Q: My travel agent messed up on my mother's travel visa for her Europe tour. We returned the tickets. The agent says that we will be penalized for canceling late. I feel that the travel agent messed up, so he should give me a full refund and the penalty should be his problem, right?
A: Give it a try. Open your lips and ask the agent for a refund. If he refuses, there are a vast--or at least half vast--number of places to which you can turn for help.
Ask the agent if he belongs to any professional travel agent's association. Many of those associations mediate disputes like the one in which you may be involved. This includes the U.S. Tour Operators Association, 212-599-6599, http://www.ustoa.com; National Tour Association, 606-226-4444; American Society of Travel Agents, 703-739-2782, http://www.astanet.com; Association of Retail Travel Agents, 717-545-9548; International Airlines Travel Agent Network, 516-747-4716, http://www.iatan.org; Institute of Certified Travel Agents, 781-237-0280, http://www.icta.com.
If the agent is not a member of any of these associations, try a private travel consumer association, such as International Airline Passengers Association, at 214-404-9980, http://www.iapa.com or Conde Nast Traveler Magazine's column, " The Ombudsman." Pick up a copy at your newsstand for details.