Hotel Cancellation Policies Getting More Strict

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At some hotels, it may be impossible to get a refund at the last minute, no matter what the circumstances are.

The number of hotels allowing same-day cancellations is dwindling, according to the Chicago Tribune. Many are adopting stricter policies.

The article chronicles several horror stories, including one of a San Francisco couple out $1,656 for a prepaid hotel room after bad weather forced an airline to cancel their Cancun flight. No refund, no credit — just an apology and an explanation that changes have to be made a week in advance to avoid charges. Another hotel, in the British Virgin Islands, requires a full month’s notice, the story said.

Experts say it’s happening in the U.S., too. One man couldn’t get a refund from an Orlando, Fla., hotel even though a state of emergency had been declared in the area.

The cancellation window closes two or three days before the arrival date in many places. Some may not allow cancellation at all.

There may also be variations in policy within a company. A Marriott spokesman told the Tribune its franchise properties set their own cancellation policies, but the ones Marriott manages let guests cancel as late as 6 p.m. on the arrival date.

The best way to avoid harsh cancellation charges — and ridiculous fees — is to read the latest version of hotel policies before you book. If you don’t like what you see, don’t stay there.

If you have to cancel, ask for a refund regardless of the policy. High-level loyalty program members have better odds, the Trib says. Travel insurance may also cover you, but check the fine print first. If you paid by credit card, you can dispute the charge and have the card company decide what’s right.

Stacy Johnson

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