Can I redo my Disney vacation, please?

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By Christopher Elliott

Pamela Metcalf Kunelis and her husband miss her Disney vacation because of a misunderstanding. Her airline will allow her to redo the vacation, but Disney wants $500 for new hotel rooms, and it refuses to make an exception. Should it?

Question

I recently booked a vacation package to Disneyland through Southwest Vacations, but I mistakenly entered the wrong date — September instead of December. We were away when the tickets were delivered, and I didn’t notice the error until it was too late. We were considered “no-shows” for our vacation.

This error is extremely unfortunate, since we planned this trip for my husband’s birthday. It was an honest mistake.

I contacted Southwest Vacations, and they said they would be willing to rebook our airline tickets and re-issue our theme park tickets, but that there would be a $500 penalty for the Disney hotel. Southwest asked Disney to waive its rules, but Disney hasn’t responded. I know they are under no obligation to rebook our package, but can you help us? — Pamela Metcalf Kunelis, Fair Oaks, Calif.

Answer

I agree, neither Southwest Vacations nor Disney was under any obligation to refund any portion of your vacation. The fact that Southwest had agreed to re-issue your plane tickets and theme park tickets was more than you — or I — could have asked for.

I would have let this case go, except for one thing. Disney doesn’t typically ignore requests like yours. I thought that was odd enough that I felt a little investigation on my part was warranted. The Mouse doesn’t give customers the cold shoulder, in my experience.

But before I get to Disney, let’s talk about your reservation. You booked a vacation and then went away without first checking it? Not a good idea. If your reservation is made by phone, and you’re expecting an itinerary to be mailed to you, ask your agent to repeat the dates of your stay. (Admittedly, September and December can sound the same on the phone, which is why they have paper itineraries.)

If you’re making the reservation online, give it a once-over. If you’d done that, then none of this would have happened. A mistake caught early in the process can be fixed much easier than later on, either after you return from an extended trip, and certainly, before your vacation starts.

Lost in translation in Disney dispute

I’m not suggesting this was entirely your fault. Online booking systems can be confusing. It’s easy to select the wrong date on most websites. The pull-down menus don’t behave in exactly the same way from Web browser to Web browser, so you can think you’ve selected December when, in fact, you’ve clicked September. (Related: More than $1k for an annual Disney pass? Quaaaaaack!)

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.

Similarly, many phone agents don’t speak English as a first language. This can lead to major misunderstandings when you’re reserving a trip by phone. You say September, they hear December; they say December, you hear September. The only way to be absolutely sure is to get the confirmation in writing as soon as possible — not by mail, days later. (Here’s what you need to know before you plan your next trip.)

I contacted Disney on your behalf, but as the date of your birthday celebration drew closer, neither you nor I heard anything from the company. Finally, with just days before you were supposed to leave, you heard from Southwest Vacations. It turns out Disney had responded to your request after all, but because of a communication problem between Disney and Southwest, you never got the message.

Disney waived its $500 rebooking fee and allowed you to redo your vacation.

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Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is the founder of Elliott Advocacy, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that empowers consumers to solve their problems and helps those who can't. He's the author of numerous books on consumer advocacy and writes three nationally syndicated columns. He also publishes the Elliott Report, a news site for consumers, and Elliott Confidential, a critically acclaimed newsletter about customer service. If you have a consumer problem you can't solve, contact him directly through his advocacy website. You can also follow him on X, Facebook, and LinkedIn, or sign up for his daily newsletter. He is based in Panamá City.

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