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How To Get a Vacation Refund

March 6, 2013
4 mins
A young woman snuggles her pup while working on her laptop at home

It’s cold outside, and although spring is just around the corner, it seems like months away. Every year, around this time, Canadians get restless - and there's nothing greater than leaving old man winter behind for a sunny beach. But what happens if something goes wrong on your well-deserved getaway? What if your dream vacation is nothing like you planned? Can you get a vacation refund?

When That Dream Vacation Becomes a Nightmare

My partner and I went on our first vacation together in December. We went to Mexico. He’d never been on vacation, and I’d only gotten away once in my lifetime. We were very, very excited to say the least. We booked at an incredible adults only five-star resort and prepared ourselves for a week of sun, fun and spa. It was going to be incredible.

When we arrived in Mexico, the shuttle we booked wasn’t there. I’d paid ahead of time for the convenience of being whisked away upon arrival. Instead, we stood, overdressed in the beating sun, waiting impatiently. When we arrived at our destination, we were kindly told that our room was not ready. When I asked if we could leave our luggage somewhere and go grab a bite to eat, they said that it wasn’t a good idea. So we carted our luggage out into the hot sun and tried to find the nearest restaurant.

When we did finally get into our room, it wasn’t the right one. We’d used some of our resort credit to upgrade to a fancier suite. We were supposed to be facing the ocean. And we were supposed to have a hammock on our ocean-facing patio. We had neither, but the credit was non-refundable.

None of these things on their own are a big deal, but when you put them all together, it certainly makes for an unhappy situation. We decided to be lighthearted about it and enjoy our stay as much as possible.

But what if the situation had been worse? What if there was no room for us when we arrived? Unfortunately, these types of things happen all the time. In fact, some couples have experiences far worse than ours. Jean Claude and Carol Garofoli told the Toronto Star about their vacation-gone-wrong. When they arrived at their destination the hotel was entirely overbooked. After standing around and waiting for too long, the Garofolis decided to return home. They didn’t get a refund and after losing in small claims court they were forced to pay some $9,500 in legal fees as well.

Here are some tips for those who find themselves in similar situations:

Don’t Leave

Although the Garofolis were in the right, they were impatient for a solution. When the Cuban hotel staff refused to contact their tour company, the Garofolis decided to call it a day and return home. But they should have stayed. They should have called the tour company themselves. The Garofolis know that now.

Know Who To Call

In Ontario, the Travel Industry Council of Ontario (TICO) makes certain that travel agents and tour operators comply with the province’s Travel Industry Act. The organization says that, in the case of overbooking, tour operators are supposed to offer an acceptable alternative or provide a refund. If you have a dispute, contact TICO at 1-888-451-8426 or email them at

Make Sure You’re Covered

While some travel insurance will cover lost bags and cancellations, some providers will also offer trip interruption coverage. If you’re unfamiliar with the tour operator you’ve chosen, choose a provider that offers this extra coverage. You won’t regret it. Some travel rewards credit cards also include travel insurance features that can come in handy - be sure to read the fine print before take off and ensure they'll cover a worst case scenario.

Do Your Homework

Perhaps the best way to avoid these types of situations is to do your research beforehand. Thoroughly check out testimonials and reviews of the resort before you book, and be wary of deals that seem too good to be true. Although this doesn’t always guarantee the perfect vacation, it certainly can help you to weed out the bad ones. Vacation, after all, is about relaxing to the max and having a stress-free good time.  


The RATESDOTCA editorial team are experienced writers focused on sharing stories and bringing you the latest news in insurance and personal finance. Our goal is to provide Canadians with the information and resources they need to make better insurance and financial decisions.

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