When You Can Cancel Flights and Hotels but Still Get a Full Refund
Things don’t always go according to plan when you travel, and this can be a big problem for many reasons, the main one being that changing your plan usually means paying fees. Let’s keep this money in our pocket. Here’s what you need to know when it comes to canceling flights or booking hotels.
You can always cancel your flight within 24 hours of booking
According to the U.S. Department of Transportation , you can cancel a non-refundable ticket and receive a full refund of any ticket booked in the United States, without cancellation fees or penalties, if you booked your ticket seven days before departure and you do so within 24 hours of booking. You can also change your flight without penalty, but a fare adjustment fee may apply. It is important to note that American Airlines bypasses this rule by allowing you to “hold” your ticket for 24 hours before you pay. If you pay the fare right away without deducting it, you are waiving your right to cancel it within 24 hours.
Apart from the 24 hour rule, the cost of cancellation depends on the airline you booked your ticket through. If your ticket is non-refundable and you cancel after this 24-hour period, you will have to pay a surcharge of USD 125 or more, depending on the airline (some international flights will incur a cancellation fee of up to USD 450) … However, there are ways to get around cancellation or change fees. Carriers such as American Airlines sell fare surcharges that allow , for example, a free flight change at any time . Other airlines are lenient with those who like to plan ahead. Alaska Airlines allows you to cancel flights free of charge if you do so 60 days before departure . Some airlines, such as Southwest, allow fares to be changed and canceled at almost any time, but instead of a refund, you get a credit for a future flight within a year of your original booking . Please check the individual airlines’ policies before booking.
Please be aware that the 24-hour cancellation or change rule may only apply to fares booked directly with airlines through their websites or by phone (which is recommended). If you use a travel booking service to purchase flights, be sure to check their terms and conditions as they may differ. Alternatively, you can always purchase a return ticket from one of the major airlines to avoid cancellation problems, but these tickets will cost you a lot more. The difference can range from hundreds to thousands of dollars , depending on the trip.
Finally, it is possible to cancel your flight ticket and receive compensation for the loss of next of kin, but such loss and other such emergency refunds are notoriously difficult to obtain . This varies from airline to airline, but a death certificate or other documentation is often required to prove your loss.
At least 48 hours in advance for hotels, more for resorts
You usually don’t pay for hotels in advance, but they can take a deposit or charge a fee if you don’t cancel your reservation in time. Each hotel chain is different – most require you to cancel your room 24-48 hours before check-in date. Some hotels require 72 hours’ notice, and well-known resorts may even require a full seven days. If you do not cancel your reservation before then, you will have to pay a cancellation fee, which can sometimes cost you one or two nights in a hotel you no longer stay at. Ouch.
And if you booked with Rewards Points or through a travel booking service, cancellation policies and fees may vary greatly. This is why it is so important to always remember the cancellation policy for every booking. Actually read the terms and conditions before confirming this booking, then do what travel writer Johnny Jet does and set a reminder on your phone or calendar to notify you when you are near your cancellation cut-off point. If you remember to double check your plans three or four days before booking your hotel, you will be fine.
However, if you need to cancel your reservation at the last minute, you can always try your luck by letting the hotel know of your circumstances. If your flight is canceled, severely ill, or family members have died, the hotel manager on duty may waive or at least reduce the cancellation fee. If they don’t give it up and you can change your plans, you can try to negotiate a future hotel stay instead . Sometimes they’ll just move your booking to a later date instead of charging you.