This blog post was updated on January 3, 2020.
When you need to a book a hotel, mostly price and amenities are on your mind. We search and search for a hotel that fits our wants and our budget, eventually clicking the book button and never looking back. That is until you have to cancel your reservation due to an unforeseen snowstorm, family emergency or merely just a change of plans. Hotel cancelation policies are often in teeny tiny print, so small that you never notice them in the booking process but you need to start getting out the magnifying glass. Not only can a hotel’s cancelation policy cost you a pretty penny but also it can limit your flexibility with travel. Before you book that hotel with an amazing rate, have a look at the cancelation policy paying attention these main areas.
Time Frame: Most hotel cancellation policies come with a set time frame you can cancel by without losing your deposit or worse, the entire rate of your booking. Some properties will set their cancellation policy without a penalty up until 24 hours before you are supposed to check in to the hotel. And then again others will give you 14 days before you check in to make changes. I usually try to book hotels that will let me cancel 24 hours before check in without a penalty. Frankly, plans can change so easily with travel that I always want to be able to make a change if I need to, right up until to the eleventh hour. Many hotels have been adjusting this time frame to be even stricter in recent years so a traveler must always mark their calendar for when they can cancel their reservation to avoid a penalty.
Bad Weather/Emergencies: Have you ever had to cancel a hotel reservation due to bad weather or perhaps a personal emergency? With flights, the policies are much more cut and dry. If there is bad weather, travel waivers are issued, but hotels don’t often do the same. Clearly if you can’t reach your destination, you can’t check in either. Hotel cancellation policies for weather or personal emergencies are usually non-existent. The only way around having to pay the room rate is to have some sort of travel insurance or travel protection plan on the reservation. You can also give it the old college try and call your hotel and explain your situation. Someone might take pity on you and refund your previously booked reservation. If you are traveling during difficult weather seasons or you are worried about family back home, it is worth it to have travel insurance in place or an extremely lenient cancelation policy just for peace of mind.
Different Brand Property Policies: You might love to book a certain hotel chain. No matter where you are going, you always book that chain. Travelers have to be careful with hotel cancelation policies if they are in the habit of booking the same brand. One hotel of a certain brand might have a different cancelation policy or another hotel of the same brand. I fell into this trap with a certain hotel chain. I got comfortable, thinking that I knew their cancelation policies, only to discover that it varied by property. Travelers should always check the cancellation policy, even if they frequent the same hotel chain. It can differ property to property.
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