I recently had an unpleasant encounter with hotel cancellation fees that will make me think carefully in the future how I go about booking any hotel stays.
The story went like this. A friend who lives abroad arranged to meet me for a long weekend – it was to be spent in a nice hotel where we could do some walking and visit some lovely gardens, a break for us both the relax and unwind. I did some research and selected a Country House Hotel with stylish rooms, great food and attractive grounds, rang them to establish their availability and made the booking, thinking not much more about it other than to look forward to my short break.
A week after I made the booking, unforseen event meant my friend could no longer join me so I rang to cancel the hotel reservation. I discovered that despite the booking havng been made only a week previously, I was now into a 7 day cancellation period which meant that I was liable for the whole amount, over £600, if the rooms were not re-let. While this seemed somewhat steep, the hotel referred me to the cancellation policy that they had sent with my confirmation e-mail, which stated that cancellations made within 14 days of the arrival date were liable to be charged at 50% of the room rate and within 7 days at 100% of the room rate.
The trouble with these terms is that they hit those booking at the last minute particularly hard. I could have made the booking 6 months ago, and taken the rooms out of circulation until just before the 14 day notice period and then cancelled them without any penalty. But by booking close to the date and keeping them reserved for only a few days, I was now liable for the full amount. In the end, the hotel was able to sell one of the two rooms I had booked and were able to rebook the scond room for a later date which I am still hoping to use and enjoy that restful country hotel weekend. Nevertheless, I found the whole episode rather stressful, so here are my suggestions for how to avoid hotel cancellation charges that force you to pay for a hotel stay that you are unable to use;
Check the hotel cancellation policy before you book
If, like me, you spend some time researching the best hotel to stay, make sure your research includes a check on the hotel cancellation policy. If the hotel is being transparent, this should be given somewhere on their website, although you may have to hunt around for it. If the hotel is being less honest with their customers, you may not find a cancellation policy on the website,or it may only become obvious when you have completed the booking. In this case you should ask the hotel for their cancellation policy, when you ring or e-mail to check availability. I believe that if more customers made it clear that the cancellation policy could be a factor in their booking then hotels would be forced to be up front about their cancellation policy and more favourable to the customer.
My research on a few hotel websites led me to conclude that many hotels accept cancellations without penalty up to 24 hrs before the arrival date and that the policy of making a charge for cancellation within 14 days was exceptional. I also found that the smaller the hotel the more likely they are to require a long notice period for cancellation.
Take extra care over hotel cancellation policies when making bookings at short notice.
It may seem like a great idea to make a booking at the last minute for some instant sunshine or relaxation, but this is the time when a change of plan will leave you with the highest cancellation charges. While some hotels will accept cancellations up to 24 hours before, others like the one I chose will penalise you for a cancellation, even if the room has only been out of circulation for a few days.
If you book far ahead, review your plans before the cancellation period cuts in
If you’ve made a hotel booking well in advance, it’s worth making a note of the required cancellation period and reviewing your plans before that time. If you know that the hotel requires a 14 day cancellation period, then perhaps make a note in your diary 3 weeks before to check that your plans are still the same, and give you the opportunity to cancel without charge.
Compare your options when booking through online hotel websites
Once I have decided to book a particular hotel, I often shop around using a hotel comparison website such as Hotels Combined, which makes it easy to compare the price of a hotel room through different hotel booking websites. The best hotel booking engines also make it easy to check the hotel cancellation policy of the hotel that you’re interested in, as this is normally shown clearly on the booking page, even if it is not obvious from the hotel website. However, beware of banners that proclaim ‘Free Cancellation’ as this may only mean that you will not be charged if you cancel before the stated notice period, or that the hotel booking site itself will not levy an extra charge on top of the hotel’s own cancellation charge. And while you’re using a hotel booking site, make sure that you check the small print to ensure that they will not add an additional cancellation charge of their own on top of the hotel’s.
If you have to cancel at short notice
If plans change and you have to cancel, you will hopefully be aware in advance what charges you are likely to be faced with. Make sure that you treat the hotel with consideration and give them as much notice as possible if you need to cancel, and explain any unfortunate circumstances that may make them more sympathetic. If faced with a cancellation charge, request that they try to re-let the room to avoid charging you for it. If the room is not re-let then you may also request that they rebook the room for a different date which many hotels will do with no cancellation charge.
So I hope by making yourself aware of Hotel Cancellation Policies you’ll be able to enjoy a lovely time in your chosen hotel and avoid any stress, not to mention steep Hotel Cancellation charges.
Photos: The hotel rooms featured in the photos above are lovely hotels that I have stayed in and reviewed that only charge for cancellation within 1-2 days of arrival.
Some great hotels with favourable cancellation policies
Review of Fawsley Hall, Northamptonshire – Compare prices with Hotels Combined
Review of Circus Hotel, Berlin – Compare prices with Hotels Combined
Review of Menzies Welcombe Hotel, Stratford-upon-Avon - Compare prices with Hotels Combined
You’ll also find our sister blog with tips on how to build a successful travel blog at My Blogging Journey
December 12, 2010 by Heather Cowper
Filed under Caribbean, Europe, India, Leisure, Lisbon, Misc, Northern Ireland, Passports with Purpose, Portugal, St Lucia, Travel products, United Kingdom, World, World Issues
I’m a supporter of Passports with Purpose, the Travel Blogger’s annual fundraiser and I’ve just made my personal choices from the fabulous array of prizes, in the nick of time. The chance to win prizes closes tomorrow although you can continue to donate to help build the village in India through this year’s chosen charity, Friends of LAFTI. Here’s what I’ve personally put my bids in for – if you read this in time, head over quick to Passports with Purpose before tomorrow and put in yours.
The prizes I’m hoping to win are;
Apple iPad 16 GB Wi-Fi + 3G
Well, any shiny new Apple toy is obviously extremely desirable and I also think it’s good sport of Andy to give up the prize that he won in a competition for this good cause. Also the Winnie the Pooh ebook must be a big bonus although removing the Tie me Kangaroo down sport MP3 is a bit hasty – not everyone is bored with kangaroos and I’m sure it would give my kids endless amusement. If I win this I’ll probably take it on shorter trips when I need to have internet access rather than taking the laptop.
8 GB iPod Nano
Again the shiny new Apple toy rule applies and as a lover of podcasts this little baby will be just the thing for listening to all my faves such as Amateur Traveler, This week in travel, Betty in the sky and Raising Miro. If you happen to win it instead of me, do download some of my Heather on her travels podcasts to enjoy, such as my latest interview with Beth Whitman about Papua New Guinea.
3G Wi-Fi Amazon Kindle
If I don’t get the ipad then I’ll settle for a Kindle to play with. If my husband is really nice to me and doesn’t nag me about the amount of time I spend on my laptop, he might even find it in his Christmas stocking.Or perhaps I’ll be that girl in the deckchair relaxing on the beach with a Kindle in my hand one of these days that I give up the blogging.
$100 gift card to spend on a Mr & Mrs Smith Hotels
from Mr & Mrs Smith blog
Because I love staying in Mr & Mrs Smith hotels and have even been known to write the odd review or guest post for them myself. I know that any boutique hotel that they recommend will be just the sort of stylish, welcoming place that you always hope to find and that I’ll always get the best available price at the time if I book through them. If you don’t believe me, read what I said about these lovelies in their portfolio; The cosy Avenue Hotel in Copenhagen, the country house chic of Fawsley Hall in Northamptonshire or the modern luxe of Avenue Liberdade in Lisbon.
$800 to spend on a HomeAway Holiday Rental property
from HomeAway and Lara Dunston at Grantourismo
Because I love the flexibility of this prize, to book a holiday stay anywhere I like to enjoy with my family, and I love the idea of finding a home from home somewhere where I can soak up the local colour and feel part of the neighbourhood. I met up with Lara and Terry at the start of their year long Grantourismo project to travel the world, staying in HomeAway properties and writing about their experiences and you can listen to my podcast interview with Lara Dunston here.
Three Night Stay at Luxury Hotel Tiara Park Atlantic Lisbon
Because I fell in love with Lisbon when I visited with my husband in November 2009 and the 2 days we spent there just weren’t enough. I can jump on a plane from Bristol and be settling into the rather sleek Tiara Park Atlantic that is part of Kiwi collection, another hotel site that I trust to find me impeccably luxurious hotels such as the Mandarin Oriental, Hyde Park in London that I reviewed for them.
A Four-Night City and Country Getaway in Ireland
Because I’ve only once been to Ireland and I remember the unspoilt countryside and windswept charm and because we have friends there that are overdue a visit and because I can easily get there from Bristol courtesy of the charming Mr O’Leary, a man who does not lack the gift of the gab.
A 3 night luxury spa break for two at LeSPORT hotel in St Lucia though the Explorateur
Because my parents have been spending their last few Januaries in St Lucia and love the island, and as I’ve never been to the Caribbean the island is firmly on my wish list. As I find the grey days of January and February rather dreary, I could do with a bit of sunshine with my husband
If none of these tempt you, get over to Passports with Passport in the next 24 hrs and see what other goodies are on offer – if you’re too late, there’s always next year….
Read more Indian stories
You’ll also find our sister blog with tips on how to build a successful travel blog at My Blogging Journey
I won’t pretend that every family holiday we’ve had has been perfect. There were the times when the crowds and burning heat of Sardinia in August became too much, the days of camping in the rain in Asturias in Northern Spain when we realised how the region earned it’s nickname of ‘Green Spain’. I’ve learned that no matter how carefully you select the accommodation or research the location, you’ll never please everyone.
Now my children are teenagers our needs have changed from those of a family with young children and gradually, by trial and error, I’m finding the best formula to suit them. By the time I’ve got it just right, they’ll be off travelling on their own, but hopefully with a love of travel and a thirst for adventure instilled on these family holidays. Fly the nest, my little birds, but not too soon!
Here are my tips for planning a happy holiday with teenagers;
No early starts
Most teenagers will stay up late and sleep until lunch-time given half a chance. And I don’t mind catching up on my sleep on holiday after getting up for work every day at home. Now I pass on any activities with a 9 o’clock start. A leisurely breakfast from 10am and then starting the day’s activities after 11am is about right for us.
Give them some space
The days of us being packed into a single family room are now over – I always book separate bedrooms, preferrably with own bathroom. Teenagers want their independence from their parents and being increasingly body conscious like some privacy to shower and change. If they have their own room they can make make a lovely mess with clothes all over the floor and you won’t have to see it – it’ll soon be packed up soon enough when you move on.
This is a rule that holds good for all travellers but is sometimes difficult to enforce with teenage girls who like to have an outfit for every eventuality. We manage to travel light as a family by giving everyone their own small suitcase that meets the size requirements for carry on luggage. Each member of the family has to fit what they bring into their own case, pack and unpack it and carry it themself. If we are going for more than a few days, I’ll add a larger family case that gets checked in for bulky items and overflow, but generally we try and go hand luggage only.
Bring a friend
On thing that teenagers hate is being parted from their friends. Even if all their friends are also on holiday, they’re convinced there’s a party happening back home that they’re missing out on. On shorter trips we often plan to include their friends – teenage bliss is to bring all your friends on holiday with you.
Choose accommodation where they’ll feel at home
If you can’t always bring their friends along, you can choose accommodation where you’ll be more likely to find other like-minded travellers to connect with. If I’m choosing an appartment, I’ll look for one that’s part of a complex, with communal pools and perhaps a bar or cafe where other teenagers are hanging out. We often stay in family friendly hostels, mingling with back-packers, although we look for an en suite private room rather than a dorm. For hotels I’ll look for smaller, boutique hotels that have a young and friendly feel.
Stay connected on the Internet
Staying in touch with friends is really important for teenagers and ours are the internet native generation. An hour a day on Facebook will make them a lot happier, so I always look for accommodation with free internet access, which tends to steer us to the places that younger travellers will be staying. On everything but the shortest trips I’ll bring my lap-top along and use the free wifi but there’s usually a computer terminal in the places we stay that my teens can use from time to time.
Activities rather than sightseeing
I love nothing better than looking around a beautiful church or and interesting museum, but my children will roll their eyes with boredom at the thought, so we have to compromise. Activities such as swimming or cycling are always good and I look for accommodation with a pool or access to other swimming by the coast or a lake. Castles are better than baroque palaces and museums can be acceptable if they’re small, quirky and capture our childrens’ interests. Activities such as hanging out in a park, watching the world go by in a street cafe, riding the old trams or wandering through a flea market are fun things to do in cities.
A relaxed pace with plenty of stops
As with all family holidays, it’s no good keeping up a punishing pace to tick off all those must-see sights. We focus on one thing to see in the day and then go with the flow for the rest of the time. We leave late after a leisurely breakfast and come back early to relax, read or swim and in between have lots of breaks to sit in a park, have an ice cream and try the local street food. Although I’d like to look around those landmark sites, I sometimes have to be content with admiring them from the cafe across the road.
If you travel with teenagers, I’d love to hear your tips for a happy holiday….
Teenage friendly places we loved staying
Valencia – Home Rooms Deluxe Hostel – a boutique hostel where all the en suite rooms are individually designed by different artists, with apartments to rent in the same building.
Budapest – Mandragora Boutique Hostel – Friendly, Indian style hostel in an old apartment building that’s well placed for a city break
Budapest – Art’Otel – Modern, stylish 4 star hotel filled with artworks to treat yourself with a view of the Danube and a stroll up to the castle district.
Hungary, Lake Balaton – Hullam Hostel - Relaxed and family friendly hostel close to the lake with a few private rooms, occasional live music and Hungarian stew cooked over the open fire.
Cornwall, England – Treyarnon Hostel -The perfect seaside hostel with beaches, cliff walks and surfing on the doorstep and some en-suite and family rooms.
Berlin – Circus Hotel – A budget boutique hotel in the trendy Mitte district with rooms and apartments and wonderful staff. Their sister Circus Hostel is just across the road.
Croatia – Hotel Laguna Molindrio in Plava Laguna – a stylish, modern 4 star resort hotel with 2 pools, rocky coastal swimming and endless sports possibilities nearby