Episode 15 Rip Off Britain


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Episode 15

The team hear how one family's trip abroad was ruined by a reality very different from the glossy photos the travel brochure had shown.


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Transcript


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We asked you, who's left you feeling ripped off when it comes to your holidays?

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And you came back with a catalogue of travel disasters.

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It happens all the time,

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that somebody else has paid less for the holiday that I paid more for.

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The cost of these things is certainly going up and up.

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I always think someone is trying to rip me off somewhere along the line!

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So whether it's a deliberate rip-off,

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a simple mistake or indeed a catch in the small print,

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we'll find out why you are out of pocket and what you can do about it.

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Your stories, your money. This is Rip-Off Britain.

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Hello and welcome to another really sunny episode of Rip-Off Britain from Tenerife where, all of

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this series, we are investigating

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some of the problems that you've been having with your holidays and travel,

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and I suppose while it's inevitable

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that not everything is ever going to

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live up to expectations when you go away, there will, however,

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always be some elements

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that you would actually consider to be totally fundamental

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to what you've booked.

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But, you know, it's very clear from all the stories you send us,

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that for a lot of you, the reality of what you've got for your money

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doesn't quite match up to the glossy pictures in the brochure or indeed

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on the website, which, of course,

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can leave you feeling thoroughly deflated and just wishing

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that you had picked somewhere else to go entirely.

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Or when you've got such high hopes pinned on your time away,

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there's always the risk of the odd disappointment,

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but many of you have told us you would have far rather been given

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the full picture in advance

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because forewarned is forearmed and at least you would have known

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things weren't going to be all you hoped for,

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so you might not have been quite so upset

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by what you found when you arrived.

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Coming up, as the big-name holiday companies announce the death

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of the brochure, we test out how they will persuade us to book their trips in the future.

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Oh, someone is bringing dinner to me.

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Oh, I don't know what that is, but it looks nice.

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-Oh, now I can see the sea.

-It feels like I'm actually here.

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And when is an all-inclusive not all-inclusive?

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How your holiday could end up

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costing a lot more than you bargained for.

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Over the week of the holiday,

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we obviously didn't think that we would have to put our hands in our

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pockets, but we ended up spending about between 40 and £60 a day.

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Not so long ago when we started planning for a holiday destination,

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we would pop into our local travel agent,

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pick up a glossy brochure and see all those tempting photographs of

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holiday beaches and hotels.

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But it seems that the brochure has had its day.

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It's been superseded by websites,

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which have the same tempting photographs but, of course,

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they're much easier and quicker to update. But however you get your

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images, what you really want is some kind of guarantee that those images

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are an accurate reflection of the destination before you actually arrive there.

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Unfortunately, as we've seen all too often on this programme,

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that's not always the case, which does rather beg the question,

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is it ever possible to get a true picture of any location

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before we hand over our money and turn up on holiday?

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Well, it seems that technology has a solution and we wanted to see whether

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or not it's something that's really going to catch on or if it's any

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truer than the photographs in the brochure.

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It's a January tradition started back in 1953

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when the first-ever holiday brochure was published.

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For decades, eager holiday-makers would rush to get the latest copy,

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spending hours planning their big summer holiday while it was still winter outside.

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Especially at this time of year when it's cold,

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it's nice to sit with a coffee and just flick through a brochure.

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By looking at brochures,

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I can come across somewhere I hadn't thought of going.

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They show you the nice, glossy pictures and you hope that that

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is really what it looks like and it should be.

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We've seen a brochure and we go through hours or maybe two hours going through the holiday,

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going through, you know, sifting through it, do it that way.

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It's nice just to have a cup of coffee and sit in the conservatory

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and look through the holiday brochures.

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And it was the glossy holiday photos in the Thomson brochure of

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crystal-clear swimming pools, immaculate gardens and spotless restaurants

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that convinced Julie Tully from Nottingham to book a two-week

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family holiday at the Grand Memories Varadero hotel in Cuba.

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In the brochure, the hotel looked very clean and tidy, fantastic gardens.

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The rooms looked very large and very comfortable.

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The hotel restaurants were all set out with nice tableware,

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white table linen,

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the waiters were all dressed in very clean and smart uniforms.

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This looked like the sort of place that we wanted to spend two weeks

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relaxing and enjoying ourselves.

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This was a special family holiday to celebrate the 50th birthday of

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Julie's husband Mark, so they were willing to push the boat out,

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and the hotel didn't come cheap.

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For the four of them, the total cost was nearly £7,000.

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It's not very often that we'll spend that kind of money,

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we usually stay somewhere fairly local and tend to book the flights

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and hotels separately ourselves so we were really relying on Thomsons

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to deliver a package for us.

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Having looked at the brochure,

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Julie also checked out the pictures on the company's website and was

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reassured that, from the moment they arrived in Cuba,

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this would be every bit the holiday of a lifetime.

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So, first impressions on arrival, there was a band playing,

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there were some drinks being given to us, the gardens looked fantastic,

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Cuba itself on first reflection was everything I imagined it would be.

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The hotel from the outside looked exactly like the brochure.

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But after checking in and as the family made their way

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into the hotel, the gloss started to fade.

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Julie says that things were very different from how they had appeared in the images in the brochure.

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When we arrived in our room, my first thought was, "Well,

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"it doesn't quite look like the brochure."

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We were expecting a superior room,

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it looked more like the standard room.

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Um... Very tired looking, needed a little TLC.

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Julie had booked this, a superior clubroom,

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but Julie says what she actually got was this - a tired,

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tatty room with dirty fixtures and fittings.

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The bedding was stained, as were the walls,

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and the bathroom had seen better, cleaner days,

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and as the family ventured out,

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they felt the rest of the resort was every bit as rundown as their room.

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Unfortunately, the holiday didn't deliver what they advertised in the brochure.

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Furniture was broken and tattered,

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even the water features in the resort were switched off,

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they were just empty pools with the odd stagnant patch of water in them,

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definitely not what the pictures in the brochure showed.

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Almost as soon as they arrived,

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Julie said they wanted to pack their bags and get the first plane out of

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there, but they had to stick it out for the whole two weeks.

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The disparity between the brochure and what the hotel were actually

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offering, they were worlds apart.

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In the future, I wouldn't rely on the glossy brochures at all.

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Well, Thomson, now known as Tui, has since offered Julie a partial refund,

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of £4,000 for the holiday, but when we spoke to the company,

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it told us that while it is sorry if any customers aren't entirely happy

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with their holiday experience,

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it has a dedicated in-house team who photograph its resorts and holiday

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accommodation and that it reviews all content including the photographs

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every time it produces a brochure.

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Even so, Julie still feels the pictures were misleading

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and she is unlikely to trust the glossy brochures ever again,

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but in an age of rapidly moving technology,

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the whole idea of a printed brochure is one that is becoming obsolete

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and with so many holidays now booked online,

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both First Choice and Tui have said that by 2020 they will

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be doing away with the traditional holiday brochure altogether.

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And while some will mourn its passing,

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most of the people we spoke to thought that was a good idea.

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I think cos it's all online now, it is just a bit of a waste of paper,

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save the environment, do it all online.

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It's all done on the internet now, though, isn't it?

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You see everything, you can look things up, that's the thing,

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so is a bit old-fashioned now, isn't it?

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I don't see the point now of wasting the paper,

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especially with the way the world is at the moment.

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We need to recycle, we don't need to be making more pointless brochures

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when everyone can just go online.

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And with print out of fashion, the big holiday companies have much more

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modern ideas for showing us their destinations in the future.

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Some of them are turning to virtual reality and this video

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from Thomas Cook shows the lengths they are going to in order to make

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virtual films about the holidays they sell.

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The idea is that customers going into the company's stores

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can get a taste of the sort of holiday they are after

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before handing over any cash.

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The technology has already been rolled out in some branches

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like this one in a London shopping centre.

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So we're going to send you to South Africa today,

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so if you would like to pop it on your head, once it's in position,

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I'll start the experience of South Africa for you.

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The brochures already seem old hat.

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Now it's all about experiencing your holiday using a virtual-reality

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-headset.

-I'm on a beach, like,

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a really nice beach and I can see the sea just in front of me and I'm

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walking into the ocean.

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It's really nice and relaxing.

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About now...I'm with some nice-looking lady on a boat.

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Oh, someone's bringing dinner to me.

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Ooh, I don't know what that is, but it looks nice.

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Thank you very much.

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Oh, now I can see the sea.

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-With the coral.

-I'm getting a cocktail.

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I'll take that, thank you very much.

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I feel as if I'm actually here.

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Clearly, virtual reality is simply that, and it's a long way from a true experience,

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but while, of course, it is possible that these images, too,

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could go out of date, compared with the old two-dimensional photos

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in the brochure, it's easy to see that this will provide a fuller,

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more realistic view of the holiday that you might want to book.

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Already virtual reality is playing an increasingly important role for some

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of the people who are wanting to get a wider view of the world.

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In Nottingham, 88-year-old Dorothy is fully plugged into the very latest

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virtual-reality technology and perhaps that's no surprise as she has long

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been up to speed with the latest ideas and equipment.

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I was in the Royal Signals.

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The Royal Signals are very important to the army because, of course,

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they're communications and without communications,

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I'm afraid your war is already lost.

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And I really enjoyed the technology and talking to ships out at sea

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and that sort of thing.

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I thought it was magic, absolutely magic.

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Dorothy has spinal problems as well as arthritis,

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so her days of travel are now over,

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but that doesn't stop her from seeing the world the virtual way.

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I thought, this is going to be really amazing and should my health

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deteriorate even further, you can be almost...

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Well, not comatose, but you can be a sick person in bed, for example,

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and go to America, Australia, Italy, anywhere you choose.

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The way in which Dorothy has embraced this technology

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has even impressed the founder of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg,

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who publicly paid tribute to her virtual travels.

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Dorothy is an 80-year-old grandmother living in the UK.

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She owns an Oculus Rift and a few weeks ago,

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she posted in the official Rift group on Facebook to troubleshoot

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an issue and she said - I'm not going to do the accent well -

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"I bought a Rift as I am no longer fit to go on holidays.

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"It is fantastic and I am looking at spectacular worlds."

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Dorothy is awesome!

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It's obvious that Dorothy is sold on the technology,

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but not all the shoppers testing it out

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were yet convinced that virtual reality can fully replace

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the tried and tested ways of booking your holiday.

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I prefer a normal brochure,

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I'd rather speak to one of the sales consultants in the showroom.

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You'll be on the beach, like, you can see the water coming on your feet.

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Really realistic.

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People of my age group still prefer the personal touch.

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It's really selling you the holiday.

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It's not just Thomas Cook turning to technology to show off its holidays.

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Tui, the UK's largest tour operator,

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plans to replace brochures with a range of tools including tablets,

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interactive maps and online videos to help bring holidays to life.

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And it, too, is introducing virtual reality headsets to its stores,

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but Dorothy is clearly leading where the travel industry is following

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and for many, virtual reality

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could prove the ideal way to see the world.

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I have to tell myself that I can't keep going on holiday every day.

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I mean, I couldn't even walk up a few steps,

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but I walked around the Sphinx!

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You know, this is a disabled person's dream, in actual fact.

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Now, the phrase "you can't have your cake and eat it"

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doesn't usually apply to

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the concept of all-inclusive holidays where, generally speaking,

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you can have your cake, eat it, have another,

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and then if you've still got room, do it all over again.

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After all, the idea is simple -

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most meals and drinks are covered by the price you pay in advance,

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meaning a holiday where you leave not only your worries behind, but -

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theoretically, at least - your wallet as well.

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But all-inclusive

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isn't always quite as inclusive as you might expect.

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It can mean very different things

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depending on where you travel and with whom.

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And that's left some people feeling downright short-changed,

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and when you hear what wasn't included on their holidays,

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you may well share their indignation.

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The all-inclusive holiday first appeared in the 1950s when Club Med

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opened a village on the Spanish island of Majorca

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and the idea was simple - one price covered everything -

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the flights, the accommodation and all your meals and drinks.

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It remains a winning idea today, particularly with young families,

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and the idea of having paid upfront for everything certainly appealed to

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Kevin and Rebecca Swales

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when they were booking their honeymoon in the Maldives.

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We thought everything was included, so we were looking forward to it

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and we thought we would have a lovely honeymoon.

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To help with the £5,000 price tag for their two weeks of luxury,

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Kevin and Rebecca asked family and friends to chip in

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as a wedding gift, so they could enjoy their holiday

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without fretting about what they were spending.

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We didn't want to worry about spending the extra money

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while we were out there,

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we wanted to know in our heads that we can go there,

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we can eat breakfast, lunch and dinner, have drinks

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and not worry about the money.

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And that's what we wanted and that's why we booked it.

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So, once the wedding was over,

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the newlyweds took the long journey by plane and by boat to their island

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on the Maldives, but once there,

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it didn't take long to realise that their honeymoon wasn't going to be

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quite as all-inclusive as they had expected.

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Most of the drinks wasn't included in the package.

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Now, you go to the bar during the day

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and the drinks package was only, like, three drinks on their menu

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and anything extra you had to pay for it.

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Now, I've been to all-inclusive before and that has never happened to me before.

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It just wasn't all-inclusive to me.

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Worse still, the real basics like bottled water were also chargeable.

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Now, there's two of us, the temperatures were really hot,

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I drink a lot of water and we ran out of water,

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so I asked for a bottle of water and then I realised it had been charged

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to my room at the end of it

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and I wasn't very happy about it and I said

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something to the staff and they said, "Well, any extra bottled water is chargeable."

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All these things started adding up

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and every time we went to the bar, everything was extra.

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And unlike all the other all-inclusive holidays Kevin had been on,

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any type of snack in between meals also incurred an extra cost.

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I would happily pay extra for something that wasn't on the all-inclusive,

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that we had to pay extra for, like, a branded drink or something like that.

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That's not an issue, but the thing is, when you go on all-inclusive,

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you pay for that all-inclusive

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so you haven't got to worry about the simple things.

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You know, the water, the little snacks during the day,

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and most things that come with every time you book all-inclusive.

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The couple felt that being charged for extra food and drink was ruining

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their honeymoon, not least because this was a holiday

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mainly gifted to them by the guests at their wedding.

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My wife was very upset.

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She was so angry about it because it wasn't just our money,

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it was other people's money, it was our presents from our wedding

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and it just upset us both.

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Kevin complained to the company they had booked with, Travelbag,

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and the hotel itself

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then upgraded them to a different property on another island

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where they had exactly all the inclusive experience they had wanted all along.

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When we arrived at the other island, it was luxury and it's what I

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thought I had paid for in the first place.

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When the newlyweds got home, they complained to Travelbag again,

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hoping they would get a refund for the unexpected costs from the first

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hotel but the company directed them to its booking conditions,

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which make clear that when purchasing holiday arrangements

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on a half-board, full board or all-inclusive basis,

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restrictions may apply, and that doesn't feel quite right to Kevin.

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He believes that when he booked a honeymoon described as all-inclusive,

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it should have been exactly that - with everything included.

0:18:250:18:28

I would always double-check what you're getting for your money

0:18:280:18:32

and read those terms and conditions,

0:18:320:18:34

because my holiday that I booked with the company

0:18:340:18:37

wasn't what we expected

0:18:370:18:39

and not what we wanted to get out of an all-inclusive holiday.

0:18:390:18:43

And after looking at his case,

0:18:430:18:45

travel expert Bob Atkinson thinks Kevin may have a point.

0:18:450:18:48

Investigating the offer that they had,

0:18:480:18:52

I do think that Kevin and his wife

0:18:520:18:54

have a case to follow up with Travelbag.

0:18:540:18:57

When you book online through Travelbag -

0:18:570:19:01

who are a perfectly reputable company -

0:19:010:19:04

they do not disclose online the full extent of what is included

0:19:040:19:09

and what is excluded in an all-inclusive holiday.

0:19:090:19:13

They merely say that some things will be chargeable

0:19:130:19:17

when you get to the destination.

0:19:170:19:19

There's no further information that I can see that they send out

0:19:190:19:23

to their customers or that you can see on their website

0:19:230:19:27

or in the terms and conditions.

0:19:270:19:29

When we spoke to Travelbag about Kevin and Rebecca's story,

0:19:290:19:32

the company says it is very sorry their honeymoon didn't live up to

0:19:320:19:35

expectations, but it reiterated that before confirming the booking,

0:19:350:19:39

they were informed that some restrictions would apply

0:19:390:19:43

and at no stage before departure

0:19:430:19:44

had they indicated that anything was unclear.

0:19:440:19:47

It says that during their stay,

0:19:470:19:49

the hotel promptly addressed their concerns,

0:19:490:19:51

upgrading them to an alternative villa with private butler,

0:19:510:19:54

then moving them to a sister hotel.

0:19:540:19:56

The company added it has reimbursed the couple for the calls they made

0:19:560:20:01

about this and offered £150 voucher as a gesture of goodwill.

0:20:010:20:05

But we've heard from many other people who report that

0:20:070:20:10

exactly what is covered by the term all-inclusive

0:20:100:20:13

can vary wildly between different holiday companies,

0:20:130:20:16

so Bob says you shouldn't assume that everything will always be included.

0:20:160:20:20

There's a real excitement when you book your holiday, but, of course,

0:20:200:20:24

often what you don't do is check exactly what is included

0:20:240:20:27

and you're just sitting there thinking, we're going all-inclusive, let the party begin!

0:20:270:20:31

So, of course, when you arrive,

0:20:310:20:33

if you find when you get there that certain items aren't included or

0:20:330:20:38

maybe the bar doesn't open to a certain time or perhaps breakfast stops at a certain time

0:20:380:20:43

and you can't get any food until later,

0:20:430:20:45

that's when it starts to sink in,

0:20:450:20:47

that maybe the expectation you had of this kind of nonstop smorgasbord

0:20:470:20:54

of food and drink and activities

0:20:540:20:56

is actually possibly going to be something quite different,

0:20:560:21:00

but it's really important that whatever your expectation

0:21:000:21:03

is of an all-inclusive holiday,

0:21:030:21:06

you actually check out what you're actually getting for your money.

0:21:060:21:10

Barry and Barbara from Newcastle got in touch with us,

0:21:120:21:14

unhappy with how an all-inclusive cruise turned out for their family.

0:21:140:21:18

They had wanted a holiday where they wouldn't need to shell out

0:21:180:21:22

every time someone wanted a drink or an ice cream,

0:21:220:21:25

but at £4,700, it hadn't come cheap.

0:21:250:21:27

When they said the price, it was rather costly, but I thought,

0:21:290:21:32

I can put the overtime in and I can get it.

0:21:320:21:35

At least everything is paid for.

0:21:350:21:36

The kids will enjoy it.

0:21:360:21:38

I'll enjoy it and it's worth saving up for.

0:21:380:21:41

So I just put the overtime in as much as I could and paid it off

0:21:410:21:45

and the reason it being all-inclusive,

0:21:450:21:48

I didn't have a lot more money to put out once I was there.

0:21:480:21:52

Considering the price they had paid, this holiday was a big deal,

0:21:520:21:56

so when the ship set sail, expectations were high.

0:21:560:21:58

When the kids got up in the morning,

0:21:580:22:00

obviously excited, they're going up onto the deck, they want the sun,

0:22:000:22:04

they want to play, and they're wanting juice and pop and crisps

0:22:040:22:08

and ice creams, so I didn't expect to pay for that -

0:22:080:22:12

I expected they could go as many times as they liked.

0:22:120:22:15

But it immediately became clear that was not how it would go.

0:22:150:22:19

Well, we were just relaxing around the pools and two of our

0:22:190:22:23

daughters went off for ice creams and they came back and said,

0:22:230:22:25

"We can't have ice creams, we've got to pay for them."

0:22:250:22:29

So obviously we went down to see reception,

0:22:290:22:31

asked them about all-inclusive and obviously they

0:22:310:22:34

said we weren't all-inclusive, which we paid all-inclusive.

0:22:340:22:38

Confident they had booked all-inclusive, Barry and Barbara

0:22:380:22:41

couldn't understand why they were being told they hadn't

0:22:410:22:44

and as all those extras mounted up,

0:22:440:22:46

keen not to ruin the holiday for the children,

0:22:460:22:48

they say they totted up hundreds in unexpected charges.

0:22:480:22:51

Over the week of the holiday, we obviously he didn't think that

0:22:510:22:55

we would have to put our hands in our pockets,

0:22:550:22:57

but the stuff that they were saying that we had to pay for -

0:22:570:23:00

ice creams and pop, crisps, stuff, etc -

0:23:000:23:04

we ended up spending between 40 and £60 a day.

0:23:040:23:08

It's £2.85 for that cheapest ice cream, if you can remember.

0:23:100:23:12

Well, all the paperwork for the trip

0:23:120:23:15

very clearly does say all-inclusive.

0:23:150:23:18

-"All-inclusive. All-inclusive."

-Well, when we saw the

0:23:180:23:22

holiday was all-inclusive, we thought

0:23:220:23:24

it was going to be a fantastic holiday and obviously

0:23:240:23:28

we got misled about the holiday and we got sold the wrong holiday.

0:23:280:23:33

We contacted Tui, which provided the cruise under its old name of Thomson and the company

0:23:330:23:38

said that while it is sorry to hear that Barry and Barbara were unhappy,

0:23:380:23:41

what they had actually bought was an all-inclusive drinks package

0:23:410:23:45

and when they booked, they had ticked to say they had read

0:23:450:23:48

and agreed what the package did and didn't include. However,

0:23:480:23:51

Tui went on to say it appears there may have been a miscommunication

0:23:510:23:54

between the agent and the couple at the time of booking,

0:23:540:23:58

so it has offered £200 as a gesture of goodwill

0:23:580:24:00

and the company says it has now

0:24:000:24:02

changed the way this particular holiday is sold.

0:24:020:24:05

Barry and Barbara remain disappointed about their cruise,

0:24:070:24:10

but are keen to warn others that in the excitement of booking a holiday,

0:24:100:24:13

it is well worth taking the time to read the small print

0:24:130:24:17

before handing over any money.

0:24:170:24:19

The advice I would give anybody booking this kind of trip

0:24:190:24:22

is to go right into detail with it

0:24:220:24:24

and make sure what it is you're entitled to,

0:24:240:24:26

what it is you're going to get, if you can find out

0:24:260:24:30

if anybody has been on that ship look at the comments, and just make sure

0:24:300:24:33

what it is you are actually going to get for your money.

0:24:330:24:36

Still to come on Rip-Off Britain,

0:24:390:24:41

how even the biggest holiday companies are still

0:24:410:24:43

getting it wrong for travellers with a disability.

0:24:430:24:47

I just couldn't wait to get off the ship

0:24:470:24:49

and I actually went into the cabin

0:24:490:24:51

and I actually sat on the end of the bed and cried.

0:24:510:24:53

Our travel expert Simon Calder

0:24:580:25:00

is full of tips to save you money on your travels.

0:25:000:25:02

He's got plenty of advice

0:25:020:25:04

on everything from how to avoid the crowds

0:25:040:25:06

to the best way to steer clear of those tourist traps.

0:25:060:25:09

This time, fancy something new?

0:25:090:25:11

Then how about the former USSR as your next holiday hot spot?

0:25:110:25:17

The most exciting countries I've been to over the past year

0:25:180:25:21

are all places that were virtually off the map

0:25:210:25:24

until the collapse of communism

0:25:240:25:26

and, over a quarter of a century later,

0:25:260:25:29

they still get far fewer visitors than they deserve.

0:25:290:25:34

Therefore, you can expect great experiences and value with welcoming people who aren't

0:25:340:25:39

fed up with tourists...yet. So get there quick!

0:25:390:25:43

Of all the countries that surround the Mediterranean,

0:25:450:25:48

Albania probably isn't the first that springs to mind as a holiday

0:25:480:25:51

destination, but with direct flights from Gatwick to the capital Tirana,

0:25:510:25:54

it certainly shouldn't be off your radar.

0:25:540:25:57

Yet having travelled extensively in Albania, I must say,

0:25:580:26:01

the most appealing parts of the country

0:26:010:26:04

are best reached by flying to an adjacent nation

0:26:040:26:09

and then crossing the border or the water.

0:26:090:26:12

For example, the southern port of Sarande

0:26:140:26:16

close to the historic Roman ruins at Butrint

0:26:160:26:19

is just half an hour from the Greek island of Corfu.

0:26:190:26:22

And the spectacular mountains in the east

0:26:220:26:25

are equally as easy to reach by flying to Ohrid in Macedonia

0:26:250:26:28

and then driving across the border

0:26:280:26:30

and through some stunning scenery into Albania.

0:26:300:26:35

Georgia's on my mind as well -

0:26:350:26:37

the former Soviet Republic is now on the budget airline map from Britain

0:26:370:26:41

with one flight from Gatwick and another from Luton.

0:26:410:26:45

They both take off in the evening and arrive early next morning.

0:26:450:26:50

Yes, they're midnight planes to Georgia.

0:26:500:26:52

Once there, you'll be torn between the Black Sea resorts,

0:26:540:26:57

the mountain escapes with a vibrant city life of the capital Tbilisi.

0:26:570:27:02

Besides the best food and drink in the entire USSR - and, believe me,

0:27:020:27:06

I have researched that very thoroughly -

0:27:060:27:09

Georgia also has the best money exchange market I have ever seen,

0:27:090:27:14

so don't even think about changing cash in advance.

0:27:140:27:17

When you touch down, you'll find loads of Bureaux de Change with margins so thin that it's

0:27:170:27:23

worth you taking sterling, changing it into Georgian lari,

0:27:230:27:26

and immediately buying euros or dollars at far better rates

0:27:260:27:31

than you'll get in Britain.

0:27:310:27:34

Simon's third choice of alternative destination, Uzbekistan,

0:27:340:27:37

is home to some of arguably the world's most beautiful cities.

0:27:370:27:41

Samarkand, Burkhara and Khiva are strung out across the harsh

0:27:410:27:45

desert landscapes of the country

0:27:450:27:48

with glimpses of the Himalayas to the south.

0:27:480:27:51

The flying time to the Uzbek capital Tashkent is pretty much the

0:27:510:27:55

same from the UK as it is to Dubai.

0:27:550:27:58

Airfares are a little bit higher, but when you get there,

0:27:580:28:01

life is so much cheaper and, as a taste of the exotic east,

0:28:010:28:06

I must say Uzbekistan is an awful lot more authentic.

0:28:060:28:10

The country is partly known for

0:28:120:28:13

its links to the ancient Silk Road trade route between

0:28:130:28:16

China and the Mediterranean.

0:28:160:28:18

However, getting about these days is far easier than back then.

0:28:180:28:23

No need for a camel if you want to travel the Silk Road these days.

0:28:250:28:28

Tashkent, Samarkand and Bukhara are connected by Central Asia's only

0:28:280:28:33

high-speed train. Elsewhere, there's lots of cheap and cheerful

0:28:330:28:36

long-distance taxis.

0:28:360:28:40

Not always comfortable, though.

0:28:400:28:41

Lots of humps in the road.

0:28:410:28:43

Over the years, several times we have reported on

0:28:470:28:49

how important it really is for anyone with a disability

0:28:490:28:53

to be given the right information as to whether a resort or a hotel

0:28:530:28:57

is suitable for their needs. And sometimes even the smallest detail

0:28:570:29:00

or adjustment can make all the difference in the world

0:29:000:29:04

when it comes to whether or not a destination is appropriate.

0:29:040:29:07

But I'm afraid to say yet again that you've been telling us about

0:29:070:29:10

some companies that don't always get it right, including -

0:29:100:29:13

and I hate to say this - some that specialise in accessible holidays,

0:29:130:29:18

all of which has left some of the people we've heard from wondering

0:29:180:29:21

whether or not in the long run, leaving home to go on holiday

0:29:210:29:24

was worth any of the bother or indeed the money.

0:29:240:29:27

Being disabled shouldn't in this day and age

0:29:290:29:32

be a bar to travelling abroad, and in most parts of the world,

0:29:320:29:36

airports, airlines, hotels and resorts

0:29:360:29:38

are geared up to accommodate those

0:29:380:29:40

who may need assistance getting around. Even so,

0:29:400:29:43

making a trip with a wheelchair or a walking stick can seem daunting,

0:29:430:29:47

especially if it's your first time.

0:29:470:29:49

Tam Black from Edinburgh has had mobility issues for years,

0:29:550:29:58

but it hasn't stopped him holidaying abroad.

0:29:580:30:02

My wife and I have actually travelled quite a lot.

0:30:020:30:04

We've travelled all over Europe,

0:30:040:30:06

been to America, Canada, Asia, and one of the best holidays

0:30:060:30:11

I ever had was to Kenya and Mauritius for my 50th.

0:30:110:30:14

But Tam and his wife's travels became increasingly restricted as his mobility deteriorated

0:30:160:30:21

and when he became dependent on a wheelchair,

0:30:210:30:23

they stopped altogether. Or they did until it came to his 60th birthday,

0:30:230:30:27

when Tam's family encouraged him to book a cruise.

0:30:270:30:32

He chose one with Thomson, paying just over £2,000

0:30:320:30:35

for a trip from Corfu to Montenegro. And ahead of travel,

0:30:350:30:39

Thomson's welfare team called to reassure him that the ship they were

0:30:390:30:43

travelling on was suitable for wheelchair users.

0:30:430:30:46

For the first time, I was actually ecstatic

0:30:460:30:49

and the fact that the welfare people reassured me that everything

0:30:490:30:52

would be taken care of and they had dealt with people

0:30:520:30:55

with disabilities before, that was great,

0:30:550:30:59

and all I had to do was enjoy the holiday.

0:30:590:31:03

Tam was told that while the ship's disabled rooms were fully booked,

0:31:030:31:06

the cabin would be big enough for his wheelchair,

0:31:060:31:08

so on the day of departure,

0:31:080:31:11

Tam and his wife made their way to Edinburgh Airport where prearranged

0:31:110:31:14

special assistants were supposed to be there to meet them.

0:31:140:31:19

We arrived at the airport and they had no idea that we were

0:31:190:31:23

coming in a wheelchair and I was asked if I wanted to

0:31:230:31:27

take the wheelchair on the plane with me or what I wanted to do with it and I thought,

0:31:270:31:32

"Erm, well, no, I want to take it." And they were just bemused.

0:31:320:31:36

Now, that wasn't a good start,

0:31:390:31:40

and once in Corfu, the problems continued.

0:31:400:31:43

The couple had booked coach transfers between the airport to the port,

0:31:430:31:46

but it seemed the wheelchair was a problem.

0:31:460:31:48

The coach driver said, "Sorry,

0:31:480:31:50

"but you can't take the wheelchair on the bus.

0:31:500:31:52

"There's no room."

0:31:520:31:55

And I went, "OK, how do I get from here?

0:31:550:31:58

"What will happen to the wheelchair?"

0:31:580:31:59

"You'll have to get another coach to take your wheelchair to the boat."

0:31:590:32:03

So, after much discussion, Tam was allowed on the coach,

0:32:050:32:08

but things were no better when he got to the ship.

0:32:080:32:12

It was one single gangway, probably about two widths of this wheelchair.

0:32:120:32:19

It was really, really steep and my wife said,

0:32:190:32:21

"I can't push you up that,

0:32:210:32:23

"there's no way I could push you up that."

0:32:230:32:25

She said, "How are we going to get on this thing?"

0:32:250:32:27

That's what she called it.

0:32:270:32:28

Four staff from the ship arrived to carry Tam up the gangway,

0:32:280:32:31

an experience he will never forget.

0:32:310:32:33

I was actually scared.

0:32:330:32:36

I was petrified that I was going to fall in.

0:32:360:32:38

You feel treated like a piece of baggage.

0:32:380:32:41

And his relief at finally being on board proved short-lived.

0:32:420:32:47

We went down the corridor, she got the key card,

0:32:470:32:49

opened the door and then she said, "I'll push you in."

0:32:490:32:53

And it wouldn't go in.

0:32:530:32:54

The door was simply too narrow for his wheelchair and after lifting

0:32:560:32:59

himself into the room, he realised he barely had enough space to move.

0:32:590:33:04

I couldn't even go to the toilet using the wheelchair.

0:33:040:33:07

I had to use the wheelchair as a Zimmer and then hold on to things to

0:33:070:33:11

actually get into the toilet. And the toilet had a step

0:33:110:33:13

that was about, I don't know, about...

0:33:130:33:16

..15 inches high.

0:33:160:33:18

Despite the reassurance from Thomson

0:33:180:33:20

that all would be fine, the holiday was turning out to be a disaster.

0:33:200:33:24

I couldn't wait to go home.

0:33:260:33:27

Seriously, I just couldn't wait to get off the ship.

0:33:270:33:30

And I actually went into the cabin

0:33:300:33:31

and I actually sat on the end of the bed and cried.

0:33:310:33:34

And I... I dinnae cry.

0:33:340:33:36

I literally don't cry.

0:33:360:33:39

Within a day of being on board, Tam had had enough.

0:33:390:33:43

My wife came back, I said, "Can I ask to do something?"

0:33:430:33:47

And she goes, "What?"

0:33:470:33:48

I says, "Can I ask you if we can go to the next port and just go home?"

0:33:480:33:53

But unable to arrange an earlier flight back to Edinburgh,

0:33:530:33:56

there was no option but to stay on the ship and, to make things worse,

0:33:560:33:59

when they got to Venice and Montenegro,

0:33:590:34:02

they were told they couldn't disembark because the ports had no wheelchair access.

0:34:020:34:07

But Thomson, now known as Tui,

0:34:070:34:09

sincerely apologised to Tam for his experience, telling us that,

0:34:090:34:13

"Unfortunately, detail of his access needs were not passed on to the ship

0:34:130:34:17

"due to human error." As a result,

0:34:170:34:20

it has given him a full refund

0:34:200:34:21

and while the company says such incidents are rare,

0:34:210:34:24

it will be reviewing its booking processes

0:34:240:34:26

and providing further training to its customer service teams.

0:34:260:34:31

People travelling with disabilities

0:34:330:34:35

will often have very different needs but in any case,

0:34:350:34:38

in the UK at least, the law says that all hotels or resorts have to make

0:34:380:34:42

reasonable adjustments to ensure disabled travellers can access

0:34:420:34:46

the same facilities as anybody else.

0:34:460:34:48

-To the left is Whinlatter Forest.

-Lovely.

0:34:480:34:51

Carrie-Ann Lightley is from Tourism For All,

0:34:510:34:54

a national charity providing disabled travellers with information

0:34:540:34:57

about suitable holidays and places to visit.

0:34:570:34:59

Today, she's in Cumbria,

0:34:590:35:01

checking out facilities at a holiday centre called the Calvert Trust.

0:35:010:35:06

I think definitely holiday companies should be able to tell you

0:35:060:35:10

from the very beginning

0:35:100:35:11

whether or not a holiday is going to be suitable for your needs.

0:35:110:35:14

Yeah, even if that does mean that they will lose money,

0:35:140:35:18

I think the single biggest barrier to accessible holidays for everybody

0:35:180:35:22

is reliable information, and once we have that

0:35:220:35:27

and once we know what to expect,

0:35:270:35:30

then we can adapt and get the most out of a holiday experience.

0:35:300:35:35

And while trying to factor in

0:35:360:35:38

any additional needs and equipment can be daunting,

0:35:380:35:41

Carrie-Ann is confident that there is good support available.

0:35:410:35:44

It's amazing, I've never seen anything like this before.

0:35:440:35:47

Contact a supportive organisation,

0:35:470:35:49

contact an organisation like Tourism For All,

0:35:490:35:52

speak to people who have travelled a lot as disabled people,

0:35:520:35:56

speak to people who've had good experiences,

0:35:560:35:58

because it isn't all bad.

0:35:580:36:00

So this is the wheelchair assault course.

0:36:000:36:02

-Fantastic.

-And there's lots of different elements across it

0:36:020:36:05

to make it more challenging.

0:36:050:36:07

It can sometimes be more difficult than your standard holiday,

0:36:070:36:10

but I actually think that makes the final destination,

0:36:100:36:15

the final holiday experience feel all the more richer.

0:36:150:36:20

Seeking out holidays or hotels

0:36:200:36:21

where other disabled travellers have enjoyed good experiences

0:36:210:36:24

seems like sound advice to me,

0:36:240:36:27

but it seems even the experts may not get it right every time.

0:36:270:36:31

Jane has been a wheelchair user for over 20 years

0:36:310:36:34

and is largely housebound,

0:36:340:36:36

so for her, holidays take on an extra importance.

0:36:360:36:39

To be able to go somewhere new, to look at different scenery,

0:36:410:36:46

just that change of routine, a different view from the window.

0:36:460:36:53

It was like a five-year-old looking forward to Christmas.

0:36:530:36:56

When Jane and her husband Colin

0:36:570:36:59

decided to book a ten-day holiday to Ireland,

0:36:590:37:01

they were concerned about finding a hotel which could

0:37:010:37:04

accommodate her wheelchair, so they used a travel company

0:37:040:37:07

which claims to guarantee accessible accommodation

0:37:070:37:10

and take the worry out of your holiday.

0:37:100:37:11

I felt that we should be confident

0:37:110:37:13

that they would be able to give us the facilities

0:37:130:37:16

we need for my wife on a holiday that we want to do once a year.

0:37:160:37:20

The booking process required them

0:37:220:37:24

to go into great detail about Jane's needs

0:37:240:37:26

so that they could be matched up with somewhere suitable,

0:37:260:37:29

and the place they ended up choosing sounded ideal.

0:37:290:37:32

We were told that Jane's facilities were fully taken into account

0:37:320:37:36

and that we would be very pleased with the facilities when we arrived.

0:37:360:37:40

But after a 12-hour journey by car and ferry

0:37:410:37:44

from their home in Balloch in Scotland, to Ireland,

0:37:440:37:47

the couple were really disappointed with the room they were given.

0:37:470:37:51

We found that, unfortunately, the room was so small

0:37:510:37:53

that we couldn't get the wheelchair in

0:37:530:37:55

with all the facilities that were there.

0:37:550:37:57

The staff had to move the bed,

0:37:570:37:59

push it up against the wall and unfortunately we found that Jane

0:37:590:38:02

couldn't physically use the bathroom facilities because the wheelchair

0:38:020:38:06

couldn't get through the door.

0:38:060:38:09

After talking to the hotel staff,

0:38:090:38:11

Jane and Colin decided to look for somewhere else to stay.

0:38:110:38:14

We were very fortunate that the actual staff in the reception desk,

0:38:140:38:17

they were very helpful, they started phoning around local hotels.

0:38:170:38:22

But when Colin got in touch with the company the next day,

0:38:230:38:26

it said there was no better alternative in the area

0:38:260:38:30

for their particular requirements.

0:38:300:38:32

They came back and said there was nothing they could provide us with

0:38:320:38:36

that was suitable. Therefore, they told us, we had no choice

0:38:360:38:38

but to go back and accept their facilities.

0:38:380:38:42

We said this was absolutely impossible.

0:38:420:38:44

So Jane and Colin made the decision

0:38:450:38:48

to fork out another £1,000 to stay somewhere else.

0:38:480:38:51

The holiday was stressful,

0:38:510:38:54

definitely didn't recharge our batteries the way we'd hoped for.

0:38:540:38:57

Well, the company told us

0:38:580:39:00

it deeply regrets that Jane and Colin found their holiday upsetting,

0:39:000:39:04

but it disagrees with their version of events,

0:39:040:39:06

pointing out that the hotel it recommended is a fully accessible

0:39:060:39:10

specialist holiday location, and as such all bedrooms

0:39:100:39:13

have wheelchair accessible roll-in wet rooms

0:39:130:39:16

with hoists and additional appliances available as needed.

0:39:160:39:19

It says it has a robust process to ensure customers are matched with

0:39:190:39:23

thoroughly vetted properties that meet their specific needs.

0:39:230:39:27

The company says after this booking was made,

0:39:270:39:29

it had stayed in contact with Colin, updating requirements as requested

0:39:290:39:33

and also checking that the room allocated would be suitable.

0:39:330:39:37

It went on to say that Jane and Colin chose not to view the alternative

0:39:370:39:40

room options offered and nor did they relay their concerns to the company

0:39:400:39:45

straightaway despite its offices being open.

0:39:450:39:47

But it added that at the time,

0:39:470:39:49

it had offered a refund as a gesture of goodwill,

0:39:490:39:53

and that offer still stands.

0:39:530:39:55

Well, stories like that one highlight just how much planning by

0:39:570:40:00

individuals and companies alike goes into making sure anyone with

0:40:000:40:03

a disability can enjoy the holiday they want

0:40:030:40:06

and the level of disappointment

0:40:060:40:08

if they feel things haven't gone to plan,

0:40:080:40:10

which is why back at the outdoor pursuits centre she is testing in

0:40:100:40:13

Cumbria, Carrie-Ann says the key to all of this is having very detailed

0:40:130:40:17

conversations before making a booking.

0:40:170:40:21

I would ask my travel agent to talk me through the process of what

0:40:210:40:24

happens when I get to the airport, how am I going to be assisted?

0:40:240:40:28

How is my mobility equipment going to be treated

0:40:280:40:30

and taken onto the plane?

0:40:300:40:31

And just, as I say, to get talked through the process,

0:40:310:40:35

because once you have that knowledge,

0:40:350:40:37

it gives an extra level of confidence.

0:40:370:40:40

But Carrie-Ann is a firm believer that there should be no barrier

0:40:420:40:45

to what a disabled person can expect on their holiday.

0:40:450:40:49

The more that disabled people get out there and travel and enjoy their

0:40:510:40:55

holidays, then the more that that is going to improve the experience for

0:40:550:40:58

everybody because the industry should be seeing that we are

0:40:580:41:02

a market that can make some money.

0:41:020:41:05

If you can get over all of those obstacles that are somehow

0:41:050:41:08

put in your way as a wheelchair user

0:41:080:41:10

and still make it to your dream holiday destination

0:41:100:41:14

and to be able to say, "I've got here and I've done it,"

0:41:140:41:17

that's an amazing feeling and I think it's worth the effort.

0:41:170:41:22

The truth is that Rip-Off Britain wouldn't be here

0:41:300:41:33

without your stories

0:41:330:41:34

and we've got plenty of ways you can get in touch.

0:41:340:41:37

You can send us an e-mail...

0:41:370:41:39

..or you can write to us at...

0:41:430:41:46

But please do not send original copies of any documents.

0:41:530:41:57

And even if you haven't got a story that you would like us to investigate,

0:41:570:42:01

you can join in the conversation on our Facebook page -

0:42:010:42:04

just search BBC Rip Off Britain.

0:42:040:42:07

Well, I'm afraid that brings us to the end of today's programme

0:42:090:42:12

and I don't know about you,

0:42:120:42:13

but I really felt for Tam after hearing about his experiences,

0:42:130:42:17

and I think it really would be a terrible shame if that

0:42:170:42:20

was going to put him off travelling altogether.

0:42:200:42:22

That is so true, and it also goes to show how

0:42:220:42:25

important it is for people to have the right information to hand,

0:42:250:42:29

whether that's up-to-date photographs

0:42:290:42:30

showing accurate descriptions of what the place they have booked

0:42:300:42:34

is really like or even just a proper understanding

0:42:340:42:36

of what is and isn't included.

0:42:360:42:38

Yeah, it could certainly save a lot of disappointment

0:42:380:42:41

further down the line.

0:42:410:42:42

Well, thanks to all of those who have shared their stories

0:42:420:42:44

with us today and of course to you for joining us.

0:42:440:42:47

We've plenty more Rip-Off Britain programmes coming up,

0:42:470:42:49

so please do keep telling us about

0:42:490:42:52

any issues you'd like us to investigate

0:42:520:42:54

and we'll see if we can help. For now, though, from all of us,

0:42:540:42:57

-it's goodbye.

-Bye!

0:42:570:42:59

As big holiday companies announce the end of their traditional brochures, Julia Somerville, Angela Rippon and Gloria Hunniford hear how one family's trip abroad was ruined by a reality very different from the glossy photos the brochure had shown, and there is a test into the new ways people will be encouraged to book their travels in the future.

The programme also hears from the families furious that their apparently all-inclusive holidays ended up costing a lot more than they bargained for, travel expert Simon Calder reveals his pick of the undiscovered destinations people should consider for 2018, and there is a look at how travellers with disabilities can still find themselves booked into accommodation that doesn't match their needs.