I’ve been saying for months that in this economy, we should ask for what else the hotel/resort/ cruiseline can do for us–a better room, resort credits, free food. But until last week, I hadn’t thought about that in the context of a family emergency. I found myself handling flights and hotels for family converging in Illinois after my 90-year-old mother-in-law was rushed to the hospital and then died.


Other travel plans had to be scrapped and changed. And as is the case in situations like this, flights were booked but then a few days later, they had to be changed. Same with hotel rooms.


So I asked–and pleaded for airlines to waive change fees (they did) and for the hotel to lower its web rate (The I Hotel in Champaign Il not only did that but did all they could to make our stay comfortable. www.stayatthei.com


Of course there were hiccups. My husband rented a car from Thrifty in Chicago and then discovered it couldn’t be returned to Indianapolis where the rest of us were flying in. He had to drive it back to Chicago–a three hour trip from Champaign.


One United agent worked with me to transfer the value of my son’s upcoming ticket to Colorado to a ticket to Texas where the memorial service will take place but ultimately gave me some wrong information. It took more than an hour on the phone and several phone calls before I finally got it straightened out and the flights booked where and when they needed to go.


Here’s the skinny on “bereavement” fares. If the airline offers them–and many don’t–they are only about 10 percent less than the fares being offered. In fact, you might find some cheaper on line. The benefit: you can change them without a fee but they are still nonrefundable. And you need to bring a copy of the death certificate with you to the airport, I was told.


Of course I had to be patient–not always easy at an emotional time. I had to ask to speak to supervisors. But once I got to the right people, everything worked out. All I had to do was ask–politely of course.