travel companies know it, which is one reason they keep piling ’em on.

But what happens when these extras rise to the level of a major expenditure?
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Yes, you can fight a resort fee — and win

Mandatory resort fees have been annoying hotel guests for almost as long as I’ve been covering the hotel industry, which is to say, a long time. But how do you persuade a property to remove these unwanted extras from your bill?

In the past, simply asking to have the additional $10 or $20 a night stricken from your bill was enough. Not anymore. Now, your friendly hotel clerk is far likelier to take a hard line when you’re checking out.
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Forget this volunteer vacation — let’s go to Vegas!

Question: I am a teacher at a high school in San Francisco that has lost $5,000 to Southwest Airlines. Our 12th-grade class did fundraising all year to raise enough money for a trip to Bahia de Los Angeles in Baja, Mexico, to stay at a Marine Biology lab owned by Glendale Community College. This trip was to allow the students to perform community service at the elementary school there, and for the Sea Turtle rescue station.

We booked seats as a group and per our contract paid in full by cashier’s check for our 39 tickets. A few days later, a travel advisory was issued because of swine flu. Since these are minors on a service project, we felt we had to change our plans. Southwest would not refund our tickets, so we accepted our only alternative to fly somewhere else of equal value. This only option was Las Vegas — not really a suitable alternative.

As time passed, and the restrictions eased, we asked if we could go back to our plan of flying to San Diego where we would pick up a bus to Baja. Southwest says it would not accommodate this request. We are dumbfounded. Can you help us? — Ellie Capers, San Francisco

Answer: Since when is Las Vegas an acceptable substitute for a volunteer vacation to a marine lab in Baja? Southwest should have found a better way of accommodating your class group.

Your case raises several red flags. The first is the cashier’s check, which is pretty much the same thing as forking over cash. Wherever possible, you should be using a credit card, since it protects you in case something goes wrong (for example, the company files for bankruptcy or sells you defective merchandise).

When any travel company insists on payment in cash or as a cashier’s check, don’t walk — run.
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