Saturday, April 25, 2020

Coronavirus Canceled Vacation

Today is a day when the pandemic becomes real--too real, as it has affected our personal plans in a material and financial manner. 

Villa Near Lucca Italy
Note, it says Temporarily Closed
From Google Maps
Today is the day that Chris and I and five of our friends were supposed to fly to Rome, Italy, to begin a two-week vacation that would ultimately culminate on May 10 with our triumphal return to the US. 
We were leaving on a United Airlines flight departing Newark, NJ, this afternoon and arriving in Rome tomorrow morning. 

We had rented an apartment in Rome for a few days and then we were going to drive to Lucca, in Tuscany where we had a hilltop villa rented for almost two-weeks from which to base our travels through the region. In Rome we were going to do the big sites and also, of course, Vatican City. From Lucca we were going to Pisa, Florence, Sienna, Lucca, and so many other places. We were going to see art, the countryside, wineries, olive groves, the sea coast, and generally immersing ourselves in Italian culture and wine. Did I mention wine? 

Planning for this trip began during August of last year and the only thing we had not finalized were the rental cars. 

Getting refunds for the canceled trip has met with mixed results. 

We used Airbnb for the apartments in Rome. Refunds were a breeze.

We used VRBO for the villa in Lucca. Getting a refund has been a process and they still have not refunded our entire amount. Somehow they continue to keep about 14 percent of what we paid--and the entire villa was paid for in advance as required.

While we were on United Airlines for the flights and they agreed to refund our fare, the travel agency we used, ASAP, has been terrible and continues to sit of our refund. I have called them on multiple occasions and often get put on hold until the line goes dead. When I do get through, the agents promise action that never materializes. I am frustrated beyond belief at this process. 

So what have I learned for the future? I will not use VRBO--ever! And I will make my own travel arrangements with the airlines. As for travel insurance? No. Turns out travel insurance did not cover this event. 

Reschedule? Not yet. I am still evaluating the opportunities and of course, will the virus return next year to mess up future travel plans? Remember, the 1918 Spanish Flu actually lasted until 1920!

So, Chris and I continue ride out the stay-at-home order here in Maryland with only dreams for the lost Italian vacation. 

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

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