On a side note, travel insurance may not have helped Cook, unless she purchased a policy with a cancel for any reason clause. Most standard policies don't consider a U.S. Department of State Travel Alert on its own, in the absence of a terrorist incident, a covered reason for trip cancellation.
How can you avoid trouble?
• Strike a balance between patience and persistence. It can take some time for customer service agents to research your complaint, particularly if they have to update U.S. Department of State information. But you may have to follow up more than once to get your case resolved.
Linda Burbank first began troubleshooting travelers' complaints for the Consumer Reports Travel Letter. She now writes regularly for Consumers Union publications and is a contributing editor for National Geographic Traveler. E-mail her at email@example.com. Your question may be used in a future column.