Illness can strike at any time. Although you can solder through a minor cold, major sicknesses and injuries will force you to cancel upcoming travel plans. If this happens, prepare to spend a lot of money either in cancellation fees or lost bookings. Unless you buy cancellation or interruption insurance, any money lost comes from your wallet.
Hotel Cancellation Policies
Forbes estimates that more than $8.6 billion goes towards non-refundable hotel room cancellations every year in the US. That’s nearly 221,000 rooms that remain empty on someone’s dollar. The same situation applies to other countries around the world.
Most hotels honour the 24-hour notice. If you contact the concierge 24 hours before your check-in date, you can reschedule your stay (vacancies depending). Otherwise, you will need to either pay a fee or for the room in full. Without notice, you do not give the hotel sufficient time to find another occupant. Understandably, paying for your original booking is only fair.
If you cannot get out of a reservation, then you can resort to a service like Roomer or Cancel On to pawn off your room to another hopeful traveller. You might not recover all your funds, but what you do get is better than nothing.
Transportation Services and Airlines
Coaches, planes and trains adhere to a similar system as hotels. However, some companies do not respect the 24-hour grace period and will refuse a refund outright. To protect yourself from this, book your transportation early and buy a refundable pass. Although more expensive, it will save you cash in an emergency. This is a good idea for domestic vacations, where you might opt out of cancellation insurance.
Note that most companies stop selling refundable tickets weeks before the departure. You’ll rarely find sympathy in calling for a refund on a last-minute deal.