No Refunds? Passport Delays and Other Travel Trouble That Will Cost You Money

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This is the summer of wanderlust. Americans are packing up in droves and hopping on planes to travel domestically and internationally this summer. Despite inflation and soaring rates that have been shrinking wallets, a whopping 85% of all American adults said they intend to travel this summer, according to a survey by the Vacationer. And travel from the U.S. to Europe is expected to surge 55% this summer, according to an Allianz survey.

Yet, amid this boundless enthusiasm for post-pandemic traveling, there are a few mishaps that can quickly hinder your plans and end up costing you a lot of money.

Passport Delays

As of July, the State Department said it receives 400,000 applications each week — lower than the record-setting volume of 500,000 applications received per week between January and May, NPR reported.

What’s more, as of March, the State Department said that as more Americans are traveling internationally again, there is an “unprecedented demand seen so far in 2023. We are on track to set the record for the highest demand year ever.”

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In turn, processing times have changed: Now, routine applications are processed in 10-13 weeks, and expedited applications — which cost an additional $60 — are processed in seven to nine weeks.

And it’s important to note that this does not even include mailing times, which may take up to two weeks for both sending the application and receiving the actual passport.

The department recommends applying early “well in advance of any planned international travel to avoid last-minute issues.”

Of note as well, several countries have a six-month validity rule.  

“Passport delays or the need for expedited passport processing can result in canceled trips and financial losses,” said Justin Albertynas, CEO and co-founder of RatePunk.

“If your passport is not ready in time for your planned travel, you may have already invested in non-refundable flight tickets, hotel reservations, or tour packages, making it costly to change or cancel your arrangements at the last minute.”

Non-Refundable Airfare

When booking flights, you sometimes have various fare options, including non-refundable tickets. While these tickets are generally cheaper than refundable ones, they come with strict cancellation and change policies, said Scott Poniewaz, head of EXEC.

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“If your travel plans change unexpectedly, or you need to cancel your trip, non-refundable airfare may not be eligible for a refund, leaving you with a significant financial loss,” Poniewaz said.

To avoid this nightmare, he added, you need to carefully consider your travel dates and plans before purchasing non-refundable tickets.

“If there is a possibility of change or cancellation, it might be worth opting for a flexible fare option, even if it comes at a slightly higher price. In the end, you may save yourself a lot of money,” he added.

Visa Issues

Many countries require visas and when not carefully planned, visa refusals can lead to significant financial setbacks, including the cancellation of trips.

“If your visa application is denied, you may face substantial financial consequences, particularly regarding non-refundable expenses, such as airfare and accommodation. Airlines and hotels typically enforce strict cancellation policies, leaving travelers solely responsible for covering these costs,” said Thirumal Motati, founder at Visa Traveler.

Motati added that it’s crucial to understand that travel insurance and credit cards usually do not cover trip cancellations resulting from visa refusals.

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“Even if you have purchased travel insurance, you may not be able to recoup the expenses associated with pre-paid flights, accommodations, and other non-refundable costs,” Motati said.

In addition, many countries require applicants to pay non-refundable visa application fees, regardless of the application’s outcome.

“Consequently, if your visa is refused, you will not be reimbursed for the application fee, leading to a direct financial loss,” he added.

Last-Minute Health Emergencies

Some travel insurances — if you have one — can cover last-minute health emergencies, but be sure to read the fine print as these can be very specific.

As CNBC explained, examples of acceptable reasons include illness, injury or death of the traveler, a close family member or a traveling companion; military deployment or civil unrest; a serious family emergency, and even unplanned jury duty.

“Unforeseen health emergencies can unfortunately happen at any time, even when you’re about to go on a much-anticipated trip. In such cases, cancellation fees or non-refundable bookings can be pretty hefty,” Poniewaz said. “Travel insurance can help mitigate these risks, but it’s important to review the policy’s terms and conditions to ensure coverage for health-related cancellations.”

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