smart spending

10 tips to clip travel cancellation fees

So hold it together, keep negotiating and politely work your way up the chain of command.

If you have a true emergency, tell your story. "The only thing you can do is try," says Gosnell. But if you're polite and honest, many times people will respond, he says.

Bottom line: Unless you're dealing with a call center, you're probably talking with someone who likes being in the hospitality business.

"And most travel professionals want to help people have a good trip," says Gosnell.

8. Purchase travel insurance.

A travel insurance policy averages 4 percent to 8 percent of the cost of your trip, according to Ed Walker, president of the U.S. Travel Insurance Association.

If you're spending four or five figures for that dream vacation or booking many months in advance, it can be a great investment. Of the travelers who buy it, one in six will file a claim, according to the association.

9. Look for alternatives other than money.

Ask for a rain check. If you just need to postpone, find out if you can switch your reservations to a later date.

If you missed a connecting flight, rather than ask for a new ticket, see if you can fly standby, says Gosnell. While there are no hard-and-fast rules, "most of the time, they will say, 'Let's see what we can do to accommodate you on a different flight,'" he says.

If you don't have a specific date in mind, airlines will often trade your ticket for a voucher that you can use within a year, but there is frequently a fee. You can ask a rep to waive the fee, but that's the exception rather than the rule.

With a cruise or a tour, it will depend on the company and its policies. Even though it may not be part of the company's policy, tour operators are more likely to accommodate you if they know you'll be traveling with them soon, says Stachnik.

10. It helps to be a club member.

If you rack up so many hotel stays or airline miles that you belong to an affinity club, that could come in handy when you need to rearrange plans.

As a frequent repeat customer, "you have a lot more bargaining power," says Lytle. Especially with hotels, you may find they are "much more willing to work with you," he says.


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