From time to time, the unexpected happens. You find yourself in a position where that dreamy vacation you’ve been planning has to be canceled. That hotel cancellation fee or penalty that you never thought you would have to pay is now looking like a reality. You find yourself within the hotel’s 48 hour cancellation policy. You reluctantly pick up the phone to cancel your much researched reservation. The feeling of wasting hard earned money you painstakingly saved for this trip darkens your mood. But, hold that phone for a minute, there may be a better solution.
Cancellation fees can range anywhere from $10 to over $100. The average fee is around $25. Also, many hotels, especially during peak seasons or during special events, will charge the first night’s room rate as a penalty. Cancellation fees usually kick-in 48 hours to 7 days before your arrival date. Having to cancel a reservation because of some unexpected turn of events is always a downer, but having to pay additional money for a hotel stay you’ll never enjoy is a double whammy.
Here is a technique for avoiding cancellation fees and penalties that I have used on several occasions. If you find yourself inside a hotel’s cancellation deadline, simply call the hotel and change the arrival date of your reservation so that the date is far enough in the future that you are no longer within the hotel’s cancellation cutoff date. For example, if the original reservation was for arrival on October 15th and the cut-off date for avoiding cancellation fees was October 13th, call the hotel and change the reservation so that the arrival is on October 25th. Then, wait a day or two and then call back and cancel the reservation. Now that that you are no longer in violation of the cut-off date, you will be able to cancel the reservation without paying any additional fees.
Are there situations where this technique will not work? There are a few to be sure. For highly popular special events, for example, Bike Week in Daytona Beach, Florida, that are booked months in advance or even a year in advance, hotels will likely not allow any changes to your original reservation. Also, prepaid hotel rates almost always require a change fee since there is more administrative effort in changing a prepaid reservation. The change fee might cost as much as the cancellation fee. But, in general, for most reservations, you should be able to successfully change your arrival date to some date in the future that allows you to subsequently cancel the reservation without payment of a cancellation fee.
Regardless, it is a good idea to carefully read the cancellation policy prior to making any hotel booking. The Web site you use to book your reservation should clearly display the cancellation policy for your review prior to asking for your credit card information. Keep in mind that the vast majority of hotels have very lenient cancellation policies. For example, a cut-off time of 4 PM on the day of arrival is a very common cancellation policy. If a hotel doesn’t have a policy that meets your needs, chances are a hotel down the street will likely have a more lenient policy.