How to Get a Refund If a World Crisis Forces You to Cancel a Trip

Unable to travel due to coronavirus or any other world event? Here's how and when you can cancel.

cancelled trip refund US passport and hundred dollar billspamela_d_mcadams/Getty Images

The coronavirus is sweeping through the world. If you need to forgo that spring or summer trip you already booked, then read on to learn how to cancel your travel and get most (or some) of your money back. Find out the difference between a travel alert and a travel warning.

Check with your airline

As of this writing, almost all airlines are allowing you to rebook or cancel your airfare without penalty, no matter where your destination through select dates. Check with your airline to find out its current policy—and keep checking. Currently, info regarding waived fees is changing every day—and in some cases, by the hour, says Michelle Osborn, owner of Outta Here Travels in Pampa, Texas. Should your airline cancel your flight, you’ll automatically get a refund in most cases. Most hotels allow you to cancel your reservation without a fee up until 24 hours before your scheduled check-in.

Contact your credit card

If your credit card has travel protection, you may be able to get some money back, says Shondra Cheris, owner of Black Will Travel, based in the Washington D.C. area. “Most companies have some sort of travel protection, so if you bought your plane ticket or booked your hotel or travel package with a credit card, reach out to customer service for help,” she says. Here’s what you should always pay for with a credit card.

Travel insurance helps

If you already booked a trip and invested in travel insurance, things like quarantine are generally being considered as qualifying trip interruption, says Kristin Benton, owner of Adventure Alchemy, a travel planning company based in Nolensville, Tennessee. “Each company has its own policies regarding coronavirus, and you’ll want to check with them for the specifics about your coverage,” says Benton. Note that if you book a future trip and get travel insurance, you may not be able to get coverage in the event it’s canceled due to coronavirus, as the virus is now a known entity. Read the fine print carefully, before signing on the dotted line. In general, this is when travel insurance is worth—and isn’t—worth it.

Check with your cruise

Cruise lines have been proactive in canceling cruises in regions affected by coronavirus and most cruise lines around the globe have currently suspended sailings, says Tanner Callais, founder of Cruzely.com. For future cruises, some lines, including Norwegian Cruise Lines, have moved their final payment due date to 90 days from 120 days before sailing to give guests more time to see how this plays out, and if they want to cancel or continue with booking their cruise. They’re even allowing potential guests to cancel—penalty-free up to 48 hours before their departure dates.

Thinking about a future vacation closer to home? Find out the best family destination in every state.

For more on this developing situation, see our comprehensive Coronavirus Guide.

Danielle Braff
Danielle Braff regularly covers travel, health and lifestyle for Reader's Digest. Her articles have also been published in The New York Times, Chicago Tribune, Washington Post, Boston Globe and other publications. She has a master's degree in journalism from Northwestern University, and a master's degree in musicology from Oxford University in England. Danielle is based in Chicago, where she lives with her husband and two children. See her recent articles at www.Daniellebraff.com. You can follow her on Facebook @Danielle.Karpinos, Twitter @daniellebraff, and Instagram at danikarp.