Question: : I am going to Mexico in August with my family and am worried about the flu. I called Continental and tried to cancel my reservation, but I cannot get my money back. Continental says it's too far in the future. But I have a time share that I need to cancel now or lose my fee. I am very frightened; I have three children and a boyfriend with medical problems, so we would appreciate some advice. Whom can I call?
Answer: : Ghostbusters.
You are caught in an unfortunate and seemingly ectoplasmic event because of three tenets of travel:
No. 1: Travel providers don't refund money - at least, not very often. The last refund I got from an airline was for a flight I was supposed to take five days after 9/11. I've canceled many a flight since then, and no hard, cold cash has ever crossed my palm.
No. 2: Travel providers rarely consider fear as a reason to cancel. If there's a hurricane, they think we should sail anyway. If there's an infestation of fire-breathing ants, man up and get on that plane. They don't run their businesses on "might" and "maybe."
No. 3: Travel providers are dispositional optimists; that is, they think the sun will come out tomorrow, Annie.
And they might be right.
But they might not. And that's why there's travel insurance.
That's the good news: You can safeguard your financial investment in a vacation by buying travel insurance that covers some (but not all) situations.
The bad news? For flu coverage, you had to have bought it before April 24, generally, and even if there is a pandemic, you may not be covered if you decide to stay home.
If you have cancel-for-any-reason insurance, which is usually an optional add-on, you may be covered, but, says Chris Harvey, chief executive of Squaremouth.com, a travel insurance comparison site, you won't get back all of your money (sometimes as little as 35 percent), and it is expensive.
Harvey's not a big fan of this kind of policy, but I am, because life is so random.
Your best bet now is to sit tight and stay in contact with your airline.