Friday, November 6, 2009

Reservations about finding cheap hotel rates online

travel insurance

You find a great hotel rate online and hit the button to book it. But did you read the "terms and conditions" section? If you didn't, that great rate could cost you hundreds of dollars.

Like airfares, some lodging reservations are nonrefundable or subject to penalties if you cancel your stay. Although online travel sellers such as Orbitz and Expedia recently removed some cancellation penalties, plenty of innkeepers still charge them. And the practice may be growing.

Through this year, claims that involved nonrefundable lodging expenses were up 17 percent from the same period last year at Travel Guard, a travel insurance company based in Stevens Point, Wis.

Here are some things to keep in mind when booking or changing lodging reservations:


More than 80 percent of hotels charge a late-cancellation penalty, according to a survey released last year by the American Hotel & Lodging Association. A deadline of 4 or 6 p.m. on the day of arrival or the day before, with one night's rate as the penalty, seems common at major chains.

Policies tend to be stricter at small B&Bs than at big hotels, and with good reason, says Bill Carroll, senior lecturer at the School of Hotel Administration at Cornell University in Ithaca. Cancel your reservation at a four-room B&B at the last minute, and the innkeepers lose 25 percent of the night's income, compared with just one-half percent at a 200-room hotel, Carroll says.


Many hotel chains offer discounted rates described as "advance purchase" or "fully prepaid." These bookings usually are nonrefundable, so if you cancel, you may owe the full price of your stay. Is getting 10 percent or 15 percent off your room worth the risk? And is that charming B&B worth risking hundreds of dollars if you get sick before your trip?

* John Fisher John Fisher
* University of California, Los Angeles University of California, Los Angeles
* Jeremy Jordan (musician)
* University of Southern California University of Southern California
* Alfred University


For a premium that typically runs 5 percent to 8 percent of your trip cost, you can buy a bundled travel insurance policy that, among other coverages, will refund your otherwise nonrefundable hotel deposits if you cancel for a covered reason.