Disney Theme Park

Online Travel Nightmares

We asked some of our DISUnplugged podcast listeners to tell us about some of their ‘online travel nightmares’, here’s a few I thought illustrate the point.  You can read more stories on our podcast discussion forum here.

DVCSince02 writes:

When my husband and I were newly married and wanted to do a romantic Bed and Breakfast vacation to New England. I bought books about B&Bs searched the web and talked to everyone I knew. After searching I found a B&B online that was in CT that had an adjoining winery, restaurant, and a view of a beautiful lake. The same B&B was also listed in two books I had and were given high marks. The web site showed a beautiful lake, a warm lobby area with sitting room, wrap around porches, people in the restaurant having cooking classes, wine tastings, and all the comforts of a hotel, including TV, phone, and beautiful bedrooms with attached bathrooms. There was even a spot for testimonials from previous guests with glowing remarks. I made our reservation on-line and received an immediate confirmation. I even called to confirm prior to our drive from Delaware.

Upon arrival, the lake was amazing. I haven’t seen one like it since. We immediately recognized the B&B from the website picture. We entered the front door and were confronted by a smell I can only explain as musty and old, with a heavy touch of moth balls. We were still optimistic and kept moving forward looking towards a delicious dinner and wine tasting later that night. We stepped up to the sign-in desk to find a generic letter to guests stating they were not in the at the moment and please take the key in the envelope with your name on it. We think okay, but which way do we go? We dragged our luggage up and down 2 flights of stairs all the while being followed by a little boy whom I’m sure I have seen in the Shining! Finally we find our room and the thought of taking a nap before dinner is making us giddy with excitement. My husband opens the door and we see it. The bed from hell. Sitting against the wall was a queen sized pit of grandmas ratty afghans. And when I say pit I mean that little boy that followed us could play hide-n-seek in there. Nervously I walk in behind my husband and he is just standing there. Then I hear the words…. “no TV”, ….”no TV”, “where is the TV?”. I push him out of the way to see the bathroom. Well guess what I found…. BUGS! Little ones, big ones, all shape and size ones. I turn to HUSBAND and say let’s go. We open the door to the scary little boy standing at the railing smiling at us. We politely and cautiously smile and rush back to the check in desk to check out. Phone, phone, where is the phone? I finally find in a closet an old fashioned phone where you speak into wooden box and have a separate ear piece. I call the number from our confirmation and the phone is answered by a very polite woman. I explain that our room and the B&B is not as pictured and requested a full refund. I put the key back where we found it and never looked back. Except at the beautiful lake. 

Seems like no matter how much searching and research you do on the internet, traveling is a gamble. Sometimes you win, sometimes you don’t. After 10 years of marriage and 2.5 kids later we still talk about "The Shining" B&B.

MinnieMouse07 writes:

My husband and I were married in Ocho Rios, Jamaica while on a cruise (Celebrity). We planned this event very carefully and had a group of 20 family and friends with us to celebrate the wedding.  I found our destination wedding “specialist” online. She had a lovely website with gorgeous photos of the different sites around the world where they could arrange weddings. In addition to being wedding coordinators they were also travel agents… cruise specialists even! The majority of our communication was through her website and email, only when I was irate was it by phone...but all phone interaction was initiated by me. 

If I wasn’t the anal retentive planner that I am, we would have been taken advantage of beyond belief.  The owner of the company said that just because the cost of the cruise dropped online (on the cruise line’s website) it doesn’t mean that she can get the same “deals” for us. Only when I pressed for it and told her that I knew that we could, did she begrudgingly adjust the costs of our cabins. 

The owner also gave me the run around when I asked, with just a few weeks until our final payment was due, about group discounts for the cruise. She tried to tell me that we didn’t qualify (with 20 people and 11 cabins!!) and when I pressed the issue stopped returning my calls and emails. After battling with her over this for a few weeks (and almost final payments due), I finally contacted the cruise line directly and then they patched her in on a three way call. She was NOT happy with me that I went over her head, but agreed during the call that yes we did qualify for a discount. I found out later that she booked two other couples for weddings in Ocho Rios for the same cruise, along w/ her family and two other staff members. I am suspecting that she wanted to use the free berths for her family. 

Our wedding was pre- 9/11 so although security was important, it wasn’t as strict as it is today. My husband’s aunt and uncle decided that they didn’t want to go on a cruise but that they did want to attend our wedding. They booked an all inclusive in Ocho Rios and met us at the gardens for the ceremony. Afterwards they came back to the ship with us to have lunch in the ship’s dining room. This was planned ONE YEAR in advance. In fact, the travel agent/wedding planer offered the all inclusives as options for the guests from the moment we contacted her. She told me the entire time that we planned the wedding that there would be “no problem” getting the aunt and uncle on the ship. She “knew people” and would make sure it was taken care of. I routinely checked with her that it was okay for them to dine with us and I was repeatedly assured that it was taken care of.

Then we got on the ship. Remember there are THREE staff members from the travel agency traveling WITH us on the cruise. All three of them were dining at the table NEXT to ours every night for dinner. We boarded on a Saturday and the wedding was on Monday morning. Both Saturday and Sunday nights I checked to make sure everything was okay, asking again about the aunt and uncle. The TA assured us all she had to do was speak to the special events person that was her contact. That was the first indication to me that it “wasn’t taken care of.”

Turns out that even w/ all of my follow up w/ her about the status of this issue. SHE NEVER ASKED! So here I am , married for about 2hrs with all my guests up in the ship's dining room waiting for ME to come and celebrate our wedding... and I’m STANDING ON THE PIER IN MY WEDDING DRESS at the security desk w/ husband’s aunt and uncle, waiting for them to get clearance to come on board!! We waited there for 45 minutes before they allowed them to board. The TA was still at the gardens coordinating the other two weddings and made a call to her “contact” on the ship…who was “on leave for the day” so it took some time to figure out who could give the okay. The TA actually told me to make sure I waited with husband's aunt and uncle because, after all, security would be more likely to let them on since I was wearing my wedding dress!

One of the reasons for my destination wedding was that I really don’t like to be the center of attention. Try standing on a pier in front of a cruise ship in a wedding dress and see how much attention you get!

Our wedding was beautiful and everyone in our group had an amazing time. This was because of all the hard work my husband and I put into the planning…okay, most of it was me… NOT because of our TA/wedding coordinator. The majority of the weddings/cruises they handle are done so w/o them present. To be honest I shudder to think what kind of fiascos they turn out to be. We spoke w/ the “team” the night before the wedding to make sure where all the guests were supposed to meet the vans to take them to the ceremony… and we were told to “not worry about it, we’ll figure it out when we get to the pier.”  So there are no roaches or lost reservations in our saga…but a sincere warning in using travel agents online that really don’t know what they are doing (I'll throw in a disclaimer that I'm using Dreams Unlimited for an upcoming WDW trip and Marla rocks!). Thank goodness for other online resources that told me that we were supposed to get a group discount, and that our TA should honor price reductions for our cruise, otherwise we would have been taken advantage of, and our guests would have been out a lot of money. Unfortunately, these practices are only unethical, not criminal!


Well if it is to good to be true I say RUN!!!! My husband and I booked a weeks vacation to Lake Tahoe for $1100 that included room, lift tickets, food, air, rental car and a bottle of champagne. The flights were fine. We got our car which was something along the lines of a Ford Focus (to use in the Mountains of Nevada) needless to say we had to pay to upgrade to a 4 wheel drive vehicle with 6 foot of snow on the ground. We arrive at the "beautiful lakeside hotel" to find yes a true roach motel that was located just down the street from all the casino type hotels. Words cannot describe the condition of the room. Musty old lakeside resort. Dry rotted curtains, bedspread with stains, TV with those antenna things on top. We luckily didn’t see any bugs due to the cold weather but found the traps for them all over the room. Our meals were literally cooked by the owner of the hotel. The shuttle bus from the hotel to the ski resorts was some sort of old handicapped school bus painted over a royal blue color.

Thankfully I was young and the champagne was there to get me drunk because I would have cried otherwise. After 3 days at the roach motel we gave in and rented a room at one of the casinos. It was probably the worst hotel I have ever seen. Oh yeah there was also a hole in the floor that was patched up with plywood and a rug thrown over it, which with ski boots on my husband tripped over and ended up with a fat lip. Adult video stores surrounded this lovely hotel and there was not a lake view as advertised. I wish I could remember the name of the place. I am sure some Soprano type people have probably dumped a few cold bodies there. I will never again book a good deal unless I have some information on the place. In the end we spent another $1,000 to change hotels and upgrade our car. The food was just lost. It was the craziest experience of my life.

It was booked online through an ad found in SKI magazine. Those people should be shot for lying.  ***Updated to add hotel name. My husband said the Name of the hotel was The Tropicana so he just assumed it was the same as the Tropicana in Atlantic City, boy was he wrong.

WildeOscar writes:

I used to travel a lot for work, and would book my own travel online, very early in the online universe, mid to late 90's.  Once a highly rated hotel I checked into late in the evening... the hotel was being renovated, the room they assigned me had exposed pipe, one of which was leaking raw sewage. I asked to be moved to a different room, there were none, so I asked to be moved to a different hotel, at their expense... which they begrudgingly did. 

I have several examples of checking in and getting a room that someone was already in... one that stands out was a couple that was "in the middle of something" when I opened the door... another where a gentleman was "in the middle of something" when I opened the door... and last but not least a gun pointed at me, the guy thought I was breaking in. 

Lots of online flight booking in the early days were weird, several times through a prominent site, I would get to the airport to check in for the flight, and they showed no record of my having booked... print out your confirmations. Also there were several times when I thought I had booked a direct flight, when actually there was a stop, you just didn't change planes. So make sure you understand the difference between direct, and non-stop.

Once when flying into NY City, I had booked a car service (town car) online though what I thought was a reputable company... I was picked up in a well used sedan, the guy took me into Manhattan (I was staying in times square) from La Guardia via the Holland tunnel (if you are not familiar, that would be the longest way possible going completely around the island of Manhattan the wrong way) only to have him hold my luggage hostage unless I paid him in cash for the trip, twice the price that was quoted on the site. I called a cop right on the spot, the guy took my card, refused to give it back... but I got my luggage, and was able to call AMEX who had a new card to me at 6am the next morning. No he was never paid for giving me the "ride".

Oh, there is the time I was on the same commuter flight with Jessie Jackson... as we were pulling away from the gate, I and the folks I was traveling with, we could see our bags sitting on the tarmac as we were pulling away, asked the attendant "what's up with that" no clue. Asked at the arrival gate, we were told that Mr. Jackson had enough luggage to fill the compartment, the addition of ours would put the flight over weight. Then it took two days for the luggage to show up at the destination (thanks Delta).

MissyMissy writes:

Can you warn people about rentals. BE CAREFUL WHEN RENTING CARS while on vacation!! It isn't big, but it is something I think happens a lot and most people NEVER knew they were even taken.

Mom just got home from Orlando. I booked her reservation for her online with Alamo. I used discount codes and printed the reservation and coupon for her to take. Last time she did it alone, she paid huge, they sold her insurance and such, this is what they do to unknowing people. So this time I did it for her and I got her an economy car for 10 days for $238.00 yet she came home and told me she paid $460.00!!!!!!! She told me the "guy" said her luggage wouldn't fit in the car and she needed to upgrade to a bigger size. She did not do anything but trust him. She thought nothing of what he was saying, she trusted that he knew better.

Now I am an Alamo vet, I go with DD to WDW and we go 10 days with 2 huge suit cases and 2 mediums AND 2 carry ons ALL the time and have done just fine with an economy. Not to mention it was mom and 1 other person, they only had 2 suitcases. Between the backseat and trunk they would of done fine with any small car and still could of fit more luggage than they had!

Yes I know, I know, they are a business and they have a right to sell. But Mom is not sharp as she used to be and they took advantage or that. They do the same to young kids in their early 20's, who just don't know better and they trust they are being told the truth.  I did call Alamo because I felt they took advantage of her. My problem was, she had plenty of room in the original size car at the original price, there was no need for her to pay more. I called Alamo, a manager and - told him I feel they took advantage of my Mom. He blew me off with "She signed it" "I stand behind our agent." Not even a sorry you feel that way, just attitude that they were correct.

I asked for his supervisor and he gave me a number for "consumer advocates" guess what, it has no live person and no voice mail- it is a dead end number.  I would like you to warn people to check into car rentals in depth before they go on vacation. Put it out there that these companies will try to sell you more than you need.

DisneyBridein2k echos Missy’s car rental concerns:

Okay, one more thing about rental cars - do NOT forget to walk around the car BEFORE you rent it and when you RETURN it. I work in auto claims and we often get claims from the car rental companies for damages that our customers say they didn't cause. The contract shows no damage when the car was rented and if you don't take the time to do the walk-around on your return, any damage on the rental can be claimed. Just use your head - Amy is right - many auto policies will transfer coverage to a non-owned car which will save you money but make sure you take the extra few moments to do the walk around and verify what damage, if any, is already on the rental before it is in your name.

Fizz13 shares this story:

I was making plans for my December 2007 trip and it was the first time I have attempted Disney World on my own with them, my children were 8, 6 and 3. I scouted around trying to find the best prices for flights and hotels, and came across a fabulous deal on expedia.co.uk over here for Pop Century, standard room 12th to 18th December, so I paid the full money in advance (in March 2007) and considered it done.

Fast forward to the first week of December and I decided that I would like to add Magical Express (Disney’s complimentary transportation service) to my booking. Knowing that it will now be in the Disney system I phone Disney directly to try and book the transfers. Well imagine my surprise when there is no booking at all for those dates!! Having dealt with Disney before I realize that this could be a Disney cast member making a mistake, but she assures me no booking exists!!

I frantically phone Expedia who tells me that’s impossible as it is confirmed in our system, I tell them that it definitely is not. They say they will speak to Pop directly to find out and confirm and put me on hold. 30 minutes later they come back and say we will have to try tomorrow as the Disney systems are down at the moment. I call back the following day and do the procedure over, another 20 minutes on hold to be told "yes you were right but unfortunately there are now no rooms available at Pop for your dates!" They did not apologize and offered no solution as to how to sort this out. I was eventually offered either a refund (which would not have been refunded to me on time and I needed to have a hotel room the following week, the trip was on a very tight budget for a single mum of 3) or to see what else was available. Now here is where my blood really boiled. they could only offer All Star Movies but in a preferred room and I would have to pay the difference!! I know I shouldn't have taken it and gone elsewhere but as I said I did not have any money left to make a fresh booking without the refund so I took it. I was bitterly disappointed at not having my first choice even though I booked 9 months ahead and I have never had an apology or compensation. I will never use Expedia again!!

Scarlett873 also has a warning tale about Expedia:

I have an Expedia story as well! Not the hotel experience that Pete's looking for, but it was a nightmare for me at the time!  When my husband and I had gotten engaged, we had planned to get married in Las Vegas. We'd both been married before and didn't need/want the big froo-froo wedding. While researching packages for Vegas one day, I decided to check Disney packages, just for the heck of it. Well imagine my surprise when I stumbled upon such a good deal that I just couldn't pass it up!

The package I was looking at said that it included roundtrip air, 6 nights accommodations at Disney’s All Star Music resort, a rental car, and two 7 day park hopper plus tickets. I read and re-read it...making sure that everything was included and according to the page on Expedia, it was. The package quoted $1500. 

I called my husband and told him about the deal and he said that if I could find a place to get married for no more than about $500 for the two of us in Orlando, then we'd do it. Say no more!! I researched, found a few alternatives, and went back and booked the package from Expedia.  Now I’m all giddy and floating on cloud nine when I happen to check my e-mail a few days later. Lo and behold, my confirmation says that the admission tickets were NOT included. Stupid, stupid, stupid me. I should have known better! I was a travel agent for 4 years prior to that...we always told our clients that if a package seemed too good to be true, it probably is. So I call my husband and spill the story, all the while sobbing hysterically. We had paid for the package and our wedding. There was no going back now... 

We were on such a tight budget at the time, that when we found out that park tickets weren't included, I thought I would die. We could not afford to purchase them...I was having visions of being so close to the theme parks, but not able to enjoy them on our honeymoon. I was sad...  I called Expedia and tried to get somewhere with them. I knew that the page had told me that our tickets were indeed included. I knew that for a fact! I read it about fifty times to myself, and then another 25 times to my husband just for confirmation that I wasn't imagining things. I got nowhere with Expedia. So I turned it over to my husband. 

Would you believe, that after working his way up the chain of command at Expedia, he got a VP of something at Expedia to personally pony up the $$$ for our park tickets!! If I hadn't been there with him to hear the conversation, I wouldn't have believed it myself! He kept telling her some story about imagining her little girl who wants this bicycle from the store. This bicycle had a pretty pink basket on it and that's what she was drawn to...you buy the bike, take it home, and a few days later, the store's knocking on your door telling you that you have to surrender the pretty pink basket, but you can keep the bike. The whole reason her little girl wanted that bike was because of the basket and now it's being taken away...I swear on my grandmother's grave that this is true. That was the analogy that he gave her...and it worked. She whipped out a credit card...I’m sure it was a company card anyway...and added the admission tickets to our package! Went back to look at our reservation a few minutes later and saw for myself that the tickets had been added! I was shocked... 

I'm now very gun-shy about booking anything online unless it is directly with the tour operator. (i.e. Disney, Princess Cruise Lines, etc) Last summer, when we decided on taking a cruise, I was too afraid to book with anyone other than the cruise lines. Paid a little more at the time, but felt better knowing that if anything were screwed up, it would be Princess's fault! I've used Priceline and Hotels.com a few times when the room didn't really matter. We've gotten pretty lucky with all of them so far! Scored a room at one of the W Hotels in Chicago and at the Yankee Trader Resort in Ft Lauderdale. So far, so good! 

As a former travel agent, it's really difficult for me to relinquish control over my vacation plans to an unknown agent. Especially when I know more than the agent who is trying to get my business! If the agency is highly recommended and I feel comfortable with them, I will fully support them with my business. Expedia...nope...even though the fixed the problem, I lost faith in them. Won't use them again...

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