‘Lesson learned’ after hubby’s bike mishap

  • By Christopher Elliott
  • Thursday, June 16, 2016 1:06pm
  • Life

Q: I need your help with an Avalon Waterways trip from Amsterdam to Brussels that I booked through Vacations To Go. A few days before we were supposed to leave, my husband was in a serious biking accident. He spent two days in the intensive care unit.

My husband had two small brain bleeds. His cognition is now intact, but he has many physical problems, including broken ribs, a broken nose, multiple stitches to his face and a swollen knee.

For the first time, we did not get travel insurance — a lesson learned. We were going to Europe with friends to celebrate 50 years of friendship. They left this morning.

I have been given the runaround, as one company blames the other for not helping. I am dealing with representatives from our travel agency and our tour operator, but I’m being batted back and forth. American Airlines was kind enough to refund the frequent-flier miles we used for the trip, but it looks like I’ll lose 80 percent of our trip. Avalon has offered to refund only $1,500 for a $6,700 trip.

I’d like to do the trip next year. Can you help me recover some of the money we spent on this trip?

— Mara Bronstone, Los Altos Hills, California

A: You’re right, travel insurance could have helped you, but there’s no guarantee. For example, some policies have named exclusions that specifically state that pre-existing medical conditions aren’t covered. If your husband had an illness that suddenly flared up, you might still be asking your tour operator for help — and still looking at losing 80 percent of your vacation.

The terms of your cruise were clear. If you cancel less than 30 days but more than one day before your trip, you forfeit 80 percent of what you paid. If you’re within one day of traveling, you usually get nothing back. You can see the terms and conditions on the Avalon site here: http://www.avalonwaterways.com/terms/. As far as terms go, these are pretty good. Remember, the closer to departure you cancel, the more likely it is that the cabin you reserved will go unoccupied, so the tour operator loses money.

Still, Avalon should have at least taken your personal circumstances into account. After all, when something goes wrong with one of its cruises, like low water levels, it reserves the right to either cancel the tour or transfer you to a bus, turning your riverboat tour into a bus tour. It expects passengers to understand. Why shouldn’t it work the other way around?

Several efforts to reach out to your travel agent ended in frustration. Vacations To Go repeatedly asked Avalon to waive some of its rules on your behalf, but it refused. You also sent a brief, polite email to the company, asking it to consider a one-time exception to its rule. (I publish a list of the executive contacts for Avalon on my consumer-advocacy site: http://elliott.org/company-contacts/avalon-waterways/.) The company eventually agreed to offer you a 75 percent credit that is good for two years. You’re happy with that outcome.

Next time, get the insurance.

Christopher Elliott is author of “How to Be the World’s Smartest Traveler.” You can read more travel tips on his blog, elliott.org, or email him at chris@elliott.org

(c) 2016 Christopher Elliott. Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.

More in Life

Beer of the Week: Scuttlebutt’s Night Circus

The Everett brewery’s head brewer had nightmares trying to dial in its new coffee and coconut ale.

Viognier: French white grape gaining foothold in Washington

Viognier, the noble white grape of the northern Rhône Valley of France,… Continue reading

Curries continues home-cooked Indian cuisine at new location

The restaurant, now located on Evergreen Way, also puts an Indian spin on Northwest cooking.

New documentary chronicles Obama’s last year in White House

“The Final Year” doesn’t paint the administration in rosy colors, but it isn’t too critical either.

‘Forever My Girl’ takes a page from the Nicholas Sparks genre

The film based on a novel by Heidi McLaughlin is a well-worn tale of lost love and redemption.

Christian Bale seems to channel Clint Eastwood in ‘Hostiles’

Bale plays a U.S. cavalry captain who escorts a dying Cheyenne chief to his tribal homeland.

International guitar tour led by Lulo Reinhardt stops in Edmonds

International Guitar Night, now in its 18th year, is Jan. 24 at the Edmonds Center for the Arts.

The latest on Snohomish County’s breweries, wineries and distilleries.

recreated one of those old recipes, brewing Tennant’s 1954 Gold Label Barleywine

New Cascadia Art Museum exhibit showcases mid-century designs

The exhibition includes ceramics, furniture, clothing, sculpture and jewelry from 1948 to 1966.

Most Read