No matter how thoroughly you plan your trip, last-minute changes to your personal schedule still happen. If you need to alter or cancel your travel plans a headache, and a lot of lost money, can be next.
While some cancellation fees are unavoidable, there are a few simple things to keep in mind when these things happen. Follow these tips and they may help you avoid paying full cancellation fees.
1. Know the Policies
When booking big ticket items for travel make sure you read the fine print. This includes their cancellation policy. For hotels, I usually book with Hotels.com – this is because their cancellation policy includes general refunds at most hotels. I go a step further (per usual) and always make a note on my calendar on the last day it is free to cancel.
For flights, you should know, federal law states you have 24 hours to cancel your flight from the time you book your flight if you book it at least seven days before the departure date without having to pay a fee. This only applies to flights booked through the carrier itself, not flights booked through third-party websites.
2. Cancel As Early As Possible
Just like most industries, time is money – so whatever you do, don’t put it off. The minute you know you can’t go, start making calls to cancel all your plans. Begin with the big-ticket items, flights and hotel reservations, and work your way down to smaller things like tours and restaurant reservations.
It’s important to start early because if the hotel, resort, or cruise line has time to resell your tickets you have a higher chance of receiving a refund.
3. Just Ask, You Never Know
Even if you think a reservation is hopeless, it doesn’t hurt to ask. Recently, I had to cancel a trip due to a vaccination error (that was completely my fault). I had to cancel my entire trip and found out the night before! Instead of giving up, I called and explained the situation. The hotel gave me a full refund because they receive tons of walk in service and since it was high season they knew they would sell the room immediately. Pleasant surprise, that I didn’t see coming.
4. Call, Don’t email
Notice I said start making calls, not sending emails. Talking to a person, and especially the right person, can make a huge difference in getting a partial or even full refund.
You want to speak to someone in management, as high up as possible. Remember, a manager is much more likely to waive a cancellation fee or refund your money than an hourly employee. When you first call you’re probably getting a normal employee, ask to speak to managers and slowly move your way up the chain of command.
5. Be Nice
As you are speaking to different employees remember to be EXTREMELY polite. Anger in these situations, will get you nowhere. Most hospitality workers want you to come back to their resort, or use their tour company for when you do visit and will work hard to give you the fairest refund possible – if you are nice.
6. Keep that Code
If you manage to score any sort of refund write down that confirmation code and keep it somewhere safe. Keep an eye on your bank accounts or credit card statement and only discard the code after the money has been refunded for a couple of days.
7. Seek Alternatives Other Than Money
If a vendor can’t refund your cash, your next inquiry should be about any sort of alternatives other than money. This may be in the form of a voucher, or rain-check.
That same trip I had to cancel because of vaccinations I had tons of tours booked. Although I wasn’t able to get a refund for them they did promise to reschedule all the tours when I did get a chance to come. Just like confirmation codes I had them send me that in writing. I kept the emails and when I did go a couple of months later I rebooked all the tours!
8. Book Travel Insurance
In the future, think about add insurance onto big-ticket items like hotels and flights. Most of the time, insurance policies cost a mere 3-4% of the total cost of your trip. They will make getting a refund for last minute changes much easier and fast.
When traveling, you want to make every dollar count. Make sure you know the best way to exchange foreign currency and stay tuned for my next article which will detail all the tricks that will save you money.
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