In the spring and summer of the early pandemic (2020 ring a bell?) travel suddenly became very, very flexible. Flights, cars, and even nonrefundable hotel rooms could all be canceled – last minute – with no questions asked. The airlines even blocked the middle seats!
Those were the good old days, right?
Of course, the businesses were just trying to stay afloat financially and they were willing to give and give some more. Today, things are different. Airlines have jacked up their prices and hotels are locking travelers into iron-fisted reservations.
And yet, life still sometimes intrudes on your happy travel plans. So, what happens when you want to get your money back on a nonrefundable hotel room reservation? Yes, it is possible. Read on to find out how.
First, it’s helpful to understand the rules. For the most part, there are two types of hotel reservations:
Cancellation policies vary from hotel to hotel. Hotels have also gotten very good at making the slightly cheaper nonrefundable rate appealing, while at the same time, hiding the terms and conditions for canceling.
There are some situations when you can get a refund:
Now that you know the rules, here are the tricks to get around them.
This won’t work all the time, but it’s the one most used by travelers so it often works. Here’s how to do it:
Here’s an example: let’s say you postpone a trip for the following month. You look up the cancellation rules, and see that you have to cancel within 48 hours of arriving. Set a calendar reminder in two weeks and call to cancel the room for a full refund.
You don’t have to worry about the hotel representatives noticing that you postponed and canceled later although there is some risk. Most times, they just don’t have the time or energy to fight it.
Unlike airlines, hotels will let you change the name of the primary guest on the reservation. Third-party sites like Booking.com and Expedia facilitate guest name changes too.
We heard about some travelers reselling their rooms on Craigslist, but there are also websites like SpareFare.net that allow you to resell bookings.
Pro tip: Make sure you don’t have a credit card on file so that guy that bought your hotel room doesn’t run up a huge room service bill.
As a last resort, get someone you know to take the room and pay you back instead. Heck, maybe the former bride or groom would like a nice, quiet getaway to recover.
By now, most travelers understand the importance of travel insurance and when you need it and don’t.
If your policy covers trip interruption and your cancellation is a covered reason, you can get most of your money back.
If you want to protect the trip from anything that could happen (like the wedding couple breaking up), make sure that you have a policy that covers cancellation for any reason and you will get at least most of your money back.
When you want to cancel and get a refund, call the hotel directly (not the brand’s 1-800 number). It’s often easier to get a person you can speak with and the process is quicker.
Damian Tysdal is the founder of CoverTrip, and is a licensed agent for travel insurance (MA 1883287). He believes travel insurance should be easier to understand, and started the first travel insurance blog in 2006.