After Terry Thompson's daughter runs away from home, she cancels her Disney World vacation. But her travel insurance company refuses to refund $588 in airline tickets. Can't Disney help? Mickey says it's beyond his control. But is it?
Q: I'm hoping you can help me. I read your column, and I really believe you are my last option. My family and I were scheduled to visit Walt Disney World for six nights this spring. However, life got complicated when our daughter ran away. We called the police and reported her a runaway, and then finally canceled our vacation. She had not come home, and the police suggested we not leave the state while our minor child was missing.
While I realize that the running away of minor children is not a listed excuse for travel cancellation, how can it not be a bona fide reason? I imagine it's not listed because it is not a common occurrence -- but who in their right mind would not heed the advice of police officers looking for a teenage runaway? What kind of crazy family would go on a Disney vacation while their child is missing?
Disney Travel agreed to refund the hotel and park passes, but our insurance company refused to refund $588 in airline tickets. Disney said it was beyond their control. I'm hoping it's not beyond your control. Any chance you can help me get my money back? -- Terry Thompson, Chadds Ford, Pa.
A: If your airline tickets were nonrefundable, then Disney doesn't owe you a refund, technically speaking.
But who cares about technicalities? Your daughter ran away, which is a legitimate reason for cancelling your vacation. As a company that caters to families -- I mean, Disney is practically synonymous with family fun -- you'd expect Mickey to show a little compassion.
I can understand why your insurance company would balk at a refund, too. Most policies have clauses that disallow claims for items such as pre-existing medical conditions. Unless you took out a "cancel for any reason" policy, a runaway child would probably not be a valid reason for a claim.
So where does that leave you? Disney sold you a vacation package and travel insurance that you believed would cover you. It didn't. Your reasons for cancelling were good, but not good enough for your insurance company.
I think an appeal to Disney and your insurance company would have been useful. More than 90 percent of appeals on an insurance claim denial are successful. A brief, polite email is the best way to start. Here's the online form.
Next time you book a vacation, consider shopping around for insurance before settling on one policy. Never take the first policy that's offered to you by your agent. It might be the best one, but you need to do your homework before deciding on a particular insurance policy. At the very least, take the time to read the policy and all of its exclusions before signing on the dotted line.
I contacted Disney on your behalf. A representative contacted you and said Disney would cover your $588 in airline tickets.
Christopher Elliott is the ombudsman for National Geographic Traveler magazine and the host of "What You Get For The Money: Vacations" on the Fine Living Network. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
(c) 2010 Christopher Elliott. Distributed by Tribune Media Services, Inc.
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