Few things are as disappointing as having to cancel your honeymoon or vacation. Yet if you need to do so, take these steps to ensure that you don't lose more money on your reservations than absolutely necessary.
Unless your trip is fully insured for cancellation, you may still have to pay for non-refundable parts of it. Follow these steps to cancel your trip before the vacation is scheduled to take place, rather than waiting till after the dates you intended to travel.
Time Required: 1 hour or more
- Having to cancel a vacation is one of those circumstances when travelers who worked with a travel agent will be glad they did. In that case, all you need do is make one call to the agent, and she can handle the rest. If you bought a vacation through Expedia or Travelocity, call their toll-free number to request assistance.
- Let's assume you booked the vacation yourself. Did you read the small print before you committed to airline or hotel reservations? Then you're ahead of the game and already aware of cancellation policies. If you're like most travelers, you skipped over them. Now go to the company's Web site and acquaint yourself with their rules.
- If you haven't yet joined your airline's and hotel's free frequent traveler clubs, do so now. That identifies you as a loyal customer. Some companies offer members preferential treatment and expedited handling of phone calls to customer service. It may save you waiting time on the phone.
- Hotel reservations tend to be the easiest to cancel without a penalty, as long as you cancel your visit in time. Hilton Hotels, however, is testing a punitive $50 cancellation policy that others may follow. Nonetheless, call the hotel's toll-free number if you need to cancel and have your confirmation number available.
- Travel insurance can come in handy when you have to cancel a vacation -- as long as you meet the policy's requirements for cancellation. "We changed our minds" or "someone lost a job" may not qualify. So again, clarifying the terms beforehand will help you to know how much you can expect to be reimbursed.
- Airline reservations are not easy to cancel, especially if you've bought lowest-fare tickets to afford your vacation. American Airlines, which allows customers to request a refund online, states, "Many tickets contain fare restrictions that limit their refundable value and require fees and/or penalties to be deducted from any refund of the original ticket." That said, "death of the passenger, immediate family member, or traveling companion" are considered extenuating circumstances that will entitle a ticket holder who can present proof to a refund.
- If you are unable to request a flight refund online, contact the airline by phone. Be prepared to spend time on hold.
- Remember to cancel car rental reservations. If you are unable to do so digitally using the rental company's Web site and your confirmation number, call its toll-free customer service number. Again, belonging to its frequent-traveler club may help to expedite your call and refund.
- Vacation plans often include more than air, hotel, and car reservations. You may also have bought admission and tour tickets in advance. Here, once again, your reading of the Terms & Conditions before you clicked "buy" makes you an informed consumer. Not all travel products can be canceled at no cost, but it's certainly worth the effort to try.
Broadway show tickets, for instance, are not refundable. But you may be able to recoup some of the loss by selling them on eBay or deducting the cost of the tickets from your taxes by donating them to a charity that accepts such items (remember to get a receipt).
- Get a confirmation number for every element of your vacation when you arrange to cancel it. Hold onto these numbers. Then keep an eye on your credit card charges. It may take a few weeks before your refund shows up. Should you find your card charged after you cancelled, immediately call both your credit card company and the company that levied the charge to reverse the mistake.
- Keep your spirits up. Just because you had to cancel this particular vacation doesn't mean you won't be able to take one in the future.
- Until you can take off on your vacation, have more fun at home:
- Know in advance whether you want to request a cancellation or postponement.
- Keep track of all the calls you make.
- Ask for a cancellation number each time.
- Accept the fact that you may have to take a loss on some components of the vacation.
What You Need:
- A polite, respectful attitude. It can go a long way in getting what you need.
- Good records. Hold onto reservation numbers.
- Speakerphone, so that waiting on hold doesn't keep you tethered to the phone.
- Pen and paper. Get the names of people who help you.