Note: This post contains the best information that we have at the time of publishing. It’s essential that you understand the terms of your specific situation and read all of the fine print. Things are changing constantly.
While current events are forcing many families to cancel travel for upcoming trips, there are also other circumstances in life when you may be forced to cancel your family vacation. Whether it’s for illness, weather, work or other circumstances, some things are just unavoidable. Here’s what you need to know about canceling travel – both before you book and after.
What You Need To Know About Canceling Travel
Before You Book Your Trip
While none of us usually book a full vacation with the intention of canceling, sometimes plans are more tentative. I’ve booked hotels in the past because I thought it would be possible that I’d want to go – but I didn’t have positive, definite plans. Other times, you’ll have every intention of going, but something happens to change your travel plans.
When you reserve your hotel, rental car, attraction tickets, and flights, look at the specific details.
- Is it fully refundable if you choose to cancel?
- Will you receive a credit for future travel or your money back?
- What are the cancellation fees, if applicable?
- Is there a specific date where it’s no longer refundable, or where you’ll have to pay a cancellation fee?
If there is a date when things become non-refundable, I always write that down in my planner. That way, I won’t forget the day and will make sure my plans are solid before I can no longer get my money back.
Many times, you’ll be able to save money by booking plane tickets and hotels that don’t allow you to cancel. In that case, be sure you have every intention of taking that trip. If you are getting a credit toward future travel, it’s also a good idea to note when the credit expires so you are sure to use it before it expires and is unusable.
Consider Purchasing Travel Insurance
Many people recommend purchasing travel insurance if you are making an investment in travel that you are unwilling to lose. So, if you aren’t in a position to lose the money you’ve spent on your trip, you’ll want to get travel insurance.
However, many travel insurance policies include much more than peace of mind for cancellations. They often may also include medical insurance at your destination, lost luggage coverage, trip interruption, the bankruptcy of a supplier, and more.
That can be very helpful, so I typically purchase travel insurance for all of my international travel, regardless of the cost of the trip and whether I can afford to lose what I’ve paid. Of course, you’ll need to check the specific policy for the coverages, as they vary and not everything listed here will be included. Specifically, look for the types of things that are covered at your destination.
When you buy your travel insurance, you’ll find lots of different insurance companies and policies to choose from. There are many, many different coverages – and you are likely to find the best option for you. If you haven’t paid for your whole trip, or are concerned about canceling, you may want to look for “cancel for any reason” coverage.
As the name implies, you’ll be able to cancel your trip for any reason, and the insurance will cover it. You can’t buy this type of insurance coverage once you’ve fully paid for your trip, however, and it does cost more than other policy types. Not every insurance provider offers this type of insurance policy and not everyone qualifies.
Standard insurance may cover trip cancellation for a variety of reasons including illness and death or hospitalization of a family member. These things will have to be new events – and not something you could have foreseen (eg: if you are already sick when you purchase your insurance, cancellation due to illness won’t be covered).
Named events are also not covered if you purchase after the event is considered “named”. For instance, if you purchase a trip after a hurricane is named, and then need to cancel because of that storm, insurance won’t cover it.
Travel insurance can often be purchased from your travel provider, including airlines, travel agents, and tour companies. However, you can also choose to purchase your own policy separately. Do your own research and decide what the best option is for you.
Some credit cards may provide some form of travel insurance, but you’ll want to find out exactly what is covered, and how it works. Ask the questions before you commit.
This post is especially helpful in learning more about travel insurance.
Canceling Your Trip
If you need to cancel your trip, you’ll want to reach out to your supplier first. Find out what the process is, and if you’ll get your money back. If you have travel insurance, you’ll then need to check with them, especially if your travel is non-refundable.
With the current situation, many, many people are calling airlines, hotels, and other travel providers like Expedia. This can make hold times extremely long. These companies are recommending that you only call if your departure date is in the near future.
Airlines are waiving change fees due to current travel restrictions (as are others in the travel industry, including cruise lines). Again, you’ll have to be patient, as hold times are currently extremely long. Luckily, some of these online providers have launched websites where you can cancel online.
As you cancel, you’ll want to ask the following questions:
- Is this fully refundable? Or, will you need to change the trip for a future date in order to use the credit?
- Who is canceling, you or the provider? If flights are canceled due to weather or other circumstances, you should be able to get a full refund.
- Where did you book? If you didn’t book your travel directly with the provider, you’ll need to cancel with whoever you booked it with.
- Is this cancellation covered by insurance?
Airlines are now required to fully reimburse travelers if the airline cancels the flight. However, many airlines are automatically canceling and providing a voucher for future travel. In this case, you’ll have to contact the airline directly and refuse the credit, asking instead for a full cash refund.
Have you needed to cancel travel lately?