(KFVS) - Ever had a family vacation turn into a National Lampoon's style fiasco? There are easy things you can do to prevent that from happening.
We talked to seasoned travelers, and travel agents to find out the best tips.
The Giles and Hohler's from Cape Girardeau tell us they've learned a lot from experience.
It was a doomed trip to the Panama Canal on a ship that never sailed that proved to be the ultimate test.
"The ship malfunctioned," said Dave Hohler. "It couldn't go."
Their secret weapon: knowing the free services of their travel agent could get them out of trouble.
"It was very comforting," said Sharon Hohler.
Their agent Carolyn Kempf of Elite Travel told them not to sign anything, got them home, and eventually on to another destination at a discount.
"When something catastrophic happens an agent can get answers quickly and know what's going on," said Kempf.
The couples say most of their friends think an agent costs extra but they say that hasn't been their experience.
"Who actually compensates the travel consultant is our tour and vacation companies," said Kempf.
To protect yourself, Kempf recommends travel insurance for every trip.
"I've seen it do amazing things for people," said Kempf.
She also says you should carry money in three forms, travelers checks, credit cards, and cash.
She also says there's a lot of internet fraud out there especially when it comes to time shares.
"If it sounds too good to be true it probably is," said Kempf.
To avoid a stagnant tour bus travelers have a better idea.
"We always find a cab driver we like and ask them to show us around the island," said Giles. "They'll tell you information you would not get otherwise."
To avoid bad food, travelers recommend asking the locals.
"You start to get the same answers," said Dave Hohler.
If you're nightmare is simply not getting to have a vacation, Kempf recommends these close to home spots: French Lick, Indiana, the Smoky Mountains, or an Amtrak trip. '
"You can ride the train to Chicago for $49 round trip," said Kempf. "You can't even drive it for that."
If you want something more exotic our couples say there are get aways that are more affordable than you think: Aruba, Cabo San Lucas, and Hawaii.
"It seems we've learned we like warm places when it's cold here," said Sharon Hohler.
Kempf also recommends Iceland, Vegas, Florida, and Mexico as well kept secrets.
For airlines there's really no substitute for being on time, in fact get there early.
For hotel recommendations, if you don't go through an agent it's good to ask someone familiar with the establishment. The internet isn't always reliable.
Another great tip from travelers: if you want to golf on a cruise many recommend taking the ships package for safety.
"It covers tips and transportation," said Bob Giles. "Also the ship won't leave you. If you book yourself you're on your own."
Also, agents say always let your credit card company know you're going to be out of the country.