How to Avoid Travel Woes on Your Next Trip

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Have you ever felt hosed by a travel company? Do you think you've been fleeced at the car rental counter?

CBS News Travel Editor Peter Greenberg investigated and solved your real travel problems, and helps make sure these things don't happen to you.

He shared these travel issues and solutions on "The Early Show":

1. My Suitcase Went Where?

Elaine, an 86-year-old traveler, shipped her luggage via UPS from Massachusetts to Florida, rather than schlepping it on the plane. The problem? One suitcase made it; the other didn't arrive until a week after the expected delivery date.

Not only was the customer annoyed by the lost luggage, but she was surprised when UPS agent told her they could not help her; instead, she had to contact the UPS counter at the Staples store from where she had shipped the bag.

After the customer worked with Staples, spoke with a UPS tracing agent and provided a detailed description of the suitcase, UPS was able to track down the bag and get it to the destination -- albeit one week late.

We contacted UPS to find out what happened. They agreed to reimburse the customer $79.85, including transportation and Staples charges and apologized for the inconvenience. In all likelihood, the shipping label on the luggage handle fell off in transit.

A spokeswoman from UPS confirmed that if a package is shipped through a retailer (i.e. Staples, Office Depot), disputes and refunds must be filed through that location; however, if you choose to use a dedicated UPS store, they can help you solve issues directly.

Was there anything this traveler could have done to prevent the problem?

Insert an additional copy of the address label inside the luggage or package in case an outer label is damaged or lost.

When dealing with customer service, have all the notable details of your luggage on hand: In this case, the UPS agent put all details into the computer, including itemized contents and the type, color and monogram of the suitcase, to help help track lost item.

Proper packaging and labeling is critical to ensure safe transit. If possible, put luggage in a box (UPS now sells dedicated luggage boxes in two sizes that replaces a suitcase). An outer carton protects the condition of the luggage and provides a flat surface for the shipping label (as opposed to a label that goes around the handle.)

Consider shedding the suitcase and packing clothing, shoes and necessities loosely in a box to make it lighter, even including a flat box for return shipping.

The UPS Store offers the Pack & Ship Promise. If a participating location packs and ships the luggage/items via UPS and there is any loss or damage in transit, the customer is reimbursed.

Double check the luggage receiving address at your hotel or resort, as it may be different than the address on their website.

2. Sleepless in Alaska

Sheila, a widowed senior citizen saved up her money to take a trip of a lifetime, a week-long cruise to Alaska onboard Holland America's ms Zaandam.

Her trip took a turn for the worse when she was awoken in the middle of the night by a faulty smoke alarm in her cabin. Though she contacted the crew, they were unable to fix the alarm or move her to another cabin. The problem persisted until two days before the cruise ended, at which point she had several sleepless nights and a generally stressful experience.

"I lost four nights of sleep and requested either money or credit towards another cruise," she writes. "I wrote several letters and was denied the compensation that I am deserved. They gave me $100 credit on board and offered me a room upgrade on the next trip."

What jumped out at us about her experience were three things:

The compensation offered, $100 shipboard credit and a cabin upgrade, assumes that Sheila will travel again on HAL.

On a cruise, your cabin is mostly for sleeping. When that is compromised, it really has an effect on the quality of the vacation.

According to an HAL customer service representative, her compensation was calculated by the nature and severity of the issue, "as well as the cruise fare paid." That made us wonder: if the complaint was coming from someone in a higher-priced cabin, what would their compensation have been?

We contacted Holland America to get to the bottom of this situation. After investigating it further, they determined that Sheila was due further compensation. She was offered a $400 refund, or $777 to be applied to a future cruise. She opted for the former.

What can you do if you face a similar situation?

Of course, technical issues can and will arise, but it's how the situation is handled that makes a difference in the customer experience. If you're not satisfied with your experience for a concrete reason, it's your right to go through the appropriate channels to see how it can be resolved. Keep a log of everyone you speak with, both during the trip and after, and go up the chain if a customer service representative can't offer assistance.

And if those normal channels don't work, email Peter to get on the case!

For more tips and advice, go to Page 2.