General Travel Question About Cancellation Policies

Afternoon Everyone!
I have a question but I wanted to go ahead and start by apologizing that this is not about Universal or Disney. So many of you travel and I am wondering if some of you may know something about cancellation policies that I don’t. I apologize if this is not appropriate, but I did not know of any other travel forums to go to.
2 years ago I paid for my son to go on a trip to Belize. It was an immersion trip through “Classroom Worldwide” and one of the teachers at his school was going to chaperone the trip. The school did not organize it; but the company did. He was supposed to go this June. We got an email Tuesday saying the trip is cancelled. Our only options were to 1. Put our money toward a travel voucher to an Ireland trip in 2021 or 2) Get a refund, but be charged a $500 cancellation fee.
The company did not share any information about the Ireland trip; no cost, itinerary, nothing. My son is not sure he wants to go to Ireland as he was looking forward to the cave tubing and zip lining in Belize and has no interest in castles and river tours of Ireland. He is 15 and does not yet appreciate natural beauty and history. :laughing:
That being said, does anyone (from your experience travelling) know anything about charging cancellation fees to people when the company is the one that cancelled the trip? Charging us $500 for asking for our money back does not seem morally correct, esp when we are working through the COVID-19 times where people are losing their jobs. Do you have any suggestions for things I can look into, or things I can point out to the company when I call to fight the cancellation fee?
Again, so sorry if this is not appropriate here but I know everyone on these forums travel more than I have and am hoping someone may have experience with cancellation policies when the company cancels and not the consumer. Thanks so much, everyone!

I understand that it is not a school sponsored trip, but is it organized by a tour company like EF Tours?

I am asking because there has been a lot of discussion among school district leaders in my state since all out of state travel was restricted for schools. Is your school trying to help at all?

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When I emailed the school principal he is saying it is an outside company and the school has nothing to do with it. He just allowed the company to pass out fliers to the students so they could sign up for the trip if they wanted. I do believe it is a touring company.

I never, ever say this: contact the district’s superintendent’ office. They might not do anything but it is a known issue.

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Thank you! I had not thought of this. You gave me something totally new to think about. If fliers were passed out at the school, and one of the people hosting the event is a teacher at the school, it seems like the school endorsed the company.
I hate to get people in trouble, but I am sure there are other families that are being hurt by this. Thanks again so much!

I know that some districts in my state have been asking our Attorney General can help. I do not know if anyone is getting anywhere with this issue, but I know it is a big issue. Please know, you are not alone!

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Ugh. I did some poking around and looks like it is EF Tours and that’s in their booking terms.

Yeah, I think the only hope is if enough school districts protest that it is not an equitable solution and they will no longer be allowed to promote on campuses if they don’t make more of an effort to do right by their customers as so many others in the travel industry are doing. And that they will make sure other districts throughout the state are made aware.

It’s going to make me look twice before I ever book a tour package through anyone again that the credit can’t be used for anything remotely similar to the original itinerary.

The Sign Up Today button took me to

What happens if EF has to cancel or modify a tour?
EF retains the right to cancel, modify, or delay the tour as a result of unforeseeable events that are beyond EF’s reasonable control, including but not limited to, acts of God, war (whether declared or undeclared), terrorist activities or threats of terrorists activities, instability in a destination country, incidents of violence, public health issues or quarantine or threats of public health issues, substantial currency fluctuations, strikes, government restrictions, fire or severe weather conditions, or any other reason that makes it impossible or commercially unreasonable in the sole opinion of EF to conduct the tour as originally contracted. If EF cancels the tour for any such reason, travelers will receive an EF future travel voucher for all monies paid, less the $95 non-refundable deposit and any additional non-refundable fees. Cancellation by EF for causes described in this section shall not be a violation of its obligations to any traveler.

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So that says $95. I think OP is stuck for that.

Where does the $500 come into play?

Travel voucher, not a refund, apparently only good against a completely different destination.

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The travel vouchers are a major issue. What happens if a senior has a trip booked?

I first heard of this issue in March. One company in our area settled. The fight continues with a few others.

thanks for pointing that out. I read it but obviously didn’t retain it LOL

Yep, and that would have been me if we planned one of those for our kids. It wouldn’t have occurred to me how that would actually work out. And even without this situation, with international travel a number of the listed situations aren’t that far fetched.

Did you happen to pay for this using a credit card that has travel benefits? The travel insurance that many of these cards provides may kick in here. Second, contact other parents who had signed their children up for the trip - one voice is easier to ignore than many. Finally, if you want to put in the effort, reach out to local newspapers/TV stations, as they often have consumer affairs reporters who look into these things and provide additional leverage.

However, at the end of the day it comes down to the contract you signed with the travel company - if they are giving you back what the contract says they should then you don’t have much recourse. When planning trips I always work out how much I would lose in the event of a cancellation and determine if I am willing to risk that amount. If I am not willing to take the risk, then I look into travel insurance to bring it down to an acceptable level, and I always make sure to use my Chase Sapphire Reserve to pay for travel costs to get its automatic insurance coverage.

They need to give you more specifics on the Ireland trip. Maybe if you knew all the details you’d see it in a different light. I recognize that it is not at all what you wanted to do, but $500 is an awfully big penalty. I’m hoping you can get a better deal, maybe a refund, but if not Ireland might be more intriguing than you initially think—but they owe it to you to give you more specifics.

This is how most land tour operators have handled Covid Cancels. Land tours like this are a lot of work for many people - not as simple as a Disney trip or a cruise - so they are offering the Travel Vouchers for you to travel later or a fee, to really cover the people that were working hard behind the scenes. It could be there were fees associated with the hotels or tour companies they were booking with as well. I know that sometimes you can fight this with the tour operator and many have mentioned that when travel comes back, they might work with people that cant use the Vouchers, but right now this is industry standard.

Very thankful now we did not sign the granddaughter up for the Italy tour. Sorry you’re going through this.