With all the unpredictable ups and downs of the COVID-19 pandemic, travel plans are rarely scheduled these days. Canceling a trip is a much more common experience than it used to be, and many companies have updated their policies to offer more flexible booking options.
Still, the cancellation process isn’t always as smooth as we’d like, and sometimes travelers lose money when their vacation plans get derailed. But it is not necessarily so.
HuffPost asked travel experts to share the common mistakes people make when canceling trips—and their advice for avoiding these errors when your plans change.
take an airline voucher
When you cancel a refundable booking or the airline cancels your flight, you may find that the easiest way is to get a credit with the airline for the amount you paid. But it’s not your only option.
Airline vouchers can be great if you’re loyal to a specific carrier, but you can’t use them to pay your fares or electricity bill. So depending on your financial situation and travel plans, it may be a mistake to accept that credit instead of asking for a cash refund.
Willis Orlando, Scott’s Senior Product Operations Specialist, said, “Under federal law, if the airline cancels or significantly alters your trip for any reason and you choose not to travel with them, you will be charged the original form of payment. In full refund is paid.” cheap flights. So if your position is eligible, he said, “contact customer service for a cash refund instead of a voucher.”
canceling flights too early
“If you plan to cancel a flight voluntarily, it can pay to wait until the last minute,” said Zach Griff, senior reporter for The Points Guy.
Given that airlines are required to offer refunds to all passengers in the event of a significant delay or cancellation, you can also wait to see if your itinerary is affected by the scheduled travel time or No. Once you know you’re not taking a flight, set a calendar reminder for cancellations closer to the departure date.
“In the meantime, you should regularly check your flight status on the airline’s website to see if any changes have been made,” Orlando said. “These days, airlines are constantly making changes around their schedules, which means flights are changed or canceled on a regular basis.”
This is good news if you have booked the option of lower fare which is non-refundable and you may be subject to penalty in case of cancellation.
“When there is irregular operation, you are entitled to a refund, even if you purchased a nonrefundable ticket,” Griff said. “If you canceled your flight a week before departure and then were eventually delayed a few hours, you’d be stuck with future travel credits.”
Your confirmation numbers are not being saved
When you cancel your flight, don’t forget to keep a record of bookings and cancellations until the entire process is over.
This means that if you decide to accept a voucher for future travel, you will need to keep the information you need to use it for a subsequent flight. Losing that data can take a long time to customer service.
“Whenever you cancel a flight, save the confirmation number and 13-digit ticket number for future reference when you are ready to rebook your trip,” Griff said. “It will save you a lot of time and make it easier to find your credit down the road.”
Failed to review policies
Hopefully when you booked your trip, you took note of the policies regarding changes or cancellations, as this can help inform your decision making when travel plans are disrupted. But even if you didn’t at the time, it’s important to do so in the midst of disruption.
Before you cancel a flight, accommodation, restaurant reservation, a tour or any other activity, take the time to read the policies. You’ll probably avoid the fee if you modify the booking rather than cancel it. Or maybe you can transfer your booking to someone else.
Bottom Line: Whether you’re reviewing travel insurance, airline rules or hotel policies, always read the fine print.
cancellation of too late lodging
Unlike flights, hotels and vacation rentals still have cancellation windows that travelers need to follow. As such, it is important to be present at your accommodation as soon as you know your trip is on hold to avoid losing money.
But even if you miss that window, all hope is not lost.
“When you cancel a hotel reservation, always try to call the front desk—not the usual 800 number—to see if the property can extend any courtesy,” advises Griff. “Sometimes you’ll find a manager or receptionist who can waive the cancellation penalty or reschedule your stay at no extra cost to you.”
unwilling to cancel
If we have learned anything from the pandemic, it is the importance of resilience. As such, booking a trip without penalty-free cancellation options is a mistake you should try to avoid in the planning process.
“I recommend buying airline tickets that don’t have change fees and book hotels that you can cancel without penalty,” said Laurie Garrow, professor and chair of civil engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology. Airline research organization AGIFORS. “If you’re the type of person who’s going to worry about getting COVID while traveling, I recommend buying travel insurance to help put your mind at ease.”
Not planning a new trip.
Canceling plans can seem frustrating, especially if it was a big vacation you’ve been looking forward to.
But you can help deal with those feelings by thinking about or even booking the trip for another time. Psychology research over the years has suggested that the mere act of planning a trip can boost your mental health.
So take some time to research other travel options and craft the itinerary of your dreams. Plus, if you’re simply rescheduling your trip, it means you’ll have time to hold on to some of those hard-to-obtain reservations that may not have been available at short notice.
“I personally recommend at least planning,” Brian Kelly, founder and CEO of The Points Guy, previously told HuffPost. “Just planning a trip releases endorphins, at least for me.”