10 Types of Travel Trouble: Do You Know Your Rights?

Sooner or later, most everyone travels. Whether for business or pleasure; for a drive across the state or a flight across the country, at some point, you’re away from home. And it seems inevitable too that the more you travel, the more likely you are to run into snags — canceled flights, rental car accidents, seemingly unfair charges or mistakes that someone has to pay for.

No matter where you go — at least in the United States — there are some rights you have regarding the way you’re treated by the travel industry and some rights you don’t have. Here are 10 situations you could find yourself in.

1. Flight cancellations

Ekaterina Pokrovsky / Shutterstock.com
Ekaterina Pokrovsky / Shutterstock.com

There are some misunderstandings about just what an airline owes you in the case of a canceled flight. As a rule of thumb, if it’s their fault, they might take care of you, but if not, you’re on your own. In practice that means if something like a mechanical failure cancels a flight, or if a delay caused by them forces you to miss a connection, they’re on the hook. In that case, you can look forward to hotel accommodations and a meal or two, depending on the length of the delay in getting you on a new plane.

However, if a hurricane blows through and cancels your flight, that’s not their fault, and they don’t owe you anything. In either case, there are no federal regulations mandating that they do anything for you. It’s up to the individual airline’s policies.

2. Getting bumped

Monkey Business Images / Shutterstock.com
Monkey Business Images / Shutterstock.com

Airlines are notorious for overbooking flights and then bumping passengers when they have more people than seats. If that happens to you, you might get a bit of cash from it, but maybe not. In this case, there are federal regulations. If the airline can get you to your final destination (not just a connecting flight) within one hour of the scheduled time, there is no compensation. If you are between one and two hours late, they owe you double the price of a one-way ticket to your destination (up to $675). More than two hours, and they owe you four times the fare (up to $1,450).

There are two caveats: You have to have had a written reservation and checked in on time. Also, it only applies to involuntary bumping. If the airline asks for volunteers to be bumped and you agree, this doesn’t apply — though they’ll probably give you some other deal for volunteering.

3. Delayed luggage

Kaspars Grinvald / Shutterstock.com
Kaspars Grinvald / Shutterstock.com

That sinking feeling you get when you’re in New York and your bag somehow ended up in Houston might translate into compensation. If your bag is delayed, most of the time the airline will get it to you within a couple of hours. As exhausted as you are from traveling, report the luggage problem to the airline and get a written copy of the report before you leave the airport. Check with them about fees, they are not required to get it to you for free. They may be willing to compensate you for reasonable expenses incurred while waiting for your bag — some even hand out cash there in the airport.

Be aware, though, that you and the airline might have different ideas of what “reasonable expenses” are. If they are going to reimburse you, make sure you agree on expenses and keep your receipts.

4. Lost luggage

Xavier Gallego Morrell / Shutterstock.com
Xavier Gallego Morrell / Shutterstock.com

If your bag hasn’t just taken an unscheduled detour, but is missing altogether, the airlines will reimburse you for what was in it. You’ll have to file a form (pay attention to the deadlines — if you miss it, they won’t pay) detailing what was in the bag. They can deny payment for things they find excessive and have a liability limit of $3,500 per passenger, so don’t bother trying to convince them you had a Faberge egg tucked into your shoes.

5. Extra ticket

Rawpixel.com / Shutterstock.com
Rawpixel.com / Shutterstock.com

If you accidentally buy an extra plane ticket, you can cancel it, even if it’s nonrefundable. Two important criteria: You have to make the cancellation within 24 hours of buying the ticket, and the flight has to be at least a week away.

6. Rental car insurance

Dima Sidelnikov / Shutterstock.com
Dima Sidelnikov / Shutterstock.com

At the counter, the person handling your rental car will try and sell you extra insurance. You may already be covered by another policy through your credit card, or your existing auto or homeowner’s policy, but not always. Furthermore, while some policies may cover a car, that coverage may not apply to trucks — and bear in mind that many SUVs are classified as trucks. Read the fine print of your existing policy, and call the company if necessary, to clear up problems before they happen.

7. Rental car breakdowns

wavebreakmedia / Shutterstock.com
wavebreakmedia / Shutterstock.com

If your rental car breaks, that’s not on you, right? It depends. If it was broken before you got it — A/C on the fritz, wiper not wiping — that should be on the rental company to fix, but you need to tell them about it beforehand. When you do that check of the car before you take it off the lot, make sure you look for these things as well as the odd scratch or ding. Once it’s off the lot, the companies can, and often will, hold you responsible for damage.

If the car completely stops working, most rental companies will provide roadside assistance. Just be sure to document everything so you don’t get charged for repairs if the damage wasn’t your fault.

8. Out of rental cars

goodluz / Shutterstock.com
goodluz / Shutterstock.com

Even if you’ve got a rental car reserved, you may find that the company doesn’t have one when you get there. This is another case where you end up depending on the company to do the right thing. They are under no obligation to do anything for you. Most will help, either by upgrading you at the same rate, or finding you a car with a different company.

9. Getting walked

Dmitry Kalinovsky / Shutterstock.com
Dmitry Kalinovsky / Shutterstock.com

Much like airlines, hotels sometimes overbook, and you find no room when you arrive. (Airlines call it bumping, hotels call it walking.) In this case, the hotel will usually take care of you. They should pay for accommodations at another, comparable hotel, and pay the cab fare to get you there.

10. Your room is burglarized

Photographee.eu / Shutterstock.com
Photographee.eu / Shutterstock.com

As a rule, the hotel is not responsible for anything stolen during your stay. Most states require hotels to provide you with a safe, but it’s up to you to use it. In some cases, you may even have to call the police yourself. If you are physically harmed during the robbery you can try to sue the hotel, but you’ll probably have to prove they were negligent.

Any other big rights we didn’t mention? Let us know in the comments below or weigh in on our Facebook page.

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

Read Next
Cut These 11 Expenses Now If You Hope to Retire Early
Cut These 11 Expenses Now If You Hope to Retire Early

Like the idea of financial independence? Part of the FIRE equation is cutting costs.

7 Surprising Advantages of Downsizing as a Retiree
7 Surprising Advantages of Downsizing as a Retiree

Downsizing your home offers many benefits, including some you may not have anticipated.

7 Tricks to Cleaning Your Bathroom Faster
7 Tricks to Cleaning Your Bathroom Faster

These tips can get your bathroom sparkling with little time and no elbow grease.

6 Reasons You Should Stop Hiding Cash at Home
6 Reasons You Should Stop Hiding Cash at Home

Stashing money around the house is anything but harmless.

15 of the Most Outrageously Overpriced Products
15 of the Most Outrageously Overpriced Products

Retailers mark up products by hundreds of times their cost — but you don’t have to pay the premium.

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started

Most Popular
7 Kirkland Signature Items to Avoid at Costco
7 Kirkland Signature Items to Avoid at Costco

Even if it seems you save a bundle buying Costco’s Kirkland Signature brand products, they may not be the bargain they appear to be.

How to Buy Gas At Costco Without a Membership
How to Buy Gas At Costco Without a Membership

The warehouse club often has some of the cheapest gas in town. Here’s how you can get it as a nonmember.

10 Things to Stop Buying If You Want a Clutter-Free Home
10 Things to Stop Buying If You Want a Clutter-Free Home

If you like to keep things simple, avoid these purchases.

A Simple Way to Silence Robocalls Today
A Simple Way to Silence Robocalls Today

A few steps can keep your phone from ringing when a spammer calls.

If You Find This Thrift Shopping, Buy It
If You Find This Thrift Shopping, Buy It

This iconic dinnerware is prized for everyday use as well as reselling for profit.

This Company Makes the Best Tires in America
This Company Makes the Best Tires in America

Driver satisfaction with tires is at an all-time high, but one brand stands out.

7 Home Improvements That Cost a Lot More in 2021
7 Home Improvements That Cost a Lot More in 2021

These projects will take a bigger bite out of your budget than in the recent past.

This Health Issue Can Hint at Dementia Years in Advance
This Health Issue Can Hint at Dementia Years in Advance

One type of pain is especially associated with cognitive decline.

Can I Switch to Spousal Social Security Benefits When My Ex Dies?
Can I Switch to Spousal Social Security Benefits When My Ex Dies?

Knowing when to claim can help you maximize benefits.

Medicare Will Not Cover These 6 Medical Costs
Medicare Will Not Cover These 6 Medical Costs

Don’t let these health care expenses catch you off guard in retirement.

8 Things You Should Always Buy on Amazon
8 Things You Should Always Buy on Amazon

The giant retailer shines when it comes to these things, from basics to hard-to-find specialty goods.

Beware This Hidden Ingredient in Rotisserie Chicken
Beware This Hidden Ingredient in Rotisserie Chicken

Something foul may lurk in those delicious, ready-to-eat birds.

5 Ways to Get Amazon Prime for Free
5 Ways to Get Amazon Prime for Free

Hesitant to drop $119 a year on an Amazon Prime membership? Here’s how to get it for free.

5 Ways to Fill Your Pantry With Free Food
5 Ways to Fill Your Pantry With Free Food

Anyone can take advantage of these resources.

Never Buy These 10 Things on Amazon
Never Buy These 10 Things on Amazon

Just because you can purchase something on Amazon doesn’t mean that you should.

7 Big Purchases You Should Never Make
7 Big Purchases You Should Never Make

Sometimes a big-ticket purchase is nothing more than a big waste of money.

5 States With the Worst Health Care for Retirees
5 States With the Worst Health Care for Retirees

All of these states are located in the same region of the nation.

3 Ways to Get Microsoft Office for Free
3 Ways to Get Microsoft Office for Free

With a little ingenuity, you can cut Office costs to zero.

5 Products You Should Never Buy Generic
5 Products You Should Never Buy Generic

Sometimes the brand-name version is clearly superior.

View More Articles

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started

Add a Comment

Our Policy: We welcome relevant and respectful comments in order to foster healthy and informative discussions. All other comments may be removed. Comments with links are automatically held for moderation.