With the unpredictability of the global COVID-19 pandemic, travel plans are one of the many things in life that are rarely set in stone these days. The announcement of travel restrictions can lead to the need of cancelling the vacation trip that you and your family were looking forward to.
Believe it or not, having to cancel a trip is much more of a common experience than it used to be as a result of the pandemic.
Many companies have even updated their policies to offer more flexible booking options, but travel experts suggest that you always take the time to read over the policies before booking or cancelling a trip.
The cancellation process may not be as smooth as you would like and in the worst-case scenario would-be travellers may end up losing money as their vacation plans get derailed.
Here are a couple of common mistakes travellers may make when they cancel a trip and what travel experts advise for avoiding these errors when your travel plans change.
Failing to Review the Policies
Even before your trip begins and you are in the planning stage of your vacation, one common mistake travellers make is not paying attention to important policies regarding changes or cancellations of your flight.
This step can help you make informed decisions when making travel plans and save you a lot of time and possibly money in the future.
Even if you didn’t review the policies at the time when you booked your flights, it is important to do so if your flight is cancelled or delayed amid pandemic restrictions.
Bottom line: Whether you’re reviewing travel insurance, airline rules or hotel policies, always read the fine print.
Being Unprepared For Cancellation
If we’ve learned anything from the pandemic, it’s the importance of flexibility. As such, booking a trip without penalty-free cancellation options is a mistake you should strive to avoid in the planning process.
“I recommend purchasing airline tickets that do not have change fees and booking hotels that you can cancel without a penalty within 24 to 72 hours in advance,” said Laurie Garrow, a professor of civil engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology and the President of the airline research organization AGIFORS (Airline Group of the International Federation of Operational Research Societies).
“If you are the type of person who is going to worry about getting COVID while on a trip, I recommend purchasing travel insurance to help ease your mind.”
Cancelling Flights Too Early
While it may sound counter-intuitive to procrastinate and wait before cancelling your flight, Zach Griff, a senior reporter at a travel blog and lifestyle media brand named The Points Guy, says “If you’re planning to voluntarily cancel a flight, it could pay to wait until the last minute,”.
Since airlines are often required to offer refunds to all passengers in the event of a significant delay or cancellation, it might be worth waiting to see if your flight itinerary is affected in the time leading up to your scheduled trip.
Once you know you won’t be taking a flight, set a calendar reminder to cancel 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 shifting around their schedules constantly, which means that flights are altered or cancelled quite regularly.”
This is good news if you booked a low-fare option that isn’t refundable and could subject you to a penalty if cancelled.
“When irregular operations happen, you’re entitled to a refund, even if you purchased a nonrefundable ticket,” Griff said. “If you cancelled your flight a week before departure and then it ultimately got delayed a few hours, you’d be stuck with a future travel credit.”
Taking An Airline Voucher
In some circumstances, when you decide to cancel a refundable booking or the airline cancels your flight, one common mistake travellers may make is to get a credit with the airline for the amount that was paid for the tickets.
However, don’t be fooled into thinking this is your only option! While airline vouchers are great for travellers loyal to specific airlines, the vouchers cannot be used to pay your rent or the cup of coffee that you like to get each morning.
Travel experts say, depending on your financial situation and travel plans, it might be better to ask for a cash refund rather than accepting an airline voucher credit.
“Under federal law, if the airline cancels or significantly changes your trip for any reason and you choose not to travel with them, you are owed a full refund in the original form of payment,” said Willis Orlando, senior product operations specialist at Scott’s Cheap Flights. So if your situation qualifies, he added, “contact customer service for a cash refund rather than a voucher.”
Not Saving Your Confirmation Numbers
Just like receipts for tax purposes, when you do decide to cancel your flight, do not forget to keep records of the booking and cancellation until the process is fully finished.
That means if you do decide to accept a voucher for future travel with the same airline, you’ll want to hold on to the information you’ll need in order to use it for a later flight. Losing that data could lead to long customer service hold times.
“Whenever you cancel a flight, save the confirmation number and 13-digit ticket number for future reference when you’re ready to rebook your trip,” Griff said. “It’ll save you lots of time and make it easier to find your credit down the road.”
Cancelling Lodging Too Late
Unlike flights, hotel and vacation rentals may still have cancellation windows separate from those of airline tickets that travellers need to abide by.
That is why it is important to look into the cancellation process and policies with your lodging as soon as you know your trip has been cancelled to avoid losing money.
But even if you miss that window, all hope is not lost.
“When you cancel a hotel reservation, always try calling the front desk ― not the general 800 number ― to see if the property can extend any courtesies,” Griff advised. “Sometimes you’ll find a manager or receptionist who can waive cancellation penalties or let you reschedule your stay without an additional cost.”
Not Planning A New Trip
Cancelling plans can feel disappointing, especially if it was a big vacation you were looking forward to.
But you can help cope with those emotions by thinking about or even booking a 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 put together your dream itinerary. Plus, if you’re simply rescheduling your trip, this means you’ll have time to snag some of those harder-to-get reservations that might not have been available on shorter notice.
“I personally recommend at least planning,” The Points Guy founder and CEO Brian Kelly previously told HuffPost. “Just planning a trip releases endorphins, at least for me.”
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