Double-check those hotel cancellation policies

In the middle of planning a 10-day spring vacation, I’ve been researching and booking hotels for the various cities we’ll visit. We’ll be staying in hotels affiliated with our favorite chain, where I am a top-tier frequent guest, so I didn’t think much about checking each individual hotel’s cancellation policy.

Mistake. Hopefully not a big one, but a mistake nonetheless.

While the most common cancellation policies are one to two days before arrival, with some slightly more restrictive and others more generous, I was surprised to learn that two of the hotels I’d booked had “non-cancellation” policies.

More accurately, the rates I chose came with that rather significant restriction, which I didn’t see until after I’d hit the “Reserve This Room” button.

Now seasoned citizens, I thought it prudent to “embrace the discount,” as a relative once put it, so I booked two hotels under the “Stay Longer" rate offered to AARP members. It was available for stays of three days or longer, which meshed nicely with our plans anyway, so why not save a few bucks?

Look carefully at the cancellation policy for each rate you're considering.

Maybe because those savings come at a significant sacrifice of flexibility. Not that we’re at all tentative about our plans but things happen.

For perspective, the discounted rate saved €18 per night over the non-discounted rate, or €54 for the three day stays. Importantly, one hotel offered to refund only 10 percent of the total bill if the stay was cancelled, while the other said it was simply “non-cancellable.” The cancellation policies for the non-discounted rates was “Two days before arrival.”

Was it worth saving €54 against the risk losing the entire cost of the stay? If all goes as planned, it’ll be fine. But if not? The older we get, the more maladies can rear their ugly heads and, if something nasty does happen, then my lack of attention to detail could prove to be a costly lesson indeed.

Don’t make the same mistake. Look carefully at the cancellation policy for the rate you select and be sure it’s something you can live with. Then, and only then, hit the “Reserve This Room” button.

Bon voyage!

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Graphic by Carl Dombek
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