I just officially cancelled my last planned tour of 2020. It’s not the outcome I was hoping for, but my family, friends, cat, and I are all alive and healthy, so life is still great.
I was planning to go on a 2 week tour of Great Britain in the fall with Mrs Lite and Mrs Lite’s momma, but it was looking increasingly likely that this vacation would need to be postponed. Trafalgar, the tour operator, recently announced that it had extended its suspension of tours worldwide through the end of August. Initially back in March the suspensions went through June 30, so they tacked on an extra 2 months to the original plan. Our departure date is mid-September, so it’s still (barely) scheduled to go as of today.
Which got me thinking. My original booking contract has a 60 day refund policy. If I cancel at least 60 days before the departure date, I can get my money back minus the deposit. Would this policy still apply if the tour company was the one doing the cancelling? My assumption was yes, of course, as long as it was still beyond the 60 day limit. So I slept easy and forgot about it.
The next day, I thought what the hell, it won’t hurt to email Trafalgar customer service and confirm the cancellation policy. I hear back the following day, and this is what I get:
Son of a bitch. So if I cancel proactively, I can get most of my money back. But if they cancel on me and I still want to go, I’m not eligible for a refund and can only get a future travel voucher, which is great unless the company ceases to exist a year from now.
As soon as I read this email, Mrs Lite and I put our heads together and very quickly decided to scrap the vacation and pocket the money. We did lose our deposit, which was a little under 10% of the total price, but it was a small price to pay for all the benefits of a cash refund.
Moral of the story? If you’re not absolutely certain about something, ask! Ask multiple times if you need to. This was the third time over the last few months I emailed Trafalgar requesting information about the refund requirements, and the third response was different from the first two. At some point, the company was probably hemorrhaging so much cash that they decided to alter their terms & conditions, consequences be damned (Intrepid and Top Deck did the same thing). I’m really, really glad that I made the decision to send that email; otherwise I might have been out of luck like many others who could not get refunds.
A word for all of you who are dealing with similar issues: just because the company itself acts in a shady manner does not mean the low level employees are shady. Trafalgar customer service has been excellent, and when I called to put in my refund request, the lady I talked to was super nice and helpful. We’re all frustrated, but please don’t act like a dick when you’re speaking with people who have absolutely nothing to do with the corporation’s ultimate decision making. Whether it’s been with Trafalgar, Expedia, Delta, or United, I’ve had nothing but friendly service when speaking with the representatives (when I’m able to get through). Please be kind and remember that these are regular people on the other end of the phone.