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Michael Bennett is the former Senior Producer of the Travel Channels west coast operations and is currently a travel writer for Savoy and Black Enterprise Magazine. Michael is the host of Globetrotting on BET's BET on Jazz Network. For travel question write to


Summer is rapidly approaching and with that comes warm weather and a well-earned vacation. Most of us are dreaming of the day we can escape the hectic schedules demanded by our profession. My wife and I have looked at guidebooks from Tahiti, Hong Kong and the Caribbean in search of the perfect vacation. The last thing we want to worry about is a traveler supplier who takes our money then declares bankruptcy or fails for any reason to deliver the goods. So here's what we did to protect ourselves from the less than honest travel provider/supplier or those companies on the verge of insolvency.

Work with a reputable travel provider/supplier or travel agent. To find out if an agent or provider is trustworthy, check with the American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA) or the United States Tour Operators Association (USTOA). Both organizations require a certain level of expertise and all members must carry a $1 million bond to protect the consumer in case the travel provider or agent goes out of business. Also, check with the Better Business Bureau to see if any complaints have been lodged against the company.

Use charge cards whenever possible. Not only does it give you a transaction record or paper trail, many card issuers can assist in recouping monies lost should the travel provider go out of business.

Make sure you purchase travel insurance. That insurance should cover supplier
failure. Also you want to purchase insurance from an independent insurer not
the travel supplier. Your travel agent should be able to recommend a few
good ones. Here's a partial list: Travel Guard International, Travelex, CSA
Travel Protection, American Express, Global Care, The Travelers, TravMed and
Mutual of Omaha.

It's important to note the distinction between a travel insurance company
such as those listed above and a travel providers policy. If the travel
provider goes out of business and you purchased one of their policies,
chances are you won't get your money back. By going through an independent
insurance company, you can bet they've checked out the travel provider and
made sure they are a viable and solvent company.

If you buy a travel package, wait a few days then call the airline or cruise
line direct and make sure you are booked on the right dates, flights or
cruise ship sailings. If not, contact the company or agent that sold you the
package. If your concerns haven't been addressed call your credit card
company or travel insurer immediately.

When purchasing travel insurance most companies require you to purchase that
insurance within a week to ten days of when the initial down payment for the
trip was made. For your own safety please adhere to this deadline or you'll
be at the mercy of the travel Gods.

When booking, ask the travel provider or supplier when you can expect to
receive your tickets. Any delay or evasiveness on their part should raise a
red flag.

And lastly, always verify the cancellation policy, restrictions, ticket
delivery method and total cost. If you've responded to an advertised special
rate for a cruise or some other travel package, that package will come with
heavy restrictions, so make sure you read the fine print. It's a good idea to
check with the travel agent, provider, airline, cruise line and hotel once
you receive your tickets and again a week or so before you leave to make sure
everything is still in order.