Wednesday, 12 November 2014

When things go wrong!

Holiday disasters happen all the time. Over the years we've had our share - illness, missed flights, horrible hotel rooms, car accidents, thefts and other catastrophes. One day I will tell you about them - but not today. This post is not about travel misadventures, it is about the kindness of people we have never met and who owe us nothing.


Right now we should be on our way to Kangaroo Island. Instead I am sitting at home composing a thank you to all the people who have so generously allowed us to move the reservations for our holiday to March next year.

The plan for last Tuesday morning was to be on the road heading to Wagga Wagga  - the first stop on our road trip and cycling holiday to Kangaroo Island. Instead I was at the hospital. Our twenty-five year old son had become very ill. By mid-morning it was clear we weren't going anywhere.  We had no travel insurance and several thousand dollars invested in travel and accommodation bookings.

The first night we had a reservation at the Quest Apartments in Wagga where we were due to arrive only a few hours after our decision to cancel. The next night we intended to stay at the Quest Apartments in Mildura. Three days later we had return tickets on the Sealink Kangaroo Island Ferry and for our stay on the Island there were five nights at the Eleanor River Homestead. The refundable cancellation period for all these had expired.

Once the immediate crises at the hospital was under control, David and I hit the phones and e-mail hoping to salvage something from the wreckage by moving whatever we could to March next year.

First I rang Quest Apartments Wagga. They have a 48 hour fully refundable cancellation policy. This is generous by Australian standards. Telephoning just a few hours before we were due to arrive I expected a knock-back. What I got was sympathy and kindness. I spoke to the receptionist. She spoke to the manager. Within the hour she telephoned me back to say our booking would be fully refunded. We could re-book for March when we knew what we were doing but it was not a condition of the refund. Thank you so much Quest Wagga.

Next was Quest Apartments Mildura. They have the same generous 48 hour cancellation policy. I was ringing just over 24 hours before we were due to arrive. Sympathy and kindness again. 'In circumstances like these 24 hour's notice of cancellation was fine', the lady on the phone said. Thank you Quest Mildura.

David rang Sealink Kangaroo Island Ferry Service. Under Sealink's terms and conditions a cancellation within seven days attracts an 80% cancellation fee. A change of date attracts a $22 fee. We weren't sure whether we would have to pay the cancellation fee or just the date change fee. It wasn't an issue. SeaLink met our request with the same generosity we had received at Quest Apartments. They changed our reservation to March and waived the $22 fee. Thank you SeaLink.

We had some trouble contacting Eleanor River Homestead on Kangaroo Island. We couldn't get through on the phone - it turns out that Kangaroo Island hasn't got the best phone service in the world and when David tried to e-mail them he sent the e-mail to a 'no-reply' black hole. I think he might have been a bit stressed at the time! Eleanor River has a policy of crediting any cancellation fees for use within a six month period.  I finally spoke to the owner on Wednesday and she could not have been more understanding. She moved our reservation to March and wished us luck with our son's condition. Thank you Kathy.

Our last reservation was with Seascape Retreat at Victor Harbor. Seascape charges a 100% cancellation fee unless they receive at least 28 day's notice of an intended cancellation or date change. David sent an e-mail explaining our situation and followed up with a phone call. The kindness shown to us by everyone else probably had to stop eventually and it stopped here. Jenny, one of the two owners, advised us that we would forfeit the entire cost of our planned three night stay, approximately $850.

We would understand if Seascape had insisted on keeping the cost of one night's accommodation but keeping everything seems harsh. November is low season as is March. Seascape's website lists vacant rooms for at least two of the three nights of our proposed stay. This suggests that no reservation was turned away because a room had been set aside for us. I doubt that the owners would have been out of pocket by more than the value of a single night had they allowed us to move the date of our reservation. Ironically we have stayed with Seascape once before and despite its shortcomings we intended to stay there again. David and I are creatures of habit and will often stay at the same place for several years running. Needless to say the owners have now lost our business forever.

If you ever travel to Wagga or Mildura I can highly recommend Quest Apartments.  Quest is a franchise chain of serviced apartments with 150 locations throughout Australasia. We have stayed at quite a few of their properties and always found them to be great value for money. Designed to be a home away from home they have fully equipped kitchens and laundries. Whether on a business trip or a family holiday, being able to cook a meal and wash your clothes is a luxury. We have never stayed in a Quest property which was not clean, modern and comfortable.

I can't yet tell you much about Eleanor River Homestead. Judging by the photographs on the website it looks perfect. I can tell you that the owners are lovely people. I am sure we will have a wonderful time when we finally get there in March. Stay tuned for my revue.

As for Seascape, Victor Harbor - just don't stay there. Their cancellation/date change policy is particularly harsh by the standards in Australia. Insisting on the letter of the law is the owners right but it says something about the kind of welcome you might receive.

Should we have had travel insurance? We never leave the country without it but like so many Australians our insurance is linked to a credit card and does not apply to domestic travel. To be honest we didn't really think about it. I don't think the possibility of a medical emergency occurred to us.

And how is our son? He goes up and down. We are providing as much love and support as we can. When that doesn't work we cross our fingers and hope. Not for a moment do we regret cancelling our holiday.

14 comments:

  1. I hope your son is doing ok Lyn. And I'm so glad that Quest and Eleanor River Homestead were understanding to your situation. I guess travel insurance is there to help you when you come across less sympathetic business owners (and Seascape sounds like they fall into that bucket).

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  2. Hi Joy. Thanks. We have learnt a lesson about travel insurance although to be honest I'm not certain it would have helped. I had a quick look at the terms and conditions of some insurers before I wrote this post and not all of them would have covered our situation.

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  3. Travel can get so complicated! So glad to read that your son is a.o.k now. Safe onward journey, Tonia (stopping by for IBOT).

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    1. Hi Tonia. Thank you so much for your concern. We have a long road ahead of us but I think our son is improving and he has some very caring doctors. I might add that public health in this country is frustrating at times but in emergencies a lot better than the horror stories you often hear.

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  4. Great story and lovely to see some businesses are understanding about personal emergencies. Hope your son is going to be okay and has more ups than downs. PS Love Kangaroo Island. It is gorgeous.

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    1. Hi Tanya. Thank you so much for your comment. I am told that Kangaroo Island is great. We are hoping to get there next year. I'll do a post about it then and review the accommodation places who have been so understanding.

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  5. All the best to your son. I hope he has a smooth and speedy recovery.

    It's when things go wrong suddenly and unexpectedly that the kindness and support of strangers can mean the most to us. To me it's very much an Australian mateship, cultural "thing" to rally around and help others out in an emergency.

    On our next travels, when debating where to stay, Quest Apartments will be one of our preferred options after hearing your experiences with them. Conversely, Seascape Retreat has not only lost your future business but mine also and probably many of your other readers' future business as well.

    Looking forward to reading your blog post when you do get to visit Kangaroo Island in March next year.

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    1. Thank you for your kind words. Everyone says Kangaroo Island is wonderful. I love seeing wildlife so I'm pretty sure we'll have a great time when we finally get there.

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  6. You really have given me something to think about - I bet it was quite a worrying time. We haven't travelled much domestically as our kids are still very small but when we do I'll be sure to do my homework! Emily - visiting as part of #teamIBOT

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    1. Hi Emily. Thank you for taking the time to comment. I really appreciate it. Don't let your children being small stop you from travelling. It's great when they are little they are happy with everything. Now travelling with teenagers -that's a challenge.

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  7. So glad that you were mostly met with kindness and compassion. I'm hoping that your son is feeling better now. xx

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    1. Hi Jess. Most people were so lovely it really made me appreciate my fellow human beings. Our son is back at work this week but he is still not well and I am very glad to be here to support him. Even though he is mid twenties he lives at home. Children in their twenties seem to be like boomerangs - they move out and then move back. I love having both my sons at home and am very conscious these are probably the last few years when I can have them so close.

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  8. My goodness, how mean of those Seascape people! We are looking to travel to VH next year and I will certainly avoid them - thanks for the tip. I hope your son is better soon, family is always the most important thing and I'm sure your kids both appreciate you both for that.

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  9. Hi Lani. Thank you for the comment. I appreciate it. I'll admit I was pretty upset when I wrote this post but I'm over it now - well and truly moved on. We have moved our trip to March and I'm looking forward to it all the more for having to put it off for a while. This morning was the first time our son said he feels well again - fingers crossed.

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