If you need to cancel your trip or even just postpone, the process can seem daunting before you get started.
I’ve had to cancel many trips over the years, and, while it’s always sad, it doesn’t have to be stressful! Here’s everything you need to consider to postpone or cancel your honeymoon, trip, or family vacation.
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My Favorite Travel Booking Sites for 2022
These are my favorite companies that I use on my own travels.
Find cheap flights with CheapOair.
Find the best deals on hotels & vacation rentals on Booking.com.
For road trips and ground transportation, rent a car through Discover Cars.
Find information and cruise reviews on Cruise Critic.
For packing and travel essentials order via Amazon.
Get reliable travel insurance through World Nomads.
Store your luggage safely with Radical Storage.
How to Cancel a Trip, Vacation, or Honeymoon
Follow these step-by-step instructions.
Step 1. Know Why You’re Canceling Your Trip
There are a lot of reasons you might need to cancel, and you need to know what the specific reason is before you start working with companies since different reasons will need different documentation and will have different levels of refunds available.
Some common reasons to cancel or postpone include international incidents or disasters, borders closing, illness, job loss, death in the family, inclement weather, death in the family, or other unforeseen circumstances.
It’s also completely fine to decide to cancel a trip to due anxiety, depression, or even just not being in the right place emotionally. If your reason is covered by the work you do with a therapist, you still might be able to get it covered with the right medical documentation.
Step 2. Reach Out to Your Travel Insurance Company
If you have travel insurance, they should be the first people you reach out to. Read your policy before working with them so you know what they cover and why. They will most likely need documentation if you’re canceling for medical reasons or a death in the family.
I have been using World Nomads for my travel insurance for years. But no matter which travel insurance company you use, you can read up on your coverage right away and work with them on the process of getting refunds.
Your travel insurance is also who you turn to first if you need to be evacuated or repatriated due to medical or political issues (like borders closing).
Step 3. Reach Out to Your Credit Card Companies
If you don’t have travel insurance, you may still find that you have some coverage for things you purchased on your credit cards. While this won’t cover medical expenses, it can help refund your costs for flights, hotel rooms, etc.
Reach out to your credit card about what kind of coverage you have with them and what the steps are that you need to follow to get refunds.
Step 4. Research Your Rights from Your Country
Some countries have laws that give citizens rights when companies cancel flights, etc. It’s a good idea to research if your situation is covered by any laws of your home country or the country you’re traveling in.
If your trip is canceled because of an international incident, talk directly to your embassy to see if they are offering repatriation assistance if you’re already mid-trip.
Step 5. Reschedule or Cancel Your Flights
Flights can be tricky things to cancel. If you bought a refundable ticket or got your ticket with airline miles, it’s pretty easy to simply cancel or reschedule your flight (albeit with some fees).
However, getting a refund on a non-refundable ticket is trickier. If your trip is canceled for reasons beyond your control, like inclement weather or an international emergency, it’s likely your flight will also be canceled.
In this case, the airlines should issue you refunds without much hassle. They don’t all do this in good faith though. And some will not allow you to get a refund until the flight is officially canceled, which can be frustrating in situations where they make you wait until the last minute to see if they cancel.
If there’s a major incident that’s forcing the flights to be canceled and the airline offers to give you a voucher or let you reschedule, consider if it’s likely if they will be in business later. Many airlines go out of business during turbulent times. If you have no trip insurance or credit card coverage, it might not be worth the risk to take the voucher instead of a refund.
If you purchased a non-refundable ticket and you have to cancel for personal reasons, work with the airlines to see what reasons they cover and what reasons they don’t.
If your reason isn’t covered, it’s still a good idea to ask for a refund. If they refuse, you can ask for a partial refund, voucher, or flight credit. I’ve had a flight refunded when working on it with the airlines for a few hours that would not normally be refunded. Perseverance is your friend.
Be extra careful if you’re simply trying to reschedule instead of cancel. I’ve seen travelers reporting that the change fee is sometimes larger than the price of a brand new ticket!
Step 6. Postpone or Cancel Your Ground Transportation
After your flight, reach out to any car rental company, bus company, train company, or ferries that you have prepaid. Each one will have different policies for returns.
Step 7. Postpone or Cancel Your Hotels or Accommodations
If you’re working with your insurance or credit card for a refund, follow their instructions. However, if you’re on your own, use these instructions.
If you booked through an online booking website like Booking.com (which is what I recommend), then go to the website to cancel first. One reason I suggest Booking.com is that they have rooms you can book with pretty generous cancellation fees. Also, if you need to cancel because you have a dispute with your hotel, they can help you mediate the situation.
I’ve been in situations where rooms were not as advertised, and they were able to get me a refund when the hotel refused.
If you booked directly through the hotel, reach out to them and let them know your situation. If you booked a fully refundable room, they should be able to help you right away.
If you booked a non-refundable room, it never hurts to call and ask for a refund anyway. They may not give you a refund, but they may give you credits for a future stay or partial refund.
Remember, if the world is going through a major economic disruption, hotels and accommodations may go out of business. So while it’s better to postpone a trip if you can, be careful about taking vouchers from businesses that might not be open later IF you don’t have travel insurance coverage or a guarantee from your credit card.
Step 8. Cancel Your Tours and Booked Activities
If you don’t have insurance or credit card coverage, then you’ll need to do these individually. The earlier you reach out, the better since many activities have cancellation policies built in (but usually these are only good for a certain period of time).
If you booked through GetYourGuide, Viator, or AirBnB start there. If you can reschedule these, do. Since you’ll be backed through the website, if the tour operator goes out of business you can use the credits through them to book a different tour company.
If you booked a tour through your accommodation, talk to them when you discuss your room cancellation.
If you booked directly through a tour operator, read up on their cancellation policies and reach out directly. Let them know why you need to cancel.
Many tour operators are small companies with a very small staff. In this situation, if you’ve already paid, it’s kinder to reschedule if that’s possible. These are the companies that hurt the most when the economy tanks and tourism takes a hit.
Step 9. Return Unnecessary Purchases
If you bought items for your trip, think about which ones you would use if you kept them and which ones would be unnecessary or a waste. Anything you wouldn’t use or don’t need, return it for a refund.
For example, you might want to keep the dress you bought since you might get used out of it at home, but a guidebook or a nice swimsuit might not get used at home.
If you are postponing your trip, think about if anything you bought will be out of season by the time your trip comes around. For example, you might need a pack a winter coat for Toronto in January but want swim trunks if your trip will now be in July.
Step 10. Cancel Any Reservations that Aren’t Prepaid
Up to this point, we’ve been working on canceling or rescheduling things that you already paid for to get your money back or to make sure your trip goes off smoothly. However, you may have booked things that you pay day-of. You still want to make sure to move or cancel these kinds of bookings so the companies can free spots up for someone else.
Examples include reserved spots on free walking tours, restaurant reservations, or theater tickets to free productions.
Just because you haven’t spent money yet doesn’t mean you should be a jerk and keep the spots. Let someone else have them. It also helps the business because they will know not to count on your fees.
Some reservations will charge a cancellation fee if they have your card on file. Make sure to follow up on these kinds of reservations as well.