Tuesday 11 December 2012

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How to Cancel a Trip

It's life. You don't always get to choose the circumstances in which you live, and despite all my enthusiasm for traveling, there are some things that are more important. Occasionally those things will raise their heads, and travel has to become a secondary consideration. It's happened to us this Christmas, and unfortunately, we're finding ourselves needing to be closer to home than a trip to Anaheim allows. We've put it off as long as possible, hoping for a different solution, but now it's time to cancel our trip.

Putting aside the sadness of the moment (You are feeling sad for us right?), how do you go about cancelling a trip? If everything you booked is refundable, you've got no problems. Simply pick up your laptop and cancel everything yourself. What if you've prepaid for things though? Or if you've used rewards or bonus nights that can't be cancelled? Are you completely out of luck? You might be, but here are some things to consider when cancelling a trip:


I know the tendency is to put off cancelling as long as possible in the hopes of a miracle (darn lottery tickets!), but make sure you're keeping an eye on your cancellation dates. Most hotel rates that aren't prepaid can be cancelled up to 48 hours before arrival without a penalty, but some require 72 hours notice, and on a reservation I made just last week I saw that the hotel I was booking wanted a full 7 days notice to cancel without charge. Lori kind of laughed when I showed her that, as the only thing I'm capable of planning 7 days in advance is that it will be Sunday again and I'll be watching football. Unless of course it's not Sunday, in which case I'm not capable of planning anything that far in advance. 


I know that the reservation says non-refundable, but I've never had a hotel not help me out in some way or another when I had to change something. It's important to not be demanding though, as the hotel is completely within it's rights here to simply stick you with the bill. Asking nicely if there's anything they can do to help you out will usually produce some sort of benefit for you, even if the only thing possible is a credit with the hotel. Of course they might just be helping me out because they don't want to deal with my head negotiator. Would you want to argue with her?


Flight plans are very different than hotel reservations. Unless you forked over the extra money when buying it, your flight is probably non-refundable. What you can get though, is a full credit back with the airline...for a fee. How much that fee is makes a huge difference as to whether it's worth cancelling or not. If the fee is $50 and you get a $250 credit with the airline, it's worth doing. If they want to charge you a $100 fee for a $69 flight, you might want to reconsider. It's even more complicated if you made your reservations with miles, as you have to decide the value of those miles to you and whether or not it's worth paying to get them back. I've had mixed results with airlines and their helpfulness with cancelling flights. Alaska is fantastic to me, and has always been very forgiving. Allegiant won't even give me the correct phone number to talk to anyone about cancelling my flight. It's like my bar days all over again. Allegiant...I don't want to date you, I just want to talk on the phone.


While getting a refund isn't always possible, sometimes changing your date is. Bumping your reservation into the future allows for one of two things; a chance to reschedule your vacation, or an opportunity to try the whole cancellation process again. Just moving your vacation to a later date is obviously easier, but if you're not planning on coming back (or if there's a court order prohibiting you from doing so), then pushing the reservation off lets you call back and try cancelling your reservation again, this time with somebody who might take pity on you. Again...just like my bar days.


You book a lot of things when planning a vacation, so when you have to cancel, it's easy to miss something. You'll probably remember to cancel your hotel and flights, but did you remember your rental car? Did you book a night at an airport hotel because it included parking? What about your dinner reservations? I once got a bill for a shuttle ride that I'd booked and forgotten to cancel, even though I wasn't within 3000 miles of the shuttle at the time I was charged. Keeping everything in a single file or email folder is probably a good idea. If misfortune strikes and you do have to cancel your trip, it's pretty easy to just go down the list of confirmations and cancel them one by one. No matter how excruciatingly painful it might be to make all those calls.

Cancelling a trip is never fun, but it's not the end of the world. We'll be making the best of our needing to be closer to home by spending more time in Seattle over New Years, and doing a little exploring as we make the rounds of family at Christmas. Hopefully everything will be back to normal soon and we'll be off and roaming again. If not...well at least I hope I remembered to cancel everything this time.

This post is a part of Travel Tips Tuesday at Suitcases and Sippy Cups and Walkingon Travels. If you didn't get here from there, you should go check it out. There's people there who can probably cancel things without crying on the phone. They're rocks I tell you...absolute rocks.

Written by Steve Pratt