Vacation certificates are often used as incentives to increase sales with offers made via fax, telemarketing or the Internet, including "pop-up" ads. While initially the consumer may think s/he is getting a free a trip to one or more popular vacation sites there generally is a cost involved. Consumers may be asked to tour a timeshare property and/or pay a "reservation fee" or for hotel upgrades. Transportation costs are generally not included. The certificate may be good for a maximum of 18 months under Florida law.
The company will want you to charge the fee to your credit card immediately, or will ask you for your checking account number so they can debit your account. Typically, the business will request payment at the point of sale. BBB advises consumers to be wary of any seller of travel who tells you that you must make up you mind about purchasing during the call.
Once you agree to the "purchase," you will have a period of time to use the vacation, subject to availability. Sometimes though, when you call to arrange your trip, the dates you desire will not be available because certain "black out" days may not be available. The company may not disclose this information to you initially. Also, the company may offer to "upgrade" you to a more expensive hotel.
In some cases, travelers have found the accommodations and facilities provided through these certificates to be below standard and unacceptable.
30-day Cancellation Period - Vacation Certificates ONLY
Florida law gives the consumer some protection in the matter of cancellations, by providing that a contract for a vacation certificate may be canceled in writing within 30 days of purchase or receipt of the vacation certificate. The consumer may also cancel if the accommodations and facilities are not available as provided in the contract.
(If a travel package is not a vacation certificate the consumer is required to choose a date for travel, at the time of purchase and the consumer must be informed that it is non-refundable before making any payment or signing a contract. This type of travel package is considered "date certain," therefore, is not subject to the 30-day (vacation certificate) cancellation policy and is generally non-refundable.
Keep in mind with regard to cancellations: the entire amount involved is refundable. Unethical sellers of travel may offer to refund all but a certain amount, but they are required to refund the full amount paid to the seller of travel, if the consumer cancels the vacation package, in writing and returns the vacation package, within 30 days of purchase or receipt of the vacation package.
If you decide to keep the certificate and take the trip, don't leave home without confirming all your hotel accommodations personally.