The best way to prepare for your trip overseas is by booking on American travel sites because they stand behind their promise. If you live outside of the USA use your local travel agencies that are registered in your country, offer warranty and have a good customer satisfaction.
Learn from my experience: I booked a trip to Costa Rica seven months in advance. I am my own travel planner and “travel agent”so I put this customized 10-day self-drive tour together. First I planned the road trip (mapped the country) then booked rooms in the cities we were going to visit. I used different travel sites to take advantage of all possible deals and promotions but I used American agencies for each reservation. It was important to fish for deals since we were traveling during the winter holidays, spending both Christmas and New Year’s Eve over there. Winter in Costa Rica is “peak season” and even with high rates, hotels do get sold out during holidays.
Two weeks prior to my trip I reviewed the plans and started to look into facultative programs for each city. I googled my hotels but one of them was nowhere to be found. First I thought that was impossible, an American travel agency would never let me down.
I contacted the travel agency about my discovery which they initially did not believe; however the next day they emailed me telling me that the phone line was ringing out without anybody answering and there was no voicemail set up. I started to worry, the hotel should be crowded this time of the year; morning and evening hours are the busiest hours of the day with guests checking in and out, so somebody should be there. And why wouldn’t they have a voicemail? Do they have enough staff? Sure enough, two days later I got the notification that the hotel was sold and they terminated the contract with the old management.
They offered me a full refund but I refused to accept it, simply told them to fix this because now I won’t be able to find another room ON THE SAME RATE 0f $44 including taxes, in the same class with the same amenities and volcano view, including a breakfast buffet and free passes to a thermal spa, during Christmas. Upgrade is acceptable, downgrade is not 😉
I went through the regular customer service before requesting a supervisor, who escalated the case. I was “screaming and yelling” at everybody because I was nervous; what if prices went up since then, or what if nothing was available anymore, and I certainly did not want to change the cities of my road trip. The manager looked up my hotel area and googled about 12 resorts online, which she called one by one. As expected, everything was sold out and days were passing fast as we were trying solve this problem. Since the supervisor was unsuccessful in securing another room she made me a nice offer: refunded my money and gave me a total of $500 towards the trip, including car rental.
My biggest challenge was to find another hotel and the possibility of re-writing the road trip last minute. Being resourceful as I am, I was able to locate another hotel but 40 minutes away from the volcano with an average cost of $100 per night with taxes; however, I slightly altered the original plans. I still had $200 leftover, which covered the entire cost of the car rental for 10 days (I only had to pay $22 out of pocket after taxes). So at the end things went in my favor but they surely gave me a lot of headache!
If you point out that the travel agency made a big mistake by not disclosing the termination of your hotel and letting you travel overseas (holidays or not) without timely communication. Imagine when you arrive and your hotel is not there, just a vacant lot!! What’s worse is that you already paid for it!! Being holidays everything is sold out in the area, you would not have a room to sleep and shower! You may not have internet or signal on high altitude to google another hotel or call anybody, other than just driving around and stopping by hotels costing anywhere $200-600 a night. What a waste of time and frustration it would have been! If the agency lets you know ahead of time, you might have had better luck with pricing and keeping the original plans.
MY ADVISE: Google your hotels before your trip to make sure they are still there!