My dog is sick. My knee hurts. It’s too dangerous.
Ah, the silly reasons we give for canceling a trip, for demanding a full refund from a hotel or airline, even when the reservations are non-changeable, non-cancellable, and carved in stone.
My friends, I have heard it all, and if you could see me now, I would be holding up my hand and saying, “Talk to it.”
It’s not that the illness of a beloved pet is something to be taken lightly. For some of us, our animal companions are like kids, and I ought to know, because I have three kids and I’m owned by three high-energy Bengal cats. If you’re good, I’ll post a picture of them later.
But I’ve been on the receiving end of several heartfelt emails from travelers who insist their pet’s condition constitutes a real medical emergency and a hardship which ought to release them from their contract with a travel company. They must stay home to care for Fifi.
In a recent survey, 2 in 10 dog owners admitted to changing their vacation plans because of their dog.
To which I say: do what you must. But a sick dog is a silly reason to cancel a vacation, let alone ask for a full refund.
I mean, it’s a dog. Get a grip. Put it in a kennel and enjoy your hard-earned vacation.
What about an actual medical condition? I receive plenty of gripes about those, too. Some are unfortunate surprises, like a cancer diagnosis. But many are flare-ups of chronic conditions that could have been anticipated. The answer to both, of course, is an airtight travel insurance policy.
But not all insurance policies are airtight. Many exclude so-called “pre-existing” medical conditions, like a bad back or an inflamed knee. If you see a physician, and the diagnosis says you already had this problem, then guess what? Your insurance won’t pay.
I receive one of those complaints weekly, and it’s the same song and dance. Their travel agent assured them they’d be covered. Then, just before their trip, that bum shoulder started acting up, they had to cancel, and the insurance company turned ’em down flat. Could I help?
Usually, no amount of arguing will persuade a travel insurance company to fix the issue. And while I don’t want to downplay anyone’s medical condition, let me add one thing: You don’t cancel your vacation until you’re absolutely sure your insurance will cover your problem. Otherwise, you might want to grin and bear it, as my daddy used to say.
All of which brings me to what is perhaps the worst excuse for cancelling a vacation and demanding a full refund: It’s too dangerous.
Most recently, this happened with large groups of vacationers headed to Israel, which is fighting its war-of-the-month. I don’t say that flippantly. Israel seems to always be at war with someone (or maybe it’s more accurate to say someone seems to always be at war with Israel).
So halfway through last summer, scores of readers contacted me almost all at once, demanding full refunds for their airfares to Israel. After all, the State Department had issued a warning. Flights were being canceled. Is it really fair for a company to insist they put themselves in harm’s way?
I’m sympathetic to a situation that suddenly goes from potentially hazardous to dangerous. Here’s a related case of a river cruise to a war zone in Ukraine, which I successfully mediated.
But in the case of a destination that’s known to turn dangerous quickly, the risk should be built into the equation. Turns out no tourists were killed in Israel this summer, which is absolutely no surprise to me. In hindsight, a cancellation would have been silly. But the would-be visitors also should have known that they were vacationing in a potentially dangerous place.
Whether your pet’s sick, your back is hurting or your destination has turned into a war zone, you should think twice before calling off your vacation. You might be ending your plans for the wrong reason and with no hope of a refund.