Hotel cancellations typically involve a fee equal to at least the first night's lodging, and more for longer stays. You can avoid this charge by removing your reservation before a set period of time, which varies among hotels. Change policies also vary, but most properties do not charge any fees beyond rate changes if the guest simply wants a different type of room or wishes to stay longer. However, shortening the length of stay may incur a charge.
As a preventative measure it is always best to purchase travel insurance when a trip involves several nonrefundable reservations or prepaid expenses. Be aware also of the Coronavirus pandemic’s impact on cancellation policies for trip lodging and activities.
Canceling a Reservation
Browse the hotel website or phone its customer-service line to find out its cancellation policy. This information is also typically displayed on your confirmation email or printed reservation.
If you booked the hotel room through a travel agent or another website, find out the cancellation policies as well. A site like Orbitz.com or Expedia.com won’t charge you a cancellation fee. However, it will pass on any cancellation fees imposed by the hotel.
Call the hotel or travel agent if you reserved by phone, and ask to cancel your hotel reservation.
If you booked on the Internet, browse to the hotel booking site and sign in. Click the "Cancel" button, which is typically at the top of your reservation page or near the pricing information.
Provide requested details such as your name and confirmation number. Note any cancellation number you are given, in order to document your changes.
Request an email confirmation, if you are not offered one. Save this email once you receive it, in case of any problems.
Check your credit card bill for any unjustified charges from the hotel or the travel agent/website. If a charge appears, contact the customer-service number with your credit card company to have it removed; provide your cancellation number, if available. Forward your cancellation email, if needed.
Changing a Reservation
Click the "Change" button on the hotel website if you booked online; call the hotel if you reserved by phone. Give your confirmation number, contact information and specifics about the change. Request an email confirming your modifications, if you are not offered one.
Talk to the front desk or the manager to adjust your plans on site. He normally accommodates changes in room types or for longer stays with no penalty, especially if you are dissatisfied with your current room. When you first check in, you can even ask about a free upgrade, especially during low season. (Forget about freebies when the hotel is full.) Cutting your stay short may incur fees, however.
Talk to the general manager or someone higher in the hotel hierarchy than the front desk, if you feel you're being unfairly penalized. Explain the reason for your change and that you would like to continue staying at the property on future trips. Add weight to your argument by referring to your frequent guest program membership, corporate room bookings or association with clubs that use the hotel.
If you want to avoid fees but must cancel at the last minute, phone the hotel directly and ask to speak to the manager. Mention any affiliations you have with the hotel such as your frequent visits, corporate connections or membership in a frequent guest program. Explain the reason for your cancellation, and politely ask if the hotel can allow a free cancellation or lower fees just this once.
If you are still dissatisfied and are dealing with a hotel chain, write a hard copy letter to the chain's Customer Service Manager or CEO and specifically describe the concession you want whether it may be money back in the form of a full refund, or a voucher. Describe your previous attempts concisely using dates and names of personnel. Enclose documentation such as travel plans, emails, or notes from phone calls. At worst, the chain may reiterate its fee policies with a boilerplate response. At best, you may get your fees refunded and receive discount coupons for future stays.
At the time of booking it is also a great step to research the refund policy prior to booking your hotel stay. While third party companies like Booking.com, or a travel agency site like Priceline may not have full no show or refund policy specifics, oftentimes large hotels like the Marriott, Best Western, Hilton, or Hyatt will often have a phone number to call or even a website section with policy information.