Can I get a refund if I change my flight?

I surveyed my subscribers this morning about their hopes/plans for future travels (more on that later), but one subscriber had a very good question along with her answer:

Great question Sharon!

There are a few variables involved with your question.

Your two best bets for being guaranteed a refund is to cross your fingers and hope the airline changes your schedule or cancels the flight altogether.

If the airline makes the change:

Cancelations:
If they cancel your flight, most airlines will offer a credit toward future flights. However, you are not required to accept that. They might not make it immediately obvious, but if you don’t want to spend hours on hold, you can usually find a place on the airline’s website to request a refund for canceled flights And this holds true – even for “non-refundable” flights.

Significant changes:
If the airline makes a significant change to your flight schedule, you are also entitled to a refund in full. (Airlines vary on what they consider a “significant change”, and that amount of time varies between 30 minutes and 6 hours.  If you find out that your airline’s schedule has been changed, it’s always a good idea to look at their change/refund policy and insist on a refund if the change was significant enough. That way, you can take your money elsewhere if a different airline has a better deal.

When you make the change.

The good news:
In reaction to Coronavirus issues, nearly all airlines have started offering extremely liberal change policies. If you decide not to take the trip you booked,  you will most likely be able to change your flight with no fees or penalties whatsoever.

The bad news:
Although most airlines aren’t charging fees if you want to make a change to your schedule, you will have to pay any difference, if fares are higher for your replacement flight. But don’t worry – when you search for flights using “The Triangle of Travel” – that shouldn’t be a problem. (Two of the “corners” of the triangle of travel are to 1) go where the deals are, 2) and be flexible.) Here is another post covering my concept of “The Triangle Of Travel” in more detail.

When you make the change (vs the airline making the change) – Most airlines are only offering credits toward future travels vs giving cash refunds, so if in doubt about whether travel restrictions will be lifted, it’s best to book it as far in the future as possible.

Tips

Given the uncertainty about when/where we’ll be able to travel, be sure to check each airlines’ change policies in advance before booking any flights.

If at all possible, we recommend booking directly with the airline. That way, if you have to change or cancel, you don’t have to deal with a third party to get your refund.

Your options are a lot better if the airline changes your flight than if you change it. So if you’re thinking about changing or canceling a flight, be sure to look up your airlines’ individual change/cancel policies, and wait until as late as possible to make that change. It’s a bit like a game of “chicken”, but it’s well worth waiting to see if the airline changes or cancels your flight.

 

Coronavirus, Travel, & Social Responsibility

I’ve gotten a lot of heavy criticism from subscribers stating that I’m irresponsibly encouraging travel during this critical time and I wanted clear a couple of things up for anyone who might feel the same.

One of many responses

To be clear:

I completely agree with the social distancing that is going on. Given what we know about the highly contagious aspect of COVID-19 – I agree that – even if we aren’t showing signs of being sick – we have a social responsibility to avoid crowds and unnecessary travel in March (possibly April). If you still feel that the shutdowns are an overreaction – two of the most compelling articles I read are this one about Philadelphia vs St Louis’s response to the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic, and this more recent one from the New York Times about Italy.

HOWEVER…

“The JGOOT Way” of travel has never been about last-minute travel, and we’re certainly not encouraging last-minute travel now.

“The JGOOT Way” of travel is about two things: Planning ahead by looking for deals every day, and being flexible to take advantage of those deals.  Those are the two most important pillars of affordable travel, and they’re even more important given these current events.

In fact…

If you like to travel without breaking the bank – you’re missing out on the best deals of this decade if you’re not watching for future travel deals now.

That’s what everyone else is doing, and two things are going to happen as a result:

  1. The very second scientists get a hold of this virus, people will resume their travels again. But the damage to the airline and hotel industries will already be done.  There will be few good travel deals for those who react quickly enough, but the surge in demand will cause prices to skyrocket higher than they’ve been in a long time, and they’ll remain that way for a while to come.
  2. The people who are watching for deals right now will snatch up Summer, Fall, even 2021 Winter trips – and those trips will likely be the most affordable trips they’ve ever taken in their lives.

So am I encouraging unnecessary travel in the next month? Absolutely not.  (In fact, we canceled plans for two trips in March, and if necessary – we’re prepared to cancel a trip we booked for May.)

But am I going to discourage my subscribers from watching for future trips that could very well be the most affordable trips they ever take?

Hellllll no.

Sure – sit the rest of March out. And if you book a trip in April or May, make sure it can be canceled or changed.  But if you’d like to take a vacation this Summer, Fall, or even winter – the time to watch for those deals is right now.

My Two Cents:

At this point – Coronavirus has the potential of doing the same thing to the airline industry in 2020 that 2008 did to the auto industry. (But instead of encouraging Americans to buy cars to stimulate the economy, I predict that politicians will start encouraging us to get back on planes and start staying at hotels again.) However, by the time they start telling us to do that – prices will have already skyrocketed. Everyone dreaming of affordable travels will have to push those dreams off even farther.

Mark my words: There will be a small group of people who will be at the forefront of re-stimulating the economy by traveling after we side-step a Coronavirus disaster. It will be the people who booked their late April through January trips in the next 30 to 45 days.

In summary:

Should you travel in the month of March? Not unless you absolutely have to.

Should you be looking for future travel deals every single day during the month of March and April? Abso-freakin-lutely.

 

 

As long as teachers are going on strike without pay, so will I

[Note: Thank you for your generous donations! We were able to donate over $1100 toward
this GoFundMe benefiting teachers on strike.]
We are now focusing on raising support for teachers on strike in another of our communities – Oakland, California.
Denver Public School teachers have made National news with their current strike seeking fair wages.  (USA Today article here.)
  • Whether you live in Colorado or not…
  • Whether you have kids or not…
  • Whether you know a teacher or not…

All of our futures depend on the quality of today’s education, and that starts with reasonable pay for the teachers who are currently educating those who will be funding our social security checks in the future.

All ships rise with the tide, so as long as
Denver teachers are going on strike without pay,
so will I. AND…
If you subscribe to ANY of my trip alert services…
I will do the following in support of teachers (and kids) everywhere:
  • Donate 100% of new proceeds raised during this strike to a Go Fund Me account that supports teachers going on strike without pay (despite already living paycheck to paycheck.)
  • Donate one free trip-alert subscription to a teacher/community servant for every paid subscriber (More details here).
And YOU will get:
  • A 7-night vacation voucher valued at $2100 to you (redeemable at over 3500 resorts for the next 12 months. All you pay is taxes & fees of about $50/night upon booking.)
  • 100 to 150 vacation deals per month that are hand-selected by me as being among the most affordable 1% of trips on the internet.

Click here for more details (and testimonials) about my trip-alert service.

Happy travels!

–Joel
PS – Yes, my wife is a teacher, but not in Denver schools.

7-night lodging voucher details:

No timeshare presentation required.
Valued at $2100
Over 3500 destinations to choose from worldwide (700 are 4-star and over)
No age restrictions
Good for 12 months
Pay only a $17 activation fee, and taxes/fees of approximately $50/night upon booking.
STILL have questions? Call me direct. My cell phone is 303-906-8790
–Joel

Like the Gideons give Bibles to Hotels

Sean and Janelle of Toward Awakening Travel were kind enough to invite me to talk about the concept of remnant travel at their monthly meetup in Denver.

Here is a recording of that interview, and here is a copy of the quick-start guide I gave to attendees. (I give it away like the Gideons give Bibles to hotels.)

Another fu¢#ing school shooting…

As you may know, there was yet another fu¢#ing school shooting yesterday.  Although it happened only 3 miles from where my kids go to school, and 6 miles from where my wife teaches, it hits no closer to home than any of the other fu¢#ing senseless killings that have become a regular occurrence around the world. (Especially here in the US).

I am one person with one vote and I didn’t write this post to get into debates about tax, education issues OR gun-control.

I DID write this post to say this:

  1. Teachers, school counselors, firefighters, police officers and most non-profit employees don’t get paid what they deserve.
  2. If you have a full-time career in one of the above categories, click here.
    • Not when you get around to looking for your next trip…
    • Not when you think you can afford a trip…
    • Just trust me…
    • I’ve written 3 books for Google about their search engine algorithms. Finding opportunities in the airline pricing algorithms is child’s play in comparison, and I’ll show you how to find those opportunities for FREE.
    • But the most important step is to start planning WAY earlier than you’re accustomed to, so don’t put it off any longer!
    • If the government can’t manage to find room in the budget to pay you a salary representative of the hard work you do serving our community, the least I can do is show you how to vacation as if you earned one.
  3. If you ever need help with a fundraising/charity auction, or go on strike for better wages – count me in for support.  (You know where to find me. Just send bona-fide details of the fundraiser/auction you are doing, and I’ll see how I can help.  (As a little ol’ starting business, JGOOT raised nearly $10,000 for charities last year, and I want to quadruple that this year.)

If you’re not in one of the above 5 categories:

JGOOT In The News

One of JGOOT’s most frequent travelers and I were recently interviewed by Shawn Chitnis at CBS News.
Details below.
–Joel


From DENVER (CBS4) – A travel website specializing in discount deals promises to provide its premium service with hundreds of affordable vacations each month for free to teachers, first responders and anyone working for a nonprofit each time someone else signs up for the paid subscription.

“I just simply don’t have the time to scour the internet for deals,” said Brooke Merkle, a teacher that uses the website. “It does all the work for me because it saves me hours and hours of time.”

Just Go Out Of Town (JGOOT) sends out emails to free subscribers on a regular basis but premium members receive 10 times as many emails, usually more than 100 messages in one month. [Correction by Joel: 100 to 120 trip alerts a month – not 100 emails per month.]

“We find trips that are worth scheduling vacation time around versus paying two or three times as much and squeezing a vacation into scheduled time off,” said Joel McDonald, the founder of JGOOT.

Merkle is married with two sons. She has already booked three trips with the help of the service that include family vacations to Florida and Canada. She says the prices for a direct flight to Vancouver were less than $200 per person for a roundtrip ticket.

“This was probably about a third of the price that I would have found otherwise,” she said.

McDonald is a consultant that used his passion for studying data to find trends in the travel industry that would lead to cheaper vacations. He started using this strategy for his personal trips with his wife as well as to save money for his family and friends. A year ago, he launched JustGetOutOfTown.com after realizing the need for someone to provide these deals to the public.

“I think the biggest reason I decided this is a service that was missing was the amount of time it took me to find these deals,” McDonald explained. “But by going on specific days you can cut those fares by 50, 60, 80 percent.”

Airlines on rare occasions need to fill a flight that isn’t selling tickets at their preferred pace, according to McDonald. He says one in 500 flights will be 10 months away from their scheduled departure and only have 10 percent of seats booked. It is cheaper to reduce the price of tickets and fill the flight rather than cancel it.

“I think it has afforded us a lot of flexibility in our budget,” said Merkle. “Finding those tickets for less than $200 to Vancouver allowed us to take a helicopter tour over Victoria Island.”

These are examples of exceptional cash fares that he finds for his premium subscribers several times a month to popular destinations like Cancun, Aruba or Cabo San Lucas. However, sometimes he finds even more impressive deals that require a new credit card and points given to that account. McDonald says using this strategy has allowed him to get tickets to San Diego or Hawaii for $11 roundtrip. He provides the information you need for pulling off one of those vacations in his emails.

“It saves me money, huge, huge amounts of money, which makes such a difference on my teacher budget,” added Merkle, who has taught for 17 years and spent almost half of that time working in Colorado. “It’s really sincere. He loves his work, he loves what he does, and he loves offering this service to other people.”

McDonald is married to a teacher so he always plans a trip with the restrictions that come from the school year and scheduled breaks. Inspired by Tom’s Shoes and their policy of donating a pair for each one purchased, he decided to make a similar offer. Teachers, police officers, firefighters and employees of a nonprofit organization will get a free premium subscription each time a regular customer pays for that service.

“I give vacation opportunities to people who normally don’t think they can afford to travel,” McDonald said about the promotion he has provided for more than six months. “They don’t give themselves that time off and they deserve it the most.”

He asks for some proof of your employment and then provides the service free. Subscriptions start at $20 a month for his premium feature. [Correction by Joel: Basic subscriptions are free. Premium subscriptions range from $8 to $19 per month depending on plan chosen.] Regardless of whether someone is paying for his work, McDonald says it is making a difference in the way people enjoy their time off.

“I’ve heard from people that hadn’t taken vacations in 10 years and now they’re going to Europe for $300,” he said. “I think the biggest thing is that too many people write off travel and they put it off until they can make the time.”

He hopes JGOOT can improve the experience of traveling so more people enjoy trips the way he does. Beyond saving money on flights, McDonald upgrades the rest of his vacation with that extra savings to stay at a nicer hotel or try additional excursions.

It is a change in philosophy about traveling and how someone plans their trips, according to McDonald. The idea is to maximize your time away from work. A part of life and a concept that Merkle is glad she can introduce to her children at a young age.

“It’s important for our family because it’s kind of what draws us to be curious, to be lifelong learners,” she said about traveling. “That sense of curiosity is best created in an environment other than our own.”

To see if you are eligible for a free premium subscription, click here.

Shawn Chitnis reports for CBS4 News at 10 on weekends and CBS4 News at 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. throughout the week. Email him story ideas at smchitnis@cbs.com and connect with him on Twitter or Facebook.