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Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Travel insurance would have helped


The morning of our departure, our son, who has Down syndrome, woke up with the flu. We can't leave our son with caregivers when he is sick, so we immediately called the airline and the hotel to cancel our reservations.

The woman who took the call at the hotel canceled the reservation and gave us a contact number for the customer care department to confirm the cancellation. But after two months, the credit did not appear on our Visa card, so I called the hotel.

This started a very long process of several phone calls and hours on the telephone, until I spoke to someone directly in the Marriott corporate accounting department. They informed me that a credit had been issued to Marriott Vacations' travel agency, and that I needed to contact the agency. I did, but I haven't heard back from them. Can you help?— Kelly Strong, Ames, Iowa

A: If Marriott promised you a refund, then you should have received one. I'm not convinced it ever offered one.

When you called the hotel to cancel, and it passed you along to Marriott Vacations, someone should have advised you that your hotel room was nonrefundable. So are your airline tickets.

It's possible that someone decided to make an exception because of your son's health, but simply referring you to the refunds department at Marriott Vacations doesn't mean your refund is a sure thing.

Marriott Vacations should have recommended travel insurance, particularly since you have a child with special needs. You could have made a claim and received a full refund from your insurance company.

You also spent a lot of time on the phone when you probably would have been better off writing to Marriott. A brief, polite e-mail allows you to succinctly state your case and it is easily forwarded to a manager, if your request is rejected the first time.

It was generous of Marriott to offer a full refund of your vacation, but it would have been even more generous if it had actually issued the refund to you. I contacted the company on your behalf. A representative contacted you, apologized for the delay and refunded $1,041 to your Visa card.

Christopher Elliott is the ombudsman for National Geographic Traveler magazine. You can read more travel tips on his blog, elliott.org, or e-mail him at celliott@ngs.org.

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