Help! My vacation package is missing a hotel

Stuart Miles/Shutterstock
Stuart Miles/Shutterstock

After her hotel closes for renovations, Amber Sharma’s vacation package seems to fall apart. Now the online agency she bought it with won’t help her fix it.

Question: I recently booked a vacation package in Cozumel, Mexico, through Priceline. I called the hotel’s customer service line yesterday to ask a question, at which point I was informed that the hotel was closed for construction and would remain closed until next year.

I called Priceline today to get a full refund for the package. They said they couldn’t confirm the hotel closure because no one was answering the hotel telephone — because, well, they’re closed — and even so, would be able to offer a refund for only the hotel. The best they could do was maybe a credit with the airline for the ticket cost.

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I tried to politely tell them that I booked a package, not a flight and hotel separately, and that there would be no point in my going there if I could not stay where I needed. The hotel I’d booked is all-inclusive and has good prices. It also caters to scuba divers by having a private pier with boat pickups, etc. I am also, as a young woman, traveling alone and on a budget, and only felt comfortable at that hotel because I have stayed there in the past.

Please help me. I would really appreciate anything you can do. — Amber Sharma, Washington

Answer: Priceline should have contacted you when the hotel announced it was closing for renovations and offered you a comparable package. But ultimately, since Priceline sold you the package, it’s responsible for ensuring you can actually use all the components of the trip as advertised.

It’s not clear why that didn’t happen, but to be fair to Priceline, it has to track tens of thousands of hotels in its system and then match each hotel to a reservation. Maybe your hotel didn’t notify Priceline about the temporary closure. Maybe it did, but Priceline failed to find your reservation and then contact you.

As I review your file, I notice that you tried to resolve this problem by phone. That would have been the right way to fix this if you’d landed in Cozumel and found yourself hotel-less (thank goodness it didn’t come to that) but when you still have a little time before your vacation, sending an email works best. Also, Priceline’s records suggest you gave the company only two hours between contacting it and writing to me. I might have given the company a little more time.

Remember, there’s no record of a phone conversation, but you can keep an email thread and forward it to a supervisor — or to me. Priceline’s email addresses follow the format [email protected] and you can find a list of its managers online.

I also list the names of Priceline’s executives on my site.

Fortunately, none of that was necessary. In fact, apparently neither was I. By the time I contacted the company on your behalf, it had already agreed to process a full refund.

When you book a tour, who should be responsible for a refund if a hotel closes?

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47 thoughts on “Help! My vacation package is missing a hotel

  1. ” to be fair to Priceline, it has to track tens of thousands of hotels in its system and then match each hotel to a reservation.”
    I would hope that they are using something called a “database”. That means that they can track reservations by hotel quite easily. A cancelled hotel should bring up all the reservations. This is not rocket science.
    Also, Priceline said “no” to the full refund, not “we’ll get back to you when we have more info”. Once they’ve said no, there is no need to wait 2, or any other amount of hours.

    1. From the sound of it, poor ol’ Charlie in the end cube just has a huge stack of loose papers. They had to call him at home on a Sunday to telephone this hotel to try and confirm it is closed. Poor guy is probably still dialing. For his sake, I hope the renovation is ahead of schedule!

    2. I read that line, too, and about fell out of my chair. Did Chris really write that or is someone filling in for him while he lounges in France?

      1. Frankly this is the first time I have heard something this weird – cancel the whole trip because of a “hotel”. But there is always a first time for something 🙂

        1. Why is that weird? The hotel may be important for any number of reasons, in this case being a diver.

          1. You people make it look like this was sold as a dive package when it is not. It is simply Air plus hotel plus car if any being booked together but each is really a separable item.

          2. “I recently booked a vacation package in Cozumel, Mexico, through Priceline.”

            Very first line in the story. OP refers to it as a package in otner parts. Why do you think it was a simple air plus hotel as separate items?

          3. Because this is mere price (discount) bundling.
            This is obvious since you can combine a lot of different flights and hotels for the destination. It’s not like Priceline has put together a special diving tour.

          4. That’s just an assumption on your part. It doesn’t matter how Priceline puts the package together. If they offer it as a package, that is how the customer buys it. If part of the package becomes unavailable, they are entitled to a refund.

  2. I think a lot depends on the nature of the “package”. If it was a real package (i.e. something advertised like “XYZ Resort! $699/3nt incl. air from ABC!” and billed as a single line-item) then yes, Priceline should have been responsible for a full refund, including air. If the “package” was just two forms of travel that happened to be booked at the same time, (and they appear as two separate line-items, each with their own price on the invoice), then I don’t see Priceline as being under any obligation to refund the air ticket.

    On the hotel refund, I expect the Hotel didn’t bother to inform Priceline that they were closed…

    1. To me, how it’s billed is not as important as how it is advertised. Given your example, if I pay the $699/night based on the ad, but get billed for each item separately, why shouldn’t I still get a full refund is one segment is canceled, like in the OP’s case? I have been on several trips that were listed at one price but each component billed separately. Nothing about that was disclosed. That was just how it was billed.

    2. I don’t care if I’ve purchased a package or components of the package with one provider. I also don’t care how it is advertised. If I book air and hotel, as one vacation, I would expect to be refunded if any of those components was not available because one does not work without the other. A hotel room doesn’t do me any good if I can’t get there and the flight doesn’t do me any good if I can’t stay at the hotel I’ve selected. You also have to take into account that folks usually have to plan their days off of work and can’t change those dates either.

      1. I don’t see why the travel agent should magically be on the hook for refunding a non-refundable airfare simply because you happened to purchase both the air and hotel through them, especially if you were responsible for picking the airline and hotel, and they just provided an interface for you to purchase them at the same time.

  3. Oh dear, totally distracted by the ‘I engage in dangerous sports but must stay at a familiar hotel’ argument. Why do people need to pad their complaint with these oh poor me features (have small children, am infirm, etc.) Surely it comes down to have I gotten what I paid for.

    1. I don’t think the OP mentioning that she is a diver is “padding.” Dive travel is more of a PITA than regular travel. If she travels with her own gear, she wants a dive op on site so she doesn’t need to schlep her gear back and forth and can store it there safely. She wants a hotel that caters to divers (an all-inclusive that will have meal times coordinated with when the dive boat goes out and gets back). And I would be very surprised if her hotel cost did not include her dives (it’s usually a package deal). Diving a la carte is much more expensive. So I think stating that she had booked a hotel for a dive vacation was a way of indicating that she had a number of special requirements that a non-diver would not have.

      1. I agree with you and I normally complain about non-related information. Some good friends are divers and they book packages at hotels that cater to divers and include a number of dives in the rate. The OP’s information simply told us why she chose that particular resort—she is a diver and has enjoyed this particular resort on previous visits to the island. No padding at all here–just a cut and dry explanation of why she selected this particular resort.

      2. The scuba part was central to her argument. The “I’m only comfortable staying someplace I have in the past” was pretty comical. I wonder how she was able to stay at this place for the first time?

        1. Maybe she went to this place with others the first time she went. Cut the lady a break! I love how it’s all the guys questioning the “I’m a young woman traveling alone” statement.

          Yep, when I’m traveling alone, as a woman I am extra careful about where I stay. Women traveling alone in foreign countries get more attention and when trouble happens get told that we “must have misunderstood”, “we asked for it”, or some other nonsense that exonerates the local men from whatever misdeeds they have done (minor or major).

          I don’t see that she’s done anything wrong or that she’s giving us a sob story.

          1. Thank you! I’m baffled by all the commenters who don’t seem to grasp how being a woman traveling alone seriously impacts your trip, and the plans you want to make for it. I figure either they are men commenting, or women who have never traveled alone.

        2. Agree that being a diver was central to the story. DISagree that it’s not important to stay somewhere you’re comfortable at.

          I’ve been to Cozumel several times. First time I hated the place I stayed. Second time I picked another place based on numerous direct referrals from other divers, and loved it. I will no longer stay at any other hotel on the island. If I’d booked it and later found out it was closed, I would absolutely want a full refund.

    2. The diving part was significant because it shows she booked the hotel for a specific amenity and just booking her at any other local hotel would not be acceptable if they didn’t have that amenity.

    3. You are completely wrong in your discarding of those two important facts: that this was a dive trip, and that she is a woman traveling alone.

      As a female diver who has traveled to Cozumel alone on a dive trip, these ARE important details. First of all, I can assure you that it’s crucial that you dive with a dive op with whom you are familiar. Diving IS a dangerous sport, and there are too many shady and unprofessional dive ops out there. On my first dive trip to Cozumel I dove with an op who, due to unsafe practices, almost cost me my life (and DID cost me a $2500 underwater camera rig, which I lost over a reef because of their boneheaded boat skipper – long story). I have since found a dive op with whom I’m comfortable, and I would not dive with any other op.

      Where you stay is also crucial. Having a pier where your chosen dive op will pick you up is a benefit — travel in the water is slow, and if you’re not staying somewhere where your dive boat can easily pick you up can mean missing trips to certain reefs.

      Being a woman alone is also an important detail. When I go to Cozumel alone, I always stay at an all-inclusive so I don’t have to venture out into the town to dine. This is particularly important if you do night dives, and get back late. I know I don’t want to go into town alone at 10:00 at night to eat! But it’s also important to pick the RIGHT all-inclusive — some of them have horrible food. The one I always stay at has the best food of all the AI’s on the island, and a pier close to my chosen dive op. If found out they were closed (and I have to go look – maybe it IS them!) I would absolutely want a full refund, just as she did.

      Those details were not padding. They were central to her situation. I honestly cannot understand why so many people who comment on this blog get all twisted up whenever someone mentions any personal details to their story. If we pull out all the personal details, how boring would that be?

      1. Lots of people get twisted up about various things. I agree it can get tiresome.

        I (a single female) almost always travel alone, and I choose my hotels very carefully. The neighborhood must be safe and ideally there will be good nearby public transportation and the place doesn’t roll up the sidewalks at 6:00.

        I don’t dive so I didn’t realize about the special requirements for divers regarding where they stay and how convenient it is to where they meet the dive company operators. That is interesting information.

    1. Yes, because it Is relevant to her choices. If she is on a budget, it makes it difficult to upgrade her reservation to a fancy resort that also caters to divers. And a woman traveling alone also makes choices affecting her safety, which can also limit her options. As a female who travelled on business, I’ve stayed in places where I would feel uncomfortable being on my own. However, traveling in a group of 4 or more provided safety. Specific example: the person at the front desk told the females in my group to never be on our own in that neighborhood after dark because there was an average of a rape reported every 3 days.

      1. And I’m a guy who has been to some shady places in the world and felt nervous being there alone.

        It is also why I travel with a handgun wherever I am allowed to.

    2. Raven, I usually agree with your snark about people who throw in their sob stories. Not today. YES. It matters that she is a young woman traveling along.

      Here we have a GUY commenting on something he knows absolutely nothing about: traveling alone as a woman.

      And yes, the fact that she’s “young” adds to it. Sadly, young women are often targets for unscrupulous males, and they may not be able to protect themselves if they find themselves in a difficult situation. As a woman who frequently travels alone, I know all too well how important it is to carefully design my trip so that I won’t find myself in a difficult situation.

      Can you REALLY not understand that? REALLY?

      1. Young woman wasn’t the part that really bothered me. The part about “being on a budget” was the irritating one. Everyone is “on a budget.”

        Right, I can’t know shit about being nervous traveling alone because I have a penis. o__O

        C’mon, don’t go there. I’ve been to some pretty crappy places in the world…and I’ve been afraid and made sure to travel in a group, etc.

        1. It’s a little different traveling alone with a penis than without, for sure.

          How many “marriage proposals” have you had? How often have you had men expose themselves to you just to see what kind of reaction you’d get? How often have you had your ass grabbed when walking down the street or when standing in a crowded subway?

          These things all happened to me (not all at the same time of course), in a country that is considered to be overwhelmingly “safe”. Women are treated differently in most places in the world even in this day and age. Traveling alone as a “non-penis owner” is much more of a risk.

          1. And as a woman, I wouldn’t even consider going to those “crappy places” by myself. I’m getting this kind of stuff in “non-crappy” places. Big difference.

          2. Please stop trying to compare men traveling alone to women traveling alone. Seriously. You need to stop, it’s just making you look like a misogynist.

          3. Why on earth would the fact that she’s on a budget annoy you? That’s just bizarre. Truly.

            Use some basic logic: if her budget was not limited, she could have just upgraded to a more expensive hotel, thereby solving the problem. But she couldn’t, which limited her options. Seems pretty logical, and central to the story.

          4. I’ve had my ass grabbed on the subway in every European city I have visited that had a subway (and even once in a Subway while waiting for my sandwich!!). Of course each of those times was by a pickpocket trying to grab my non existent wallet. Still, not a good experience.

          5. You cannot in all seriousness compare a man grabbing another man’s ass to a man grabbing a woman’s ass. This is basic biology, guys. Men are generally stronger than women. That’s just a fact. Stop trying to pretend that it’s not different for us. It is.

        2. Yes. You cannot know what it’s like for women traveling alone. Because you have a penis. That is a true statement.

          That doesn’t mean you can’t be empathic to the issues women face when traveling alone! You absolutely can. You can make an effort to try to understand what it’s like to know that you are a target, to know that you are not going to be able to physically protect yourself from unscrupulous male predators. You can choose to be sympathetic.

          Or not. Sounds like you chose not.

          And no, not everyone is on a budget. Some people have more money than others, and if their chosen hotel closed down, they would just upgrade. If your budget limits your options, that’s pretty central to the story. Come on, Raven…that’s just common sense.

          1. “Are we talking about women wanting penises because I would like to weigh in” Amy Farrah Fowler (Big Bang Theory)

          2. BAHAHAHAAA!!! Thanks for the Friday afternoon laugh. 🙂 And just FTR, no thanks, I’ll pass.

      2. A young woman traveling alone. I thought sex did not matter any longer. We are equal and everyone wants equal treatment and respect. Then DONT PLAY THE SEX CARD.

        Oh wait, you mean women are different than men and subject to different threats? Wow, who would have known. . . .

        1. Just noticing this comment now. Wow. Just…wow.

          So…really Joe? You honestly do not believe that women are treated differently out there in the real world? You actually believe that because we ask for equality in terms of opportunity and respect, that we actually GET IT? And that our demands for this equality mean that we no longer have a right to be SAFE?

          And you are really capable of completely ignoring indisputable facts such as: men are simply BIGGER AND STRONGER than women? And that female rape victims outnumber male rape victims by over 90%? Because we women have asked for equality, we no longer get to “play the sex card” and have to pretend that we are NOT at greater physical risk than men when traveling alone?

          Really Joe?

          Wow. I’ve seen your comments in here for years, and I often agree with you. But this is the first time I ever realized how strongly misogynistic your views are.

          And lest you “report” me for supposedly insulting you, let me point out that I am not commenting on you personally. I have not made an ad-hominem attack — I have not called you any names. My comment is specifically about your *views*, which you have publicly stated here. You have claimed that women are “playing the sex card” by simply expressing the INDISPUTABLE FACT that women are more at risk when traveling alone than men are.

          You stated that you thought that “sex did not matter any longer”, that “we are equal and everyone wants equal treatment”. Based on those comments, I have a couple of questions for you:

          1. Do you believe that we women have not just asked for, but have actually ACHIEVED gender equality?

          2. Do you believe that because we ask for equality, this means we no longer get to acknowledge the factual physical differences between us?

          3. Do you believe that because we ask for equality in pay, opportunity, and respect, that means we should not be able to ask for greater protections than men get, in situations in which women are at significantly greater risk than men?

          4. Did it ever even occur to you that women’s demands for equality were about opportunity, pay, and respect, and that nobody in their right mind would expect anyone in THEIR right mind to think that asking for such equality would translate to “we demand that our bodies and physical strength now become equal to men”? Did you really think that by fighting for equality, we also want everyone to pretend that the physical differences between us don’t exist?

          Wow, the things we learn about people. I am truly shocked that you would publicly say something so patently offensive.

          1. I’m a little late to the party, but as a regular reader and a young, single female traveler who travels all over the world often on my own (hitting Turkey and Greece in June), I feel compelled to comment here. I’m very disappointed to see the male commenters’ inferences that the world is equally dangerous for men and women and women are playing the sex card, by acting as if we are more at risk.Certainly, everyone takes risks traveling around the globe or even traveling in your own state. But women face incredibly more risk with potentially deadly consequences, so our safety precautions when traveling are paramount and not a joke.
            I could tell you stories that would raise the hair on your neck about being cornered by a gang of men with a female friend in Mexio, having a man try to break into my hotel room in the middle of the night in Spain and having a crowd of men trying to haggle and then coerce my guide in Morocco into handing me over to them in exchange for some rugs. These were not the normal risks you find when traveling. These were truly frightening experiences that I and many women can find ourselves in even when we are being the most careful.
            This is a serious discussion and knee-jerk reactions about women playing the sex card are grossly offensive. Please learn some empathy.

          2. BTW – I meant to say “well done!” to LeeAnne for standing up and telling our truth in these heated discussions. I, for one, appreciate it. 🙂

          3. Thank you. I was completely gobsmacked by Joe Farrell’s comment. Most men would be reluctant to publicly say something so grossly offensive and misogynistic, even if they thought it to themselves. But to come right out and publicly say that? Wow. Most men would at least have some basic awareness of the offensiveness of this position. It’s akin to standing up in a crowded, mixed-race room and shouting “I’m a racist and I think all black people are inferior”! Even if people have those thoughts privately (and we all know lots do), most at least are aware that this is generally considered offensive and wouldn’t just stand up and proclaim it.

            (***Disclaimer*** I am NOT saying Joe is a racist…I am using racism as an example of offensive views, to illustrate that his misogynistic views are just as offensive as racism.)

            Men who think like this show themselves to be angry at women for wanting equality. The thought process goes something like this: if women want us to give them equal pay and equal rights, then they have to be willing to give up ANY different treatment, even if doing so would put them at greater risk for harm. It’s a package deal: want equality? Then you have to be willing to be treated equal in ALL respects, eschewing any special protections because of your weaker bodies. And because we men ARE bigger and stronger then they are, and many of us are violent predators who will seize on any opportunity to attack women if left unprotected, this means women will be harmed at a greater rate, since we’re not going to offer them the same protections they get now, because they asked to be treated equal.

            So basically, we don’t deserve equal pay, opportunity and respect unless we are willing to also be raped. That’s the price we must pay for equality.

            Sickening, isn’t it?

          4. Yes – it is sickening. I think oftentimes they reply and say things without thinking them through all the way, but the implication is definitely there whether intended or not.

        2. Yes, women are subject to the violence, lack of control, selfish, cruel and deadly behaviors of men.
          I suppose to make things equal and fair men should stop victimizing women, or women should start beating, maiming, sexually attacking and murdering men at an equal pace.
          Your comments make me wonder which manner of leveling the playing field you would choose.

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