TO PROSPECTIVE GATE1 TRAVEL CLIENTS:
Herewith is a lengthy review of our (my wife and I) last September’s (2018) Gate 1 travel package experience. This review has taken a long time to generate because of the dispute that ensued between Gate1 and usI. First, let me say that my wife and I are both senior citizens and believe this to be a most important factor in our dangerous drive from Milano, Malpensa airport to Montecatini Terme, Italy.
Our trip was the most dangerous and disatrous travel experience we’ve ever had in our half century plus traveling the world and living abroad. After the initial reservation for an 8 day, 7 night fly and drive travel package to Montecatini, Italy, we had questions regarding our scheduled travel, primarily driving in Italy and Italy’s rental car company’s requirements, viz., insurance, comprehensive theft and damage coverage, driver’s age, etc.
The Gate1 agent we had, obviously to us, was likely working from home; she seemed new at her job and did or could not properly read and understand our emails hence we were given erroneous information on the questions we asked. Finally, we were able to correspond with another agent. Little did we know that the damage had already been done by the first Gateway1 ‘HELP’ agent which will eventually be explained as this reveiw continues.
Because we live in Florida we paid considerably extra money, almost half the price of the tour package, to change our departure city from New York to Miami. Gate1 booked us on Lufthansa . We arrived in Frankfurt, Germany around 0800 the morning of 5 September, 2018. We found our transfer terminal for the flight to Milano and waited approximately 5 + hours. Our Milano flight was late arriving in Frankfurt, hence, late departing. We arrived in Milano, Malpensa airport around 1600 hrs (4pm). After some difficulty we finally located the Budget Car Rental agency which was outside the main terminal. It was now near 1700 (5pm). The car rental rep took my information and then said: “I’m sorry but there is no reservation for you.” I replied: “What?” Please check again and he did and said the reservation had been cancelled months previously. My wife and I were dumbfounded. He said he was very short on rental cars but could find us one but first he would need to get approval from Gate1 in Pennsylvania, USA. This took several phone calls and a long time by Budget to reach the appropriate Gate 1 representative with the authority to allow Budget to give us another car and to confirm Gate1 would pay for the car. Our Budget agent discovered that the car reservation cacellation was done solely by Gate1, months prioer to our scheduled departure. Obvisoulsy, Gate 1 never informed us.
During the Budget Reps conversation with Gate1 rep I was standing at the counter leaning forward to better hear the agent despite him being on speaker. He told the Gate1 rep that he only had one car available similar to the one Gate1 had cancelled and that it would cost approximately 650 Euros for the 8 day rental. He explicitly said the price in Euros, NOT US dollars, a point that would later be disputed by Gate1. Finally, I heard the Gate1 agent say she would approve the new car rental for the quoted amount of 650.00 Euros. The Budget rep put me on the phone with the Gate 1 agent and she confirmed to me Gate 1 would pay the 650 Euros but we would have to put the charge on our credit card and Gate1 would reimburse us at a later date. We said OK as no other alternatives were given. My wife and I were getting anxious about our long (3 1/2-4 hour) drive to Montecatini and time was rapidly passing; we knew darkness would soon arrive.
After more paper work and inspection of rental vehicle we got the Budget car, a Renault. It had a GPS and we asked the Budget attendent to show us how to program our destination into the GPS. He said he did not know how to do this. There was only one other agent and he too did not know how to program the GPS. He said, not to worry the drive to Montecatini would be easy, straight on the Autostrada for most of the distance. “Most of the distance” became our big problem.
We left the airport and immediatley hit heavy traffic as it was rush hour in Milano. We were on a feeder toll road but eventually made it to the Autostrada for Bologna & Firenze and the Sun was deep in the Western sky. The traffic continued heavy even Southern outskirts of Milano. Since we were without GPS we were relying on road signs on the Autostrada but we saw only the major cities: Parma, Bologna, Firenze, etc.
Nighttime came. We had been driving less than two hours. We decided to stop at a truck stop for refreshments, bathroom and to ask directions. Unfortunately English was not spoken by the attendant but we understood her to mean we were going in the right direction for our destination. We continued and started to seen signs for Firenze. I thought we had gone too far on the autostrada. We turned around and and headed in the direction of Milano. We soon admitted to ourselves we were lost. In fact we got lost several times on the Autostrada from Milano to our destinations. Sections of the Autostrada near Bologna to Firenze were still under repair or construction. Two or three times we stopped at gas stations/truck stops for information. Twice more that night we exited the Autostrada trying to find our way to Montecatini Terme. It was pitch black and few to no lamp pole lights on most sections of the Autostrada. It was now approaching 2300 hours and we were totally exhausted (~ 36 hours without sleeping) having not slept on the flight from Miami to Frankfurt and Frankfurt to Milano. We realized for the second time we discovered we were almost to Firenze. Again we turned the car around and headed North in the direction of Pistola - Bologna - Milano. We think we exited the Autostrada somewhere around Pistola and again stopped to ask directions to Montecatini Terme. Finally, around 2330 hours we arrived at the city limits of Montecatini Terme. We tried to follow previous directions but again stopped to ask for directions to our hotel in downtown Montecatini. Those we asked did not know the hotel by name.
We drove round and round in the central part of town looking for our hotel. We stopped twice more for directions and finally found our hotel at midnight. The last person we asked was another hotel’s desk clerk. He knew of our hotel and gave us proper directions.
We checked in shortly after midnight. Had to park car on street and buy parking permit from Hotel clerk to place in car window.
This SNAFU essentially caused one lost day and night of our Italy tour and stay not to mention the recovery time for us that interfered with our tour plans.
The problem with Gate 1 worsened upon our return to our home in Florida. I contacted Gate1 about our refund for the car rental they had promised that was not in our mail box upon arriving home. Gate 1 then stated it needed the car rental return document and the receipt from Budget showing the amount we paid. I had already emailed them a photo of this while we were in Switzerland but they said they didn’t have it. Go figure.
I sent the required document and then conversed with Gate1 about our money. The final amount debited to my US bank credit card was $750.00 US (650.00 Euros). Gate1 told us they would only reimburse us $650.00 US as that is what the Budget agent had told Gate1’s representative. I rebutted this saying that I was standing six inches away from the Budget agent’s face when he told Gate1 rep the price in Euros, not US dollars and then the Gate 1 agent confirmed the 650.00 Euro rental price to me as well when I was put on the phone with her by the Budget agent. Over a span of a couple of weeks Gate1 repeatedly denied that the amount given them was in Euros, rather it was US dollars. Gate1 gave us the ultimatum that it would only pay $650.00 (Dollars US) not a penny more. We were exhausted after our trip and fighting with people at gate 1 for weeks, starting in Malpensa, Milano. To stop the insanity we finally accepted their offer and swallowed the $100.00 loss.
In conclusion, my wife and I would never, ever recommend to anyone Gate1 Travel and this especially goes doubly so for seniors. To reiterate, we believe that Gate1 put us in harms’ because of the delayed flight departure from Frankfurt to Milano and most importantly by cancelling our Milano car reservation. This resulted-in and required us to drive in heavy rush hour traffic at dusk but mostly at night from Malpensa Airport, Milano to Montecatini Terme. We were in a foregin country with different traffic rules, regulations and laws, narrow lanes on the autostrata with sections under construction that had few signs and no lighting. We were ~ 36 hours without sleep on this dangerous trek and this certainly did not help. As a medical doctor I am telling all seniors who may want to consider the offer of a car with your travel package tour that may require a lengthy drive and to drive at night to reach their destination hotel to think deeply about the factors you must consider before purchasing the travel Fly & Drive travel offer and/or being put in a risky/dangerous situation as happened to us. Our trip from Malpensa, Milano to Montecatini was suppose to be be driven totally during daytime such that we could "see the sights". We had no idea something like this would occur. Gate 1 after learning our circumstances and knowing full well we were senior travelers could have taken appropriate steps to keep us out of harms’ way. We suppose Gate 1 thought the car rental and drive from Milano to Montecatini would be a fun way to relax. It wasn’t relaxing rather it was an extremely stressful drive because most of the distance and nighttime drive and getting lost for hours. Why would we or anyone need to use a rental car at NIGHT for a four hour plus drive on an autostrada or interstate, with parts under construction and poor to zero lighting? Where was the benefit? Budget has a car rental office in Lucca, a town near Montecatini. Gate 1 could have gotten us a room at a Malpensa airport hotel, like they did for our trip home, or let us find a hotel and they pay for it. We could have collected the car the next morning or gone by train or bus to Montecatini that evening and night and stayed in our room at the Amabasciatori Palace. Gate 1's actions and lack thereof not only put us in jeopardy but cost us more money and a full day lost off of our trip. For us, I repeat, never again with Gate 1. Many Reviews, we now have discovered, say Gate is bad, dangerous and cheap; you name it. We surely agree.
I believe all persons thinking air + car + hotel travel should think deeply but especially so if you are a senior. I believe you should also think deeply about Gate1 and how they reponded to their error of deleting our car reservation and putting us in an untenable situation. It was a terrible experience and could have been tragic.
We suggest you think about the following when you consider traveling, especially with an automobile added to your travel package and its outside the USA: Your Age (in europe you can't be a driver above a certain age) Your Energy levels (do you rapidly tire with driving, etc.?) Your medical conditions, history: bladder & bowel problems, incontinence; (do you require frequent rest stops or restroom calls?) vision problems, such as cataracts, hearing problems, Your ability to speak or use a translation device for the language of the country you are visiting. Vehicle and personal insurance coverages Functional GPS in rental car. Set destination at rental agency and be familiar with GPS and it's idiosyncrasies. Will your car rental require twilight or night time driving? Where? The estimated and realistic driving time to reach your final destination. Have a cell phone that works for the area in which you are traveling. Consider purchasing add-on medical insurance with air ambulance benefits if you or your credit card company doesn't have it. Carry on your person a printed document of your medical history and if possible use a computer translation website to translate your medical history into the language(s) of the country or countries you will be visiting. You can store all of this on a USB thumb drive but I would also carry a hard copy, printed in the language of the country you will be visiting just in case the only help is a passing stranger who doesn’t speak English or lacks a smart phone or a computer. Plan your scheduled driving route way in advance of your departure date and identify the towns on your route with hospitals, especially those having emergency facilities and if they have specialized units that can properly address any medical or surgical conditions you may have or that may worsen into an Emergency. (On our recent Italy trip I did not see any signs on the Autostrada and roads in Italy showing locations of hospitals or medical centers). Which hospitals on your route are rated as trauma centers? What level? Price the gasoline in the country or countries you will be driving in and compare it to the cost of trains, buses, flights, parking and guided tours. Please understand that I am not giving medical advice rather I am just saying think, investigate and plan before you act or depart on your travels.
In retrospect were we to revisit Italy, a country I once lived-in many years ago and loved, I do not think at our ages (wife and I), that we would elect to rent a car again in Italy or anyother country outside the US or Canada. What I once did all those years ago, driving a car all around europe, camping on roadsides and byways in a pup-tent was for a bygone era. Italy (and Europe) is simply too changed, crowded and too risky these days. I would not even do this in the United States. I believe using a combination of independent and guided tours in one’s destination country, city or town is best and the safest choice. As you are likely aware guided tours usually cost more but in the long run offer much greater and safer advantages especially for senior citizens or those with disabilities.
I wish you and yours safe and enjoyable travels.
Two medical doctors from Florida.
Product or Service Mentioned: Gate1travel Vacation Package.
Reason of review: Poor customer service.
Monetary Loss: $2000.
Preferred solution: Full refund.
Gate1travel Cons: Read my review.