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Travelers warned about unplanned 'adventures'

With increasing demand for both flights and hotel bookings, travel agents are seeing more glitches that leave vacationers frustrated, stranded, or without lodging.

ST PAUL, Minn. — If you’re traveling for the first time since COVID, it could be a real trip... and not necessarily in a good way.

That’s the advice shared by some travel experts who say both hotels and airlines are struggling with understaffing and increasingly high demand, sometimes causing big glitches and - in turn - big hassles for travelers.

"Things have changed," said Maria Anderson, co-owner of Escape With Us Vacations in St Paul. "I would definitely suggest buying insurance, now more than ever."

Anderson has booked hundreds of trips and says travelers today are sometimes shocked at the differences from just two years ago. She says some spring break fliers learned the hard way that prices have spiked, and that so-called "budget trips" now may not be worth the savings, since cancellations can often leave you stranded. 

For instance, Jet Blue on Saturday suddenly grounded nearly 20% of its flights. Twin Cities-based Sun Country was recently the target of a number of complaints for canceled flights that left hundreds of stranded in Florida with no way to get home. Travelers messaged KARE 11 saying there were no Sun Country agents at ticket counters to help, and phone lines were jammed. 

"Maybe there’s a five to 10%  chance that things won’t go your way," said Anderson. "Or you can book with a major carrier and you’re going to pay more, but you know you’ll get home when you want to get home."

And through it all, there are fewer workers, at the airport, at your destination and even on the phone should you need to reach out for assistance. Anderson says it often takes waiting in a long line, or being kept on hold for a long time for travelers to get the help that they need.

"Hold times with supplies are very long, and it’s very frustrating, especially when you’re at your destination and can’t get home," said Anderson.

That’s why she says travelers should allow extra time, pay for insurance and, most of all... pack both grace and patience.

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