Q – I called your office last evening and they said to contact you by e-mail and you would post a response the same day, June 29th. My 76-year-old husband and I are scheduled to leave on an eight-night escorted tour of France in four days. My husband does not do well with heat and I am extremely worried about the stress of dealing with the 100+ degree temperatures they are having in France. We are, of course, paid in full. There is an online travel agency involved but they are telling us that hot weather is not a reason for cancellation. But my husband has to stay away from heat as a result of a weak heart and some past issues with breathing. Stepping into an active tour that will be moving around really scares me and I can now see that he is getting frightened as well as he listens to the news of this horrible heat wave. They say it is the worst in the history of France. I did take out a tour policy but it doesn’t seem that I can get a refund this close in. Please help with any advice you can offer. I am really concerned about doing this trip, and to top it off, my husband is not feeling well today.
A – So sorry to hear of your situation. We think your concerns are valid. You should not do this trip. Here are some specific things we think you should do immediately:
01 – Take your husband to your doctor’s office (on an emergency basis) or to the emergency room of your closest hospital. You may be able to get a physician to sign off on a letter stating that traveling overseas into central Europe’s worst-ever heat wave is an ill-advised health risk for your husband at this time. Have the letter certified and make several copies. Keep a timeline and careful records of all conversations related to this situation.
02 – Contact the on-duty Manager at the online agency. Explain that this is regarding a “medical emergency”. Describe the situation and carefully explain that you do not want a refund – you are, instead, requesting a change of date during another time of year at the recommendation of your physician. Be firm and explain that for the commission they have earned on your booking you expect personal “advocacy”. Get response and ask for it in writing. Do not hang up until you get a satisfactory response. Your “agent” should be doing all the work – you don’t need this stress.
03 – After you have returned from the doctor’s office, or hospital, hopefully with a strong letter in your purse, contact the “Claims Supervisor” at your insurance company. Explain the situation and ask for relief as this has now become a real unanticipated medical emergency with medical intervention and a paper trail.
04 – If you can, have an attorney draft a quick letter to your tour operator stating that, under the circumstances, you would expect that any medical needs your husband may require as a result of being “forced” to do this trip be covered. Your attorney will know what to say.
You did book a summer trip and there have been heat waves in Europe that have killed many people in the months of July and August for the past three years. We have started advising our more mature clients or those not in the best of shape to avoid European travel during the summer months. If you were not aware of this issue your “travel agent” should have been. But it is also true that you alone were aware of your husband’s “prior condition” and mid-summer travel and the likelihood of climate-change related events should have given you pause as to the timing of this trip. In the end, it is only money. The forecast is for continued heat. In large portions of France, air-conditioning has never been needed and that is one reason the death toll is so high.
Also think about this: The monster heat wave in much of Europe at the moment is filling up local hospitals and putting pressure on physicians to see those who need help. If your husband did the trip and came down ill, he might not be able to receive medical attention in a timely fashion.