Boarding Pass

By David Tykol
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Please login or subscribe to ITN to read the entire post.

Dear Globetrotter:
Welcome to the 366th issue of your monthly overseas travel magazine.

98.5% of ITN subscribers have passports. (With your fellow readers, you’re in good company. No other magazine can claim such a high percentage.) So for most of you, the following reminder will merely be something to tell your friends.

If you’re scheduled to take a trip that has you, on or after Dec. 31 of this year, returning to the United States by air or sea from Canada, Mexico, Central or South America, the Caribbean or Bermuda, you will need to have a passport.

A year later, on Dec. 31, 2007, everyone crossing into the U.S., whether by air or sea or on land, will be required to have a passport.

Here’s some advice which may help you avoid an argument, let alone save you big bucks.
Over the years, I have read many letters from readers with complaints about travel firms, and in several of them — involving refunds not being made for canceled trips — the problem often could have been avoided by taking one simple step.

If you’re canceling a tour or cruise, don’t simply do it over the phone. Cancel in writing. Fax it. E-mail it. Send it first-class post. Do all three. Just be sure to get written word to the company. And keep a copy.
A few days can make a big difference in the percentage of refund you receive, so you can telephone if you want, for expediency, but follow up with a letter, making sure to refer to the phone call. (The date the letter is received still may be considered the official cutoff date.)

In a letter ITN received recently, a couple booked a cruise for over $2,750 and purchased travel insurance, then had to cancel the trip for medical reasons. The husband said that the booking agency “was informed that the trip needed to be canceled” upon the advice of his doctor.

The couple ended up receiving from the insurance company $900 but got nothing from the booking agency nor the cruise line.

The booking agency, in their reply to ITN, claimed that the husband, in a few phone conversations, had only inquired about the consequences of canceling the trip but never specifically notified the agency that they were not taking the cruise, not even after being sent all documentation, including international airline tickets.

The agency wrote to ITN, “As you are aware, the insurance covers all penalties imposed by a vendor at the time of cancellation. Any portion that is not in penalty will be refunded to (this agency) by the vendor (the cruise line). At that point, we will in turn refund the client. Of course, for this to occur the client must cancel with (this agency).
“. . . those penalties only occurred as the client did not cancel.”

If you notify a company in a phone call that you’re canceling a trip, understand that it is extremely easy for miscommunication to occur. Plus you don’t know if your message will be successfully passed along. And there is no proof that you canceled.

In such cases that I have reviewed, whether or not there was a misunderstanding, an honest mistake by either party or deliberate shenanigans, a written notice of cancellation — sent as soon as possible — would have provided that proof.

By the way, it bears mentioning that because of the articles written by Contributing Editor Wayne Wirtanen, ITN readers are better equipped to make decisions about travel insurance than the readers of ANY other periodical.
Wayne has been writing on the ins and outs of the travel insurance industry for ITN since May 1991, presenting details on this complicated topic in language that is straightforward and understandable. You will want to read his provocative advice in this issue (page 52); it is hardly run-of-the-mill.

Ben Mott of Welsh, Louisiana, recalls reading a news item somewhere but now can’t find it, so he’s hoping ITN readers can provide answers.

Can you name any country that, because of present world conditions, has made it illegal for travelers to take pictures of its citizens? Have any of you had your camera confiscated by officials for taking pictures of locals? Where was this and when were you traveling there?
If you have information on any such places, write to ITN’s editorial offices.

Not so many months ago ITN received a letter from a reader with a complaint about a travel firm. As usual, we sent a copy of the letter to the company, requesting a reply in a few weeks (we allow extra time for firms overseas). In this case, the company replied in a month.

ITN staff then reviewed the reader’s letter and the company’s reply and it was determined that our subscribers would benefit from reading about the issue, hearing both sides and noting the lessons that could be derived. We were able to print the matter in the next issue of the magazine.

The day after the issue went to press, I was catching up on my mail and came across a letter from the reader who had sent us the complaint. She informed us that since “two full publication cycles” had passed without her letter having appeared in ITN, she had “come to the reluctant conclusion that this information” was not to be shared with ITN readers.

I wrote back and assured her that not only was her letter in the very next issue but it would not have been possible to have printed it any sooner.

I explained that some readers wonder why a letter they have sent to ITN does not appear in the next issue they receive a whole three or four weeks later. They are not aware that a monthly magazine has, at the least, a 2-month “lead time.” (You’re reading the August issue, but I’m writing this in June. By the time we complete the issue, get it printed and then have the copies labeled and finally mailed, they will begin arriving in our subscribers’ mailboxes, hopefully, just before August.)

In her reply, the reader apologized for not exercising proper patience and admitted being unaware of the 2-month lead time. She then wisely suggested that we inform our “non-industry-savvy readers” of that, adding, “This would go a long way in staving off unrealistic expectations.”

So now when we inform letter writers that we are sending a copy of their complaint to the company in question, we mention that we allow several weeks for the company to reply, that ITN has a 2-month lead time and that any letters that are chosen to be printed may not be printed immediately.

While it is not possible to publish in ITN every letter submitted, any number of things can keep a letter from being printed sooner. Two important holdups are easily avoided: 1) the letter is too long and 2) information is missing.
1. Keep your letter short. Rather than an hour-by-hour account of your trip, pick out the best and worst facets of your experience and write only about those, plus any travel tips or warnings. If you have a lot that you want your fellow world travelers to know, break it up into shorter letters that can run separately.

2. Aside from including your mailing address (where you receive ITN), there are three things we ask for with any letter: “When was your trip (dates, please)?”, “How much did your meal/room/tour/cruise/guide, etc., cost?” and “What contact information do you have for the company/guide/hotel/rental firm, etc., you’re writing about?”
If we do write back and ask you a question, please reply as soon as possible. A delayed response or no response at all may result in your letter’s not being printed.

ITN “keeps it in the family,” printing articles and letters from its subscribers only. We know you’re watching out for each other, just as the reader above was eager to do when she wrote about the problem she had.

As Linda Horne of Ocala, Florida, wrote about ITN, “It is so nice to get the traveler’s perspective on different places and not just read views coming from parties interested in selling their product or country.”

For a copy of ITN’s writer guidelines (a longer version of points 1. and 2. above plus encouragement on sending photos), check out our website or write to the 28th Street address. — David Tykol, Editor

Please login or subscribe to ITN to read the entire post.

Dear Globetrotter:
Welcome to the 366th issue of your monthly overseas travel magazine.

98.5% of ITN subscribers have passports. (With your fellow readers, you’re in good company. No other magazine can claim such a high percentage.) So for most of you, the following reminder will merely be something to tell your friends.

If you’re scheduled to take a trip that has you, on or after Dec. 31 of this year, returning to the United States by air or sea from Canada, Mexico, Central or South America, the Caribbean or Bermuda, you will need to have a passport.

A year later, on Dec. 31, 2007, everyone crossing into the U.S., whether by air or sea or on land, will be required to have a passport.

Here’s some advice which may help you avoid an argument, let alone save you big bucks.
Over the years, I have read many letters from readers with complaints about travel firms, and in several of them — involving refunds not being made for canceled trips — the problem often could have been avoided by taking one simple step.

If you’re canceling a tour or cruise, don’t simply do it over the phone. Cancel in writing. Fax it. E-mail it. Send it first-class post. Do all three. Just be sure to get written word to the company. And keep a copy.
A few days can make a big difference in the percentage of refund you receive, so you can telephone if you want, for expediency, but follow up with a letter, making sure to refer to the phone call. (The date the letter is received still may be considered the official cutoff date.)

In a letter ITN received recently, a couple booked a cruise for over $2,750 and purchased travel insurance, then had to cancel the trip for medical reasons. The husband said that the booking agency “was informed that the trip needed to be canceled” upon the advice of his doctor.

The couple ended up receiving from the insurance company $900 but got nothing from the booking agency nor the cruise line.

The booking agency, in their reply to ITN, claimed that the husband, in a few phone conversations, had only inquired about the consequences of canceling the trip but never specifically notified the agency that they were not taking the cruise, not even after being sent all documentation, including international airline tickets.

The agency wrote to ITN, “As you are aware, the insurance covers all penalties imposed by a vendor at the time of cancellation. Any portion that is not in penalty will be refunded to (this agency) by the vendor (the cruise line). At that point, we will in turn refund the client. Of course, for this to occur the client must cancel with (this agency).
“. . . those penalties only occurred as the client did not cancel.”

If you notify a company in a phone call that you’re canceling a trip, understand that it is extremely easy for miscommunication to occur. Plus you don’t know if your message will be successfully passed along. And there is no proof that you canceled.

In such cases that I have reviewed, whether or not there was a misunderstanding, an honest mistake by either party or deliberate shenanigans, a written notice of cancellation — sent as soon as possible — would have provided that proof.

By the way, it bears mentioning that because of the articles written by Contributing Editor Wayne Wirtanen, ITN readers are better equipped to make decisions about travel insurance than the readers of ANY other periodical.
Wayne has been writing on the ins and outs of the travel insurance industry for ITN since May 1991, presenting details on this complicated topic in language that is straightforward and understandable. You will want to read his provocative advice in this issue (page 52); it is hardly run-of-the-mill.

Ben Mott of Welsh, Louisiana, recalls reading a news item somewhere but now can’t find it, so he’s hoping ITN readers can provide answers.

Can you name any country that, because of present world conditions, has made it illegal for travelers to take pictures of its citizens? Have any of you had your camera confiscated by officials for taking pictures of locals? Where was this and when were you traveling there?
If you have information on any such places, write to ITN’s editorial offices.

Not so many months ago ITN received a letter from a reader with a complaint about a travel firm. As usual, we sent a copy of the letter to the company, requesting a reply in a few weeks (we allow extra time for firms overseas). In this case, the company replied in a month.

ITN staff then reviewed the reader’s letter and the company’s reply and it was determined that our subscribers would benefit from reading about the issue, hearing both sides and noting the lessons that could be derived. We were able to print the matter in the next issue of the magazine.

The day after the issue went to press, I was catching up on my mail and came across a letter from the reader who had sent us the complaint. She informed us that since “two full publication cycles” had passed without her letter having appeared in ITN, she had “come to the reluctant conclusion that this information” was not to be shared with ITN readers.

I wrote back and assured her that not only was her letter in the very next issue but it would not have been possible to have printed it any sooner.

I explained that some readers wonder why a letter they have sent to ITN does not appear in the next issue they receive a whole three or four weeks later. They are not aware that a monthly magazine has, at the least, a 2-month “lead time.” (You’re reading the August issue, but I’m writing this in June. By the time we complete the issue, get it printed and then have the copies labeled and finally mailed, they will begin arriving in our subscribers’ mailboxes, hopefully, just before August.)

In her reply, the reader apologized for not exercising proper patience and admitted being unaware of the 2-month lead time. She then wisely suggested that we inform our “non-industry-savvy readers” of that, adding, “This would go a long way in staving off unrealistic expectations.”

So now when we inform letter writers that we are sending a copy of their complaint to the company in question, we mention that we allow several weeks for the company to reply, that ITN has a 2-month lead time and that any letters that are chosen to be printed may not be printed immediately.

While it is not possible to publish in ITN every letter submitted, any number of things can keep a letter from being printed sooner. Two important holdups are easily avoided: 1) the letter is too long and 2) information is missing.
1. Keep your letter short. Rather than an hour-by-hour account of your trip, pick out the best and worst facets of your experience and write only about those, plus any travel tips or warnings. If you have a lot that you want your fellow world travelers to know, break it up into shorter letters that can run separately.

2. Aside from including your mailing address (where you receive ITN), there are three things we ask for with any letter: “When was your trip (dates, please)?”, “How much did your meal/room/tour/cruise/guide, etc., cost?” and “What contact information do you have for the company/guide/hotel/rental firm, etc., you’re writing about?”
If we do write back and ask you a question, please reply as soon as possible. A delayed response or no response at all may result in your letter’s not being printed.

ITN “keeps it in the family,” printing articles and letters from its subscribers only. We know you’re watching out for each other, just as the reader above was eager to do when she wrote about the problem she had.

As Linda Horne of Ocala, Florida, wrote about ITN, “It is so nice to get the traveler’s perspective on different places and not just read views coming from parties interested in selling their product or country.”

For a copy of ITN’s writer guidelines (a longer version of points 1. and 2. above plus encouragement on sending photos), check out our website or write to the 28th Street address. — David Tykol, Editor