In life nothing is guaranteed – that includes trips you’ve carefully planned for months.
After finally being able to get the necessary time off, booking a Carnival cruise, and paying for the cruise, flight, and hotel in 2017 – I was excited to go on my FIRST cruise in January 2018 with my family. It would have been their first cruise as well and our first real family vacation (that did not involve visiting other family members). It was also going to be a birthday trip for me and my brother. This trip was going to be HUGE! Then winter storm Grayson hit the Northeast and our flight to Tampa got cancelled. Stranded and upset, but still hopeful, I called JetBlue multiple times trying to get on an alternate flight. We checked flights out of other nearby airports and I tried other airlines, and … nothing. There was no way to get our party of three to Tampa in time to board the Carnival Paradise. And with that, months of planning, anticipation, and excitement were replaced with cold disappointment.
But I’m not here for taking life’s setbacks lying down in 2018. So, what can I learn from this experience? And, what can I share with others who may one day find themselves in a similar situation?
My first point of reflection is to be courteous to customer service people. Just because your plans are falling part does not mean you get to project your anger onto the agent on the phone. They are not mutants or magicians, they cannot change or control the weather. Before you call your airline, hotel, cruise line, etc., take a moment to calm down, do not call them angry, yelling, and rude. You can get more information, better help, and start your refund process faster if you are level headed and can clearly communicate with the person on the other side of the phone.
If you are like me and it is your flight that gets cancelled, call the airline to figure out alternate flights or for a refund. My personal advice is to be mindful of airline policies before you buy your tickets. I have flown on A LOT of airlines. I have had horrible experiences with several other airlines. (I won’t name them.) Good service and great customer service really stands out to me. (Along with good snacks, but that’s a different blog post. Stay tuned!) Part of the reason I chose to fly with JetBlue was that, travel insurance or no travel insurance, based on previous experiences I was familiar with their travel policies and had a sense of how I would be accommodated and serviced if my flight was delayed or cancelled. For this situation, their policy is, “if a customer’s JetBlue flight is cancelled by JetBlue (non-operational) due to a system disruption, such as weather, and no other alternate flights are acceptable, customers can opt for a full refund without penalty.” For more information on airline cancellations, check out this article and your individual airline policies.
For other kinds of travel, and even for some flights, travel insurance may be a good option to protect your money. If you have strong reasons to believe your trip might be in danger of getting cancelled BEFORE you travel, I would recommend travel insurance. For example, we purchased travel insurance for our cruise to the Caribbean because we booked our trip shortly after hurricanes Harvey and Maria, and we were not sure if our cruise destinations would be hit by future hurricanes or recover in time if they were. At the time it seemed like a logical option given how uncertain and devastating the weather was in the region. Make sure to read over the travel policy, or ask the booking agent for more information, and then really take a big picture perspective to decide if travel insurance is a good option for you.
My final point of reflection, is re-group, re-plan, and try again. To regroup – the first order of business (if you can’t save any part of your trip) is to make any additional cancellations and get as much refunded as possible. Next, re-plan your trip. This may require re-booking a different hotel or cruise or flight. Whatever it requires, plan another trip. Try again! Don’t let your cancellation get you too far down.