Passport confusion almost costs couple their vacation

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By Tami Hoey By Tami Hoey
By Tami Hoey By Tami Hoey
By Tami Hoey By Tami Hoey
By Tami Hoey By Tami Hoey
By Tami Hoey By Tami Hoey

PHOENIX  -- A Glendale man and his girlfriend claim bad information regarding their passports caused them to lose nearly $4,000. And they're not only out the money; they missed out on a vacation as well.

Sara Pacheco and her boyfriend Eric Max are still unpacking from the vacation they didn't get to take.

"It was supposed to be a once-in-a-lifetime trip thing, because, you know, you don't leave the country very often. Especially when you're our age," Pacheco told 3 On Your Side.

At just 21 years old, Pacheco and Max planned a beautiful $3,900 week-long vacation to Jamaica. They used a travel agency called Cruise Holidays of Arrowhead to book the trip.

The couple says they used a travel agency because they didn't want any mistakes made. "It was a big trip. It was overseas and into a different country so I wanted to make sure I had everything I needed to be able to get there," Max said.

Max and Pacheco were flying to the all-inclusive Sandals Resort in Jamaica and say they asked Cruise Holidays if their Passport Cards were sufficient to get them there or if they needed to obtain the traditional Passport Books instead.

"I said, aren't we going to need the regular passports and he said no, that the lady said that the cards will be fine.  And I'm guessing it's because were only going to the Americanized part of the Island or something," Pacheco said.

Passport Cards resemble a driver's license with your photograph and they're usually good for driving into countries like Mexico, for example. They also qualify when cruising on a ship to certain areas. However, to fly to another country like Max and Pacheco, you need a Passport Book.

Still, the couple says after inquiring several different times, Cruise Holidays of Arrowhead told them not to worry and that their cards were fine.

However, when Max and Pacheco arrived at the airport, airline officials denied the two from boarding, saying their passport cards didn't qualify and that regular Passport Books were required. "We were bummed. Words can't even describe how I felt," said Max, after realizing they were going to be unable to
make their trip.

Cruise Holidays of Arrowhead and their corporate headquarters both tell 3 On Your Side that the couple was told verbally, and in writing, to make sure their passports were up-to-date.  They even provided 3 On Your Side a document stating, "...please make sure your passports are good through December 2, 2013."

But the document does not specify Passport Book; it just states Passport. In addition, the couple reiterated that they were told verbally their cards were fine.

Cruise Holidays says it was an unfortunate mistake that they didn't make and refused any kind of refund due to the confusion.

However, Sandals Resort offered 3 On Your Side a resolution when told about the problem.

Sandals is refunding Max and Pacheco more than $1,000 to re-book their airfare and the resort is also allowing the young couple up to a year reschedule their trip to their resort. That means the two aren't out any money.

Max and Pacheco say they are grateful to Sandals Resort and say the ordeal has been stressful.

If you need more information regarding the difference between Passport Books and Passport Cards, we've provided a link from the U.S. Department of State.