DEAR TRAVEL TROUBLESHOOTER: I booked a weekend train trip from Portland to Brunswick, Maine, last year through Show of the Month Club, a tour operator. They contacted me in June to cancel the trip due to the pandemic. In August, they contacted me again to verify my address so they could issue the refund.

Christopher Elliott, the Travel Troubleshooter ...
Christopher Elliott, the Travel Troubleshooter 

I’ve received no money from Show of the Month Club. It’s been nine months. Can you help me get my $600 back?

— Mary Roberts, Plaistow, New Hampshire

ANSWER: You’re right — that’s way too long to wait for a refund.

Typically, a refund should take about two to three weeks. During the pandemic, you might give a company a few extra weeks. But nine months? That’s really testing your patience.

My readers have had this problem time and again during the past year. I can understand why a business, particularly a tour operator, would be slow to issue a refund. Some of the money you paid to the company may already have been paid out to a rail operator or hotel. And even if it’s still with the tour operator, that business might need the money to make payroll or cover other operating expenses.

The long-term solution is for firms to improve their business processes to issue a fast refund while not endangering the company. It’s a discussion that’s way above my paygrade as a consumer advocate.

Could you have avoided this? You had no way of knowing we were about to have a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic. And Show of the Month Club seemed like a reputable operator, from your perspective.

What about a credit card chargeback? You can dispute your credit card charges under the Fair Credit Billing Act. You have to notify your bank so that it reaches the creditor within 60 days after the first bill. But for a transaction like this one, where you booked a train excursion months in advance, it probably wouldn’t work. Some banks will accept the dispute, but most won’t.
I contacted Show of the Month Club on your behalf. It refunded your $600.

Club Med and AXA Partners have signed an agreement to offer an insurance policy designed to cover unforeseen events that travelers may encounter before, during or after their trip, including COVID-19.

The “Serenity Protection Plan” insurance policy includes coverage for contamination by COVID whereby the stay and transportation can be reimbursed by the insurance policy. Policy purchasers can also find coverage for events such as a “missed flight,” baggage insurance and compensation in case of interruption of their stay.

This global offering, with the support of Club Med’s long-standing partners Marsh and E-Thaque, provides a tailored response to Club Med’s international clientele and has been rolled out in more than 20 countries.

“Following a year of restricted travel with many uncertainties related to the pandemic, we are proud of the added security and support offered to Club Med customers through travel insurance programs provided by AXA Partners,” said Blessy George, CEO and Country Manager of AXA Partners US. “The partnership between Club Med and AXA Partners will enable customers to once again enjoy their vacations while feeling secure and at ease knowing they have access to travel assistance and insurance coverage if the need arises.”

“With more than 70 years of experience in the all-inclusive resort industry, it is important we continue to meet traveler expectations as we enter this new era of travel,” said Carolyne Doyon, president and CEO of Club Med North America and the Caribbean.

AXA Partners is an international entity forming part of AXA offering assistance services, travel insurance and credit protection and welfare.

Club Med, founded in 1950 by Gérard Blitz, is an all-inclusive resort facility, offering approximately 70 premium resorts in locations around the world including North and South America, Caribbean, Asia, Africa, Europe and the Mediterranean.

Source: AXA Partners

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The Girls Academy League playoffs from Oceanside, California kick off on Wednesday. The all-girls league is enjoying a successful inaugural season and the week-long playoffs/showcase is the pinnacle for this campaign. 

The U13, U14, and U19 age groups will have the playoffs and championship games during the week in Oceanside. The other age groups will have the playoffs group play and quarterfinals in Oceanside. The semifinals and finals for the U15, U16, and U17 will be in Greensboro, North Carolina July 16-18. 

The groups for the playoffs were announced late last week. Take a look at the teams and players to watch from the event. Check back on TopDrawerSoccer throughout the event for daily recaps, standouts, and follow us on social media for additional coverage from the event. 

photo: twitter.com/GAcademyLeague  

U13 

Group A: SJEB Rush, Utah Royals-AZ, South Shore Select, Lou Fusz Athletic

Group B: NEFC, Arlington Soccer, Tophat Navy, Albion SC LV

Group C: Tophat Gold, TSJ FC Virginia, STA, City SC

Group D: OK Energy, Legends FC, Long Island SC, Colorado Rush 

 

The Girls Academy has the most clubs willing to play elite talent with older teams, which can make prognostication for the youth level tricky. SJEB Rush (17-0-2) and TopHat Gold (11-0-2) are the two unbeaten squads in the 08 age group this season. SJEB Rush led the nation in goals scored with 62. TopHat was unquestionably the top defense with only three goals conceded. Utah Royals-AZ is the big wildcard. If KK Ream plays with the 08 age group, they probably should be considered the team to beat. Ream has played up multiple age groups at previous national events with Utah Royals-AZ. 

Oklahoma Energy is another team to watch. Energy went unbeaten at the national event in the spring with a 2-0-1 record. Energy has taken down all challengers recently including a handful of the top ECNL teams in local tournaments. Sophia Baker has been the star of the attack for Energy with over 20 goals this season. 

 

U14 

Group A: Nationals, NEFC, OK Energy, Albion SC

Group B: TSJ FC Virginia, Utah Royals-AZ, STA, Weston FC

Group C: Tophat Gold, Lou Fusz Athletic, ISC Gunners/Lamorinda, Baltimore Armour 

Group D: FC Bay Area Surf, Cincinnati United Premier, Houston Dash, City SC 

 

NEFC and TSJ FC Virginia are the top two teams in this age group. Nationals, from Michigan, is 24-1 on the season. TSJ FC Virginia holds and unbeaten mark at 18-0-2. Nationals went 3-0 during the national event in May – all wins versus teams that qualified for the playoffs. The strength for Nationals has been in the attack. They scored eight goals in those three victories, and lead the nation in goals scored with 77. TSJ FC Virginia also went 3-0 at the national event in May. Hannah Minogue, Bree Bridges, Chloe Nelson, and Mya Townes lead the way for FC Virginia. FC Bay Area Surf is another team to watch in the 07 age group. The Northern California squad is 8-0-3 on the

Meagan Drillinger

Meagan Drillinger

Punta Mita, the luxury enclave north of Puerto Vallarta on the northern edge of the Bay of Banderas, is readying itself for the summer and fall season with a slew of new openings, including new rentals and a new surf club. The destination is also committed to maintaining strict health and safety protocols, even as vaccinations begin to roll out across the United States and Mexico.

“We have not let our guard down,” said Carl Emberson, director of marketing and operations for Punta Mita. “[Travelers are] still in an environment where everyone is conscious. [The pandemic] is not over.” 

Within the gated community, it is still mandatory to wear masks in public spaces, there are no big group gatherings and the community is committed to maintaining a low-key, safe environment for families.

Punta Mita is also a one-stop shop for everything that travelers may need these days in terms of safety. For peace of mind, there’s a hospital within Punta Mita as well as spots to get tested prior to returning to the U.S. 

“It is a very secure and safe family environment. Everything is set up, and everyone is very cautious and considerate of other people visiting us,” said Emberson.

New inventory comes online

As for the new openings, Punta Mita Rentals has added new inventory to the rental program it debuted last year. In response to the pandemic and visitors’ desire to work remotely and stay away longer with more isolation, Punta Mita Rentals has an inventory of 70 luxury homes available to rent. These homes range from two- to three-bedroom apartments to five- to eight-bedroom villas with private beach access. 

“We saw people looking for security, and the luxury villa rentals have been off the charts,” said Emberson. “You live the life of a five-star hotel in the comfort of villas, some with up to 12 or 15 beds. They include concierge services, access to the beach clubs of Punta Mita, tennis. It’s that same five-star experience within the comfort, privacy and security of your home.

“The bookings have been very strong. It’s hard to find a place in Punta Mita,” he said. “The rentals at the moment are way past 2019 numbers.”

Surf’s up at new beach club

Another new development in Punta Mita is the addition of El Surf Club. The new beach club welcomes members, resort guests and villa renters to enjoy surf rentals and instruction from a local surfer. For those who prefer to stay on dry land (or after a surf session), kick back at the beach club with a menu of cocktails, live DJ music and coastal cuisine served up from Chef Pato Persico. The menu includes seafood, tacos, burgers and other barefoot luxury cuisine.

“It’s been a huge success,” said Emberson. As for design, Emberson describes it as ” a little bit of Tulum in Punta Mita.” 

Golf course restoration

Finally, the Pacific and Bahia golf courses recently announced a five-year restoration project touching all greens, bunkers and

New York, NY – NWSL club NJ/NY Gotham FC (formerly Sky Blue FC), and Downtown United Soccer Club (DUSC) have announced a joint-partnership to launch a Women’s Premier Soccer League (WPSL) team.

The WPSL team will operate under the name NJ/NY Gotham Reserves, and serve as the NWSL side’s official reserves team. NJ/NY Gotham Reserves will begin competition with the 2021 WPSL season, which begins in May.

“Having the opportunity to extend our reach within the women’s game and develop a pipeline of talent towards the pro team is an important step for us as a Club.” said Alyse LaHue, NJ/NY Gotham FC General Manager.

The creation of this reserves team marks a period of heightened investment from NJ/NY Gotham FC in the NYC region. The club initiated a landmark rebrand on April 6th, 2021, to better serve the growing audience and diversity that currently represents the club’s fanbase.

“Collaborating with DUSC on this endeavor expands our resources to be able to provide the best experience possible to players within the Club” continued LaHue. “This project also provides us further extension into New York City, where we’ve had a tremendous fan base and support over the years. As a club we are fully committed to being a part of the development of women’s soccer within NYC.”

Downtown United Soccer Club (DUSC) is the most comprehensive youth soccer club in NYC, serving approximately 5,000 participants annually. Founded in 1982, DUSC offers a Soccer For All approach to programming for ages 3-23 through its Recreation Leagues, Camps, Classes and its Travel Academy program. The girls program at DUSC is committed to elevating girls and women’s leadership, along with diversity in NYC and is proud to be one of the few programs that has women in leadership roles across the board.

“We’re excited to be working with NJ/NY Gotham FC in this venture as it’s a huge step for our girls and women’s program at DUSC,” said Leanne Campbell, the DUSC Technical Director of NJ/NY Gotham Reserves. “A WPSL team shows how dedicated DUSC is to growing the women’s game in NYC and offering our youth players a clear pathway towards the professional game. It’s something that has been missing for a long time in the greater NYC area.”

The Gotham Reserves coaching staff will be comprised of representatives from NJ/NY Gotham FC and DUSC, respectively. Becki Tweed, current NJ/NY Gotham FC Assistant Coach, and Eleri Earnshaw, DUSC Girls Academy Coach, will serve as Co-Head Coaches of the Reserves squad.

The team will be competing in the WPSL Metropolitan Conference – South Division with a seven-game regular season, followed by league playoffs. All home games will be played at Randall’s Island in NYC.