/ Travel & Leisure

Why I couldn’t cancel my hotel room booking

A hotel bell

With the (mostly) beautiful weather we’ve been having there’s never been a better time to enjoy a staycation in the UK. But if circumstances intervene and you have to cancel a hotel room – can you?

When I recently moved to London I spent a couple of days staying with a friend before moving into my current flat. However, there was one evening where I wasn’t able to stay with my friend. Frantically I rang another friend to obtain crash space and then I panicked a bit.

I decided to book a hotel room, just to be safe. Thirty minutes later my friend came through, so I went to cancel my room… and found I could not. I hadn’t read the cancellation policy.

Always read the cancellation small print

It was a salutary lesson, not to panic book and to always read the cancellation terms before committing to pay. But it got me wondering, how many people actually read cancellation policies and how prominent are they?

Different companies have different policies. Some hotels will give you a full refund if you cancel within a certain time period, while others will expect you to forfeit a deposit or the first night’s room charge. It’s also worth noting that hotel booking sites have their own rules, so it’s always important to check.

Cancellation policies are often complex and riddled with small print, which makes them a chore to read when you’re booking an exciting getaway. However, unless you want to end up out-of-pocket, always look at the small print first!

Have you had to cancel a hotel room? Did you get a full refund? Do you read cancellation policies before booking a trip?


I’v always found the cancellations periods pretty clear; many hotel chains give you an option of a cheaper no cancellation price and a slightly more expensive one with no cost cancellation upto 24/48hr before date. That seems fair enough ?

However in the past I have noticed that booking through a 3rd party has given better cancellation terms than booking direct .

I always check the main cancellation terms .


Agreed I’ve always found it pretty obvious what the rules are. I’ve lost money before due to a change of plan, annoying but I that’s what I’d signed up to, hindsight said maybe I should have booked at the rack rate rather than chasing a discount.

I don’t think this is a big issue.

Damon says:
9 August 2013

Most people don’t read terms and conditions, they just tick the boxes for speed


This is not difficult. If someone asks for your credit card details or some form of deposit before confirming a booking, a cancellation policy almost certainly applies. It is your responsibility to find out what it is before handing over your money.

Call the hotel if you can’t be bothered to read the fine print. What they tell you over the phone is legally binding, provided you make it clear you are booking on those terms, but be sure to make a record of your conversation in case there is a dispute later.

The website booking-dot-com clearly sets out whether rooms are non-refundable or free cancellation – and can even quote rates for both. I generally shop around for the best rate and sometimes contact the hotel directly.

I did book a room through booking.dot.com when I was uncertain of my travel arrangements and cancelled without problems when plans changed.

If a hotel does charge you for cancellation, it is worth checking to find out if the hotel still has rooms left on the night of your booking. If the hotel is fully booked, they have clearly managed to resell your room and should only withhold an administration fee – not the full loss of the room rate.


I think you’ll find that any travel-related service (flights, accommodation, car hire) will not be flexible unless you pay a higher price. For example, if I want a flexible hotel room, I book through American Express who give me their negotiated business rates. Although the rates are higher than a non-flexible booking, I can usually cancel until 4pm or 6pm (local time) on the day of arrival.

David says:
5 August 2013

Similar story but with regard to booking accommodation for a holiday through Travel republic.co.uk
Booked by phone and agreed for accommodation, flights, transfers.. THREE days later they have sent an e-mail requesting a 50% increase in the price as the accommodation was already booked and yes I could cancel the Hotel for a full refund but I am still left with flights and transfers…small print being quoted to me!!! I have been a Which member for several years and this area could do with more publicity to stop this rip off culture


Hazel says:
5 August 2013

What about when the hotel cancels and you are left with other travel costs. What right do you have to claim compensation?


If the hotel cancels you should be entitled to a refund and you should also be able to claim compensation for unavoidable out of pocket expenses like travel costs. This applies if the contract you’ve made is with a UK hotel or with a foreign hotel as part of a package holiday with a UK travel company.

This guide has a few more details on cancelled hotel rooms or holiday accommodation: http://www.which.co.uk/consumer-rights/problem/my-holiday-accommodation-was-overbooked-what-can-i-do-/

Sims says:
5 August 2013

I often use Hotels.com to book rooms and they have a great cancellation policy and always clear and visable. It has happened that I forgot that I had already booked a hotel room (I lost the confirmation email) and a few weeks later I booked a second hotel. It was very easy and quick to cancel and get a full refund.

Bari says:
11 August 2013

It seems that the entire travel industry is moving towards this model of lower prices, inflexible policies. And most people (myself included) would opt for the option of paying less rather than having a guaranteed cancellation policy… especially because you never really plan to cancel your trip while you’re in the booking process.

I would highly recommend checking out a website called Roomer (www.roomertravel.com). It is a new company that is building a marketplace for hotel reservations. It’s a cool idea – if you can’t use a hotel reservation that you already booked and can’t get your money back from the hotel (or booking agency), you can sell it to someone else and get your money back that way.


I have found it cheap and convenient to buy unwanted reservations on e-bay and similar sites. I have never tried selling them but vendors seem to get lots of bids, especially for London hotels. It’s important to use the name of the person who booked the room though, as hotels do not like trasferred bookings.


>>> It’s important to use the name of the person who booked the room though … <<<

Ah, so that would explain why in those old films couples used to check into hotels using an assumed name. I hadn't realised that eBay had been around for so long.

But do check the laws and practice of foreign countries before presenting yourself under a false name. In France, for instance, hotel staff are (or at least were until recently) obliged by law to verify your personal details, by reference to your passport, or some other form of ID.

vitali says:
22 October 2013