Canceling trip? Tell money 'hasta la vista'

travel q&a

canceling journeys

March 29, 2009|By Catharine Hamm | Catharine Hamm,Los Angeles Times

I am a 22-year-old college student who decided it would be wonderful to go to Cancun, Mexico, for spring break. In light of the recent events (kidnappings and murders), I have since decided that Cancun is not the ideal destination and have begun the process of canceling this trip. I would love a refund for my airline ticket. How do I do that?

You probably don't. The least expensive airline tickets generally are nonrefundable (and nontransferable), so if you have to cancel you usually can get a credit, which can be good for as long as a year.

If you feel Mexico may be out of the question for a while because of safety issues, we feel your pain. We really do. But in all likelihood you can say "hasta la vista" to that money.

One of the harsh realities of the no-safety-net world of travel is this: You either have to read the very fine print about refunds (dull but important) and buy your ticket accordingly or purchase cancel-for-any-reason insurance (also dull but important and not inexpensive, to boot).

My colleague Jane Engle, a longtime travel consumer reporter, always counsels me to buy insurance for any trip I can't afford to eat - which, for me, is pretty much every trip. I haven't always taken her advice, so I've had a few ticket banquets.

But you can skip the smorgasbord by back-grounding yourself on any foreign destination you're considering, no matter how safe you think it is. Start with the State Department's site,, where you'll find the Feb. 20 alert on Mexico. That one superseded the alert of October 2008, which superseded the alert issued in October 2007.

"Too many young people go away with friends during holiday time and leave their brains at home," says Susan Tanzman, owner of Martin's Travel in Los Angeles and the mother of two grown sons.

Still, a spring-break trip in Mexico "can be done safely," says John Rendeiro, vice president for global security and intelligence for International SOS, which helps travelers with, among other things, medical and security concerns abroad. "Plan your trip, be careful about side trips off the beaten track, travel in daylight hours only and you can mitigate a lot of the risk."

Catharine Hamm Los Angeles Times

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