Canceling flights and hotels can seem like one of the most expensive things you can do when your plans change—for any reason, thanks to the overload of fees. If you’re afraid to go anywhere because you might have to cancel, here’s some handy advice on when you can cancel without getting charged fees and cancellation penalties.
In most cases, you can cancel any airline ticket within 24 hours of booking. Some airlines, like American, get around this rule by letting you “hold” a ticket for 24 hours before paying for it. If you decline to “hold” it, you give up the ability to cancel within 24 hours.
Outside of the initial 24 hour booking period, cancellation fees on airline tickets apply depending on what type of ticket you book. Cancellation fees can range from $125 to $450 depending on the airline and whether it is a domestic or international flight. Airlines vary greatly in how you can cancel. For example, American has added fares that allow you to cancel, while on Alaska you can cancel in 60 days. On Southwest, rather than getting your money back, if you cancel a flight you can get a credit for another flight within a year of the original flight.
If you suffer a loss in your family, you may be able to get a bereavement refund but they are often very hard to prove and require documentation and death certificates.
Cancellations on airfare may only be available if you book directly through the airline’s site or via phone. Booking through travel websites may have different cancellation policies.
If you pay for hotels upfront when you book you are often offered a discount in lieu of the ability to cancel your reservation. Otherwise, you don’t pay until you are at the hotel or resort. Hotels often have a 24-72 hour cancellation policy, depending on the hotel chain or individual hotel policy. Resorts often require a longer leeway for canceling, as much as a week or you may lose a deposit or be charged for a few days that you aren’t staying.
Also, using points for hotels or booking through travel websites or agents may come with different rules for cancellation.
For any reason, if you find yourself needing to cancel last minute, contact the hotel directly and explain the reason to the manager as they may be more accommodating or change your reservation rather than charging a fee.