Holiday travel season is upon us, with flights, cruises, railways, lodging and vehicles being booked at lightening speed. But, as consumers collectively spend nearly $2 trillion annually on travel and tourism, far too few know what their legal rights and obligations are before making their travel-related purchase, which can render them vulnerable even to severe unforeseen legal consequences. Attorney Jeff Isaac notes, In order to minimize potential complications, its best to make travel related decisions knowing even some of what the law provides to protect your civil and property rights. Such preventative legal due diligence should be undertaken well before purchasing that airline ticket to Grandmothers house for Christmas dinner to better assure you will arrive in a festive mood.

With suggestions that are helpful for both you and your groups, we will take a look at a few key considerations to help would-be holiday vacationers avoid or appropriately deal with travel trouble.

  1. Leverage available support resources

    Purchase travel with your credit card rather than cash or a debit card. Under U.S. law, credit card holders have the right to request a chargeback, essentially a refund, on their accounts for travel services that are not delivered as promised. Of course, the credit card company must agree that your situation is chargeback worthy.

Find out if your state has a restitution fund

Seek out travel related consumer advocate groups. The California Travel Consumer Restitution Fund (TCRF), for example, compensates consumers who purchased air or sea travel, either alone or in conjunction with other travel services, from a registered California travel agent, and who did not receive what had been promised. Those believing they are eligible to receive compensation can submit a claim with the organization for consideration.

Consider travel insurance/protection

Protecting large travel investments and property with a travel protection plan can insure you against possible supplier default, bankruptcy, medical evacuation and treatment, cancellations and other such vacation disruptions. Just be sure you purchase travel insurance from a reputable provider one that is NOT self insured lest their shortcomings become yours.

Heed TSA regulations

If you mistakenly pack a prohibited item in your carry-on bag, you could be assessed a TSA fine up to $10,000! Carrying certain prohibited items could even result in both a civil and criminal enforcement action. Arguing with a TSA screener could also result in a substantial fine, so stay calm, cool and collected when you find yourself in a possible contraband situation.

Check baggage at your own risk

Legal recourse for mishandled baggage claims is largely futile in light of the large number of airline tariffs (restrictions), albeit listed in the fine print on the back of an airline ticket that usually go unnoticed or unread by travelers. Airline regulations prohibit compensation for almost any claim, particularly for high dollar and/or somewhat fragile items such as laptop computers, jewelry and electronics.

Invoke Rule 240 when delayed

Rule 240, an airlines delay and cancellation policy covers delays that are the airline’s fault, such as mechanical problems or schedule changes. Under this rule, the major carriers must try to book you on the next available flight at no extra charge, even if it means putting you on a competitor’s plane in a higher class of service. They must also get you a hotel room as well as meals or ground transportation, or both, for overnight delays or for those exceeding 4-hours for diverted flights.

Know your bump rights

The Department of Transportation requires each airline to give all involuntarily bumped passengers a written statement of their rights along with an explanation of the carrier.

Following these steps will ensure safe and happy traveling, during the holidays, or anytime of the year for that matter.