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Ask Peter: Nonrefundable Flights & Alaska Cruise Solutions

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When it comes to finding an answer to your travel problems, sometimes it’s not as simple as a one-size-fits-all solution.  In some circumstances, it pays to buy travel insurance; in others it’s not worth the investment. Likewise, in some instances a cruise’s shore excursion is the most convenient and economical option, but sometimes it’s better to plan your own adventure. Keep reading as Peter weighs the pros and cons of two travel dilemmas.

If you need Peter’s perspective, remember you can talk to him at 1-888-88-PETER (1-888-887-3837), email him at, tweet questions to @petersgreenberg (use #askPeter), or post questions on his Facebook page.

Nolan tweeted: Is there a way to deal with nonrefundable when it becomes necessary to change flights?

There’s two options: Feel sorry for yourself or buy travel insurance. The reason they call it nonrefundable, Nolan, is because you’re not getting your money back, and in many cases, the ticket-change fee might exceed the cost of your ticket.

For example, if you’re buying a $59 ticket on Southwest, you don’t buy travel insurance. If you don’t use the ticket, you throw it out. But if you have a sizable investment in your flight — anything over $400 — and you think you might have to change that nonrefundable ticket, you better go out and buy trip cancellation and interruption insurance. If you have this protection that $400 ticket is going to cost you $150 to change plus the difference in the fare to buy another ticket. In most cases, the cost of making such a change is almost double. That’s where the airlines make all their money. When it comes to nonrefundable tickets, either get on the flight, throw the ticket away or buy the travel insurance if you have a sizable investment in the ticket.

Find out more, it’s Peter’s CBS This Morning report on Why You Need Travel Insurance.

Vic in New Jersey asked: My wife and I are interested in our first cruise to the interpassage of Alaska. We are active seniors and are planning a trip for this coming September, what do you recommend?

If it’s your first cruise, then it’s okay to take one of the bigger ships. September is an interesting month because it’s sort of a gray shoulder season. It gets a little chillier. But the cool thing is, kids are back in school, so it’s less crowded on the ships and in the ports. In June, July, August, you can have as many as 39 ships in the inside passage. But in September, you won’t have 19 ships in Seward or 19 ships in Juneau. It’s much more manageable.

In terms of stops, I do believe you should get to the Mendenhall Glacier, which is a common stop for ships and many offer helicopter shore excursion. Also aim to take the Yukon Railway and spend a half day in Ketchikan salmon fishing. And if you catch something, guess what, the chef on your ship will actually cook it for you.

With Alaska, there is no language barrier so there is nothing stopping you from picking up the phone and shopping around for a better deal by making your own shore excursion. I do recommend using the ships shore excursion program for the Mendenhall Glacier helicopter ride, salmon fishing. and the Yukon Railway. After that, get leave time to walk around, take a taxi to a different neighborhood and pick up the phone to arrange your own actives.

For more Alaska excursion ideas, visit the Alaska travel archives.

By Peter Greenberg for Peter Greenberg Worldwide