It appears your best method for success is to communicate through polite, concise email inquiries rather than phone calls, online chats, or web forms. Those customer service email addresses are sometimes harder to find, but that means they may receive faster attention or better service. Plus, they create a clean, written record that you can resend two weeks later if you don’t hear back.

And if you don’t, aim higher. When Amy from St. Paul, Minnesota, wrote to me asking for help with a $1,172 United Airlines credit that she was proving impossible to use, I suggested that she use, a site run by Elliott Advocacy, a nonprofit that does similar work to Tripped Up and provides contact information for travel providers. She told me that she wrote to a United customer service executive and received a response the same day with a solution. “Magic!” she said.

If emails sent directly to your service provider fail, what might work are complaints to your credit card issuer, the Better Business Bureau, your state’s attorney general (or the department of insurance for insurance-related cases ) and the federal department of transportation (for flights).

Passengers often write to me indignantly, complaining that an airline canceled their entire itinerary just because they missed a leg. However, that is a generalized and well-documented rule. It’s not fair? I absolutely agree, but there’s nothing I can do except tell you to (please) write your member of Congress.

People also often refuse to purchase travel insurance because they think that if they get sick they can just show a doctor’s note and the airline, cruise line, or hotel will refund their money. But this isn’t elementary school, and while companies sometimes make exceptions, you can’t count on it. Tong, from Sebastopol, California, wrote to me that when his wife, Elizabeth, fell ill with Covid-19 during a trip to Italy in October, easyJet did not refund them $390 for an unused flight from Naples to Palermo. At the peak of the pandemic, that might have worked. Not anymore.