Having a holiday cancellation forced on you is never fun. In the case of people already away, such as those forced to sleep in Greek school gyms before being flown home, it can turn your time off into a holiday from hell.
But cancellations can be good, too. I’m not talking about completely terminating all of your trip. Yes, you’d save money (unless there’s a cancellation fee), but you’d also not go away. That’s not the point.
Instead this is a way to hack pre-existing bookings to reduce what you ultimately pay. Essentially, as you near departure, you might find that prices have dropped compared to when you initially booked. And you can take advantage.
You’ll mostly be able to do this with hotel rooms. In the past, I’ve cancelled and rebooked the exact same room at the same hotel on the same dates for a much lower price.
Or instead I’ve made a new booking at a better value alternative. That doesn’t have to mean cheaper. On a trip to Las Vegas a few years back I actually paid a little more than my initial booking but for a much fancier hotel that would otherwise have been unaffordable.
I’ve even booked, cancelled and rebooked, and then repeated it when prices dropped once more. The savings can really add up.
The easy way to check is to use comparison sites such as Kayak. Check first for your hotel and you’ll get a quick sense if prices have dropped across a number of booking sites. Then it’s also worth looking at the destination to see if there’s an alternative you fancy instead.
There’s no guarantee you will find cheaper options and I’d suggest you check a few times before you go rather than leaving it right to the last minute. It could be that price cuts and promotions put in place to encourage others to book do the job and your destination could have sold out or increased demand might have pushed prices right up close to your arrival dates.
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So always check before hitting cancel. But as long as it’s showing on sale at a lower price, you’ll be OK.
If your holiday is really flexible, you could even change your plans completely to visit a different destination, though you’ll probably be constrained by your flights or ferry, which are going to be harder to move.
And that leads us on to the important yet obvious caveat to all of this. You need to be able to cancel your booking without getting charged in the first place.
If you forfeit anything – whether prepaid such as a deposit or an amount still to pay – then in the vast majority of cases you’ll be better off doing nothing and sticking with your existing plans.
When making my initial booking, I tend to filter for free cancellation on the listings and ignore anything that doesn’t offer this. I also like the flexibility this offers in case my plans change.
You will sometimes pay a premium for this and that might not be worth it in the long run. Taking the cheaper deal upfront might actually work out better than any potential saving later on.
Also watch out for different cancellation terms and conditions, not just by booking site but by hotels. One might say you can change your booking up to a day before, another might give you a deadline of a month. You can even sometimes have different terms for different prices listed for the same hotel on the same site.
And it’s a risky strategy for smaller hotels. If there’s only a handful of rooms it’s more likely they’ll sell out or only have different room types on sale – so you won’t be able to see what a price to rebook would be if you do cancel.
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