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How to Avoid Travel Woes on Your Next Trip

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.

3. The Foreign Currency Blues

While traveling through Ireland, Michael opted to use a Capital One card to avoid those pesky foreign transaction fees. (What happens with most credit cards is that they charge a 1 percent fee to convert foreign currency into U.S. dollars, but Capital One absorbs those costs.)

Though he found that strategy worked well throughout Ireland, he got nailed at the Hertz counter when renting a car. There, Hertz levied its own foreign conversion fee, at a rate of $1.4537, when the standard rate that day was $1.3720. The difference in rates cost him an additional $65.95.

According to Hertz, while Ireland is a franchisee country, they have the same policy as Hertz regarding the Customer Preferred Currency Conversion (CPCC). The CPCC replaces the currency conversion normally carried out by a credit card company when its cardholder uses his/her credit card to make transactions in a foreign currency.

Hertz uses a commercial daily rate of exchange provided by a foreign exchange dealer for the day the charges are billed to the account. In addition to that, a CPCC administration fee of up to 2.75 percent of the transaction is billed to the rental contract. This fee replaces the currency conversion administration charge usually made by the card issuer.

So even though Michael was using a credit card that didn't charge a foreign conversion fee, he was hit by the conversion charge from Hertz.

When he contacted Hertz, he was alerted to part of the contract that he signed at the rental counter, which fully explains the CPCC policy. However, as a gesture of goodwill, Hertz has issued him a refund for the foreign conversion fee.

How to Protect Yourself:

When booking a car rental, call the agency directly to ask about ALL fees, charges and taxes before choosing which company to use.

It's also important to ask which fees are optional and which are not.

When you get to the desk, read the fine print and ask questions. In this case, the conversion fee was buried in the boilerplate language, but it wasn't explained to the customer.

4. Double Charged for Vacation

A traveler was planning to travel to Florida last spring and paid for a stay at a timeshare resort by booking through an Indiana-based company called The Vacation Store. Nearly three months later, the resort where she stayed charged her credit card an additional $729.98, stating they had never been paid by The Vacation Store.

After several failed attempts to reach the company, she filed a complaint with the Better Business Bureau and the Florida Division of Consumer Services. Both offices were also unable to get a response from The Vacation Store.

We contacted the timeshare resort where she stayed, Carib Cove Resort. They reported having several problems like this with The Vacation Store, but were unable to offer any further assistance.

When we contacted the Vacation Store on her behalf, they claimed never to have heard anything about this case before. They did, however, agree to contact the customer directly to work out the situation. Unfortunately, there's no guarantee that this company will follow through on its promise.

How can you protect yourself from this type of situation?

Cross check any timeshare company to see if it's a member of the American Resort Development Association, the trade association that represents vacation ownership and resort development properties. The Vacation Store is not a member.

Cross check any companies with the Better Business Bureau before you do business. According to the Indiana BBB, The Vacation Store has a BBB Rating of C- on, with 37 complaints filed against them.

She did the right thing by filing a claim with the Florida Division of Consumers Services as well as the Better Business Bureau, but should also consider filing with the Florida Attorney General.

Contact your credit card company with documentation: the booking confirmation of services, the additional charge, and any other supporting correspondence.

If all else fails, there is the option of filing in small claims court to recoup those losses.