With all the unexpected tides of the COVID-19 pandemic, travel plans are rarely set in stone these days. Having to cancel a flight is a more common experience than it used to be, and many companies have updated their policies to offer more flexible booking options.
However, the cancellation process isn’t always as smooth as we might like, and sometimes potential travelers end up losing money when their vacation plans go awry. But this does not have to be the case.
HuffPost asked travel experts to share common mistakes people make when canceling a trip — and their tips for avoiding these mistakes when your plans change.
Get a flight voucher
When you cancel a refundable reservation or the airline cancels your flight, you may find that the easiest course of action is to get a credit from the airline for the amount you paid. But this is not your only option.
Airline coupons can be great if you’re loyal to a particular airline, but you can’t use them to pay your rent or electric bill. Depending on your financial situation and travel plans, it might be a mistake to accept this credit instead of asking for a cash back.
Willis Orlando, chief product operations specialist at Scott’s Cheap Flights, said. If your status qualifies, he added, “contact customer service for a cashback instead of a voucher.”
Cancel flights too early
“If you’re planning to voluntarily cancel a flight, it may be worth waiting until the last minute,” said Zach Grieve, chief correspondent for The Points Guy.
Since airlines are required to offer refunds to all passengers in the event of a significant delay or cancellation, they may also wait to see if your itinerary is affected in the time before your scheduled flight. Once you know you won’t be traveling, set a calendar reminder to cancel as your departure time approaches.
“In the meantime, you should regularly check the status of your flight on the airline’s website to see if any changes have been made,” Orlando said. “These days, airlines change their schedules constantly, which means flights are regularly changed or canceled.”
This is good news if you book an option with a low, non-refundable rate and may subject you to a fine if you cancel.
“When irregular operations occur, you are entitled to a refund, even if you have purchased a non-refundable ticket,” Griff said. “If you cancel your flight a week before departure and eventually get a few hours late, you will still be stuck with a future travel credit.”
Not saving your confirmation numbers
When you cancel your flight, don’t forget to keep your reservation and cancellation records until the whole process is over.
This means that if you decide to accept a voucher for future travel, you will need to keep the information you will need to use on a later trip. Loss of this data may result in long customer service waiting times.
“When you cancel a flight, keep your confirmation number and 13-digit ticket number for future reference when you are ready to rebook your flight,” Gref said. “This will save you a lot of time and make it easier for you to find your credit in the future.”
Not reviewing policies
Hopefully when you booked your flight, you have paid attention to the policies regarding changes or cancellations, as this can help inform decision-making when travel plans are disrupted. But even if you haven’t done so at the time, it’s important to do so amid the turmoil.
Before canceling a flight, accommodations, restaurant reservation, tour, or other activity, take the time to read the policies. You will probably avoid the fee if you modify your reservation instead of canceling. Or maybe you can transfer your reservation to someone else.
Bottom line: Whether you’re reviewing travel insurance, airline rules, or hotel policies, always read the fine print.
Cancellation of residence too late
Unlike flights, hotels and vacation rentals still tend to have cancellation windows that travelers must adhere to. As such, it is important that you show up to your accommodation as soon as you know your flight has been off to avoid losing money.
But even if you miss that window, not all hope is lost.
“When you cancel a hotel reservation, always try to call the front desk – not the generic 800 number – to see if the property can offer any courtesy,” Gref advised. “Sometimes you will find a manager or receptionist who can waive cancellation penalties or let you reschedule your stay at no additional cost.”
Not willing to cancel
If we’ve learned anything from the pandemic, it’s the importance of resilience. As such, booking a flight with no cancellation options without penalty is a mistake you should strive to avoid in the planning process.
said Laurie Garrow, a professor of civil engineering at Georgia Institute of Technology and president of the aerospace research organization AGIFORS. “If you’re the kind of person who will worry about contracting Covid during a trip, I recommend purchasing travel insurance to help calm your mind.”
Don’t plan a new trip.
Canceling plans can be disappointing, especially if it’s a big vacation you’ve been looking forward to.
But you can help overcome those feelings by thinking about or even booking a flight for another time. Psychology research over the years has suggested that simply planning a trip can boost your mental health.
So take some time to research other travel options and come up with the itinerary of your dreams. In addition, if you are simply rescheduling your flight, this means that you will have time to turn off some of those hard-to-get reservations that may not have been available in a short time.
“Personally, I 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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