Q: Back in 2019, I made a reservation for me and my wife to go on Vantage Travel’s “Croatia & Culinary Gems of the Adriatic Coast” tour. Other members of our family were also planning to join us on this trip. I made the final payment of $20,655 for our trip in October 2019.
As part of the cost of the trip, I paid $999 per person for a “cancel for any reason” travel insurance policy from Trip Mate. Part of the reason I had booked it was in case my sister-in-law’s cancer returned. Unfortunately, it did, and she died before the trip.
In early 2020, we canceled our tour and initiated a refund request through Vantage Travel. I also submitted a claim to Trip Mate. Because of the pandemic, Vantage canceled our tour before its scheduled departure.
Trip Mate reviewed the claim and approved it in mid-2020 but said payment would be made by Vantage.
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I have emailed Vantage multiple times and have made several phone calls. Twice on those phone calls, a representative provided the projected dates of when we would receive a refund. However, we have not received any refund or a written assurance as to when we will receive one. Can you help me get my $20,655 back? — David Maddox, Arlington, Virginia
A: I’m so sorry about the loss of your sister-in-law.
You should have received a quick refund on your prepaid, nonrefundable expenses after Trip Mate approved your claim. I don’t know why you didn’t, but I know you aren’t alone. Many travelers had the same problem during the early days of the pandemic. It was a confusing time.
You handled this one by the book. You bought the correct insurance for your needs. A “cancel for any reason” policy will allow you to cancel your vacation for any reason and receive a partial refund. But, some restrictions apply. Your Trip Mate policy, however, was a little different from the standard “cancel for any reason” policy. It lets you cancel, and you’ll receive your entire prepaid, nonrefundable trip cost “in the form of a Vantage Travel Certificate for the cancellation penalty amount.”
So, the best you could have done was a voucher. But, Vantage also canceled your cruise. In that situation, you should have had a choice between a voucher and a refund. It looks like things got confused between your claim, the Vantage cancellation and your refund request.
I publish the names, numbers and email addresses of the Vantage executives on my consumer advocacy site at www.elliott.org/company-contacts/vantage-deluxe-world-travel/. A brief, polite email to one of them might have “un-confused” the process.
Bottom line: You should not have to wait years for a company to refund your purchase.
I contacted Vantage on your behalf, and it refunded your cruise.
Christopher Elliott is the ombudsman for National Geographic Traveler magazine. You can read more travel tips on his blog, elliott.org, or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org