For most of her life, 82-year-old Mercedes Rodriguez's mother has dreamed of visiting Spain. It was a trip the mother-daughter duo was supposed to take in June 2019.
"She was going to live the dream," Mercedes said.
But the dream was put on hold after a mishap with the elderly woman's passport.
"Everything just went down the drain," Mercedes said. "It's horrible and she's not a spring chicken, that's what makes it worse."
The family used a local travel agency to book the 10-day trip.
"When I went to pick up the documents to travel, which was maybe two to three weeks before, everything was fine," Mercedes said. "She asked me if everything was in order and I said, yes, the passports are in order."
Then on June 8, Mercedes and her mother headed to the airport and tried to check in.
"They looked at our passports when we're checking in and they said, oh, but this person can't travel," Mercedes said.
Her mother's passport was set to expire in July, about a month after the trip. Spain requires passports be valid at least three months beyond a departure date.
"We weren't advised of that," she said.
Mercedes said they delayed their trip for a few days so they could get her mother a new passport. Even though they got one and were hoping to catch up with the tour, Mercedes said the travel agent told her it was too late.
"She says, oh, no but … you can't do that," she said. "They won't wait for you."
So she canceled the trip and her efforts to get her money back went nowhere.
"It's heartbreaking and frustrating at the same time because the fact that it didn't happen and the fact that we're not getting our money back, it's just horrible," Mercedes said.
The credit cards used to book the trip denied her chargeback requests. The travel agency told NBC 6 Responds: "We always ask our clients about the validity of the passport and we advise them that they need a minimum of 6 months remaining validity on their passports."
Mercedes said she was never given that information.
"When you go to a travel agent, you rely on their expertise," Mercedes said. "They didn't check our passports, they just took our word for it that they were valid, which they were, I wasn't lying, but they did not tell us you need that period of time that has to be extended."
Still, the travel agency worked to help Mercedes by contacting the airline, which issued a $1,732 refund, and the tour operator, who agreed to give a refund of almost $2,196.
Even if you use a travel agency, you should still look up relevant passport or visa requirements. Visit the State Department's website to look up requirements for a specific country.
A company that sells travel insurance online told NBC 6 Responds a traditional travel insurance policy would not cover Mercedes' situation. But, if she had purchased a policy that included the "Cancel for Any Reason" clause, she would have been able to file a claim and possibly recover up to 75 percent of the cost of the trip.