Experts urge caution when booking vacation in order to avoid cancellation fees

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — As vacation destinations reopen and companies offer extremely low prices to entice travelers, you’ll want to do your research before you book.

Ty Hayes and his wife, along with two friends, found themselves fighting a $200 cancellation fee after their June trip to Hawaii didn’t happen because of travel restrictions.

“I feel like I’m being penalized for a pandemic that unfortunately nobody, including me, could prepare for,” Hayes said.

Hayes booked his trip through Indianapolis-based Caldwell Travel, which worked with a vendor in Hawaii, Blue Sky Tours, to secure the hotel and rental car. According to Caldwell Travel owner Tom Dusing and Hayes, Blue Sky Tours would not refund the cancellation fee, even after Hawaii instituted restrictions that made the trip impossible.

Dusing said that his staff had spent virtually all of their time since March cancelling trips and in most cases, companies waived fees, but often not until close to the date of the trip.

“Most of our suppliers have been really accommodating and really have gone above and beyond what they needed to do,” Dusing said.

FOX59 reached out to Blue Sky Tours via email for comment and has not yet heard back. Hours after our inquiry, Dusing said he received word that the company would refund Hayes’ fees.

As travel restrictions begin to lift in many areas, low rates could entice you to book a trip later this year. Dusing suggested working with a travel agency or looking into travel insurance, in case those restrictions go back into place or COVID-19 causes you to cancel. He said many companies are revising their policies, so if you do book your own trip or travel insurance, you should get a copy of the terms and conditions and make sure the pandemic is covered.

“Most of the suppliers are … saying you can apply (a credit) to a trip between now and 2022, so they’re giving you a lot more flexibility, but most of them are still non-refundable and that’s why I would really recommend the travel insurance,” Dusing said.

Betsy DeNardi, Director of Consumer Protection at the Indiana Attorney General’s Office, agreed with Dusing, saying her office has heard from Hoosiers about cancellation fees and expects it could receive more complaints in the coming months.

“It’s going to depend policy to policy, which is why you should always ask questions and review the documents before you make a decision to pay for either a trip or a service or anything like that,” DeNardi said.

Dusing did expect some Hoosiers to begin booking trips soon.

“Walt Disney World down in Florida is going to be opening back up in July, we’ve got the hotels in Las Vegas are starting to open up next week, so we’re starting to get a few people that are contacting us with requests,” Dusing said.

For Hayes’ part, he still wants to take the trip to Hawaii but does not expect to do so anytime soon.

“For me, I’m just not planning any other trips this year, that’s just me,” Hayes said.

If you run into an issue with a company related to cancellations or any other dispute, you can file a complaint with the Indiana Attorney General’s Office at the link here.

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