Military families are used to having their travel plans changed at the last minute, whether it is due to world events or just random happenings. The current situation is no different, and service providers are responding with a wide variety of policies. It almost seems like military families are even hearing different answers when asking the same question of the same company, which is a great sign that there can be room for wiggle room.
So what's the best way to try and salvage as much of your money as possible after your travel plans are canceled by Uncle Sam, world events or a combination? Here are four ways you might be able to get some help.
The Service Provider
The first place to start is with the service provider, whether that's an airline, hotel, safari (lucky you!) or theme park. Call and ask for a refund, and don't be shy about pointing out that your travel plans were changed or cancelled because of the military's stop movement order (if that's true, of course.)
It can be hard to tell when a company really isn't offering refunds, or whether they're just trying to retain the sale by offering you a credit or future service. You might have to be a little assertive and say that you don't want a credit, you want a refund. Obviously, don't be mean or rude, just the slightest bit forceful to figure out what options are going to be available through the carrier.
If you don't have luck there, you might need to go back and look at your original purchase receipt or contract to see if you can find any loopholes.
And then call again, and talk to someone else. It's frustrating when that gives you a different result, but this isn't about the process. It's about the desired end state: money back in your account.
Travel Agent or Booking Company
If you aren't getting anywhere with the service provider, and you've used a third party like a travel agent or booking company, move on to their customer service department for help. They may have additional clout with the provider, or they may have other options.
If it's a large company, definitely do the "call back and try again" routine, giving it a shot with a different representative. The only cost is your time (and patience).
Hopefully, you purchased travel insurance if this was a trip of any size. The problem with travel insurance is that different plans cover different reasons for cancellations, and your particular insurance may not cover cancelled military leave or global pandemics. Definitely call, review your policy language and figure out all the possible angles.
And again, if you get a "no," call back and try again.
There are two paths that you can pursue if you booked your travel with a credit card. First, check to see if your credit card includes any travel insurance. Check online for details, and then call the customer service number for more information.
Second, you may be able to dispute the charges if the services were not provided. This can require that you exhaust your other options first. For example, Navy Federal's dispute process asks what response you've received from the company. That means you're supposed to at least contact the original company before you dispute your credit card charge.
You won't always be able to get a refund, or even a credit, but most companies (especially the larger ones) are trying to make people happy. Smaller companies or complex packages may not have the money to make all the refunds requested. It's also important to know that even if you are going to get a refund, it may take weeks for that refund to actually be issued.
These are strange times, my friends, and many of us have had to cancel our travel plans. If you follow these steps, hopefully you'll be able to get the largest refunds and credits that can be squeezed out of these cancelled trips.
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