/ 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.

sarah stevens says:
1 April 2019

Our hotel re-sold the room with our permission and we accepted part refund – they refused any refund.

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


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

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
Arcelyn Villaruel says:
18 December 2014

I am a secretary of the company and i forgot to cancel earlier my hotel bookings even though the hotel sent me the SOA (statement of Account) for the payment and i will not able to pay for it. The hotel management said to me that I will need to pay the entire amount of the said room booking even that i will not taken the room anymore. What should i do? Do I need to pay for it?

Holiday Inn Express
Late Saturday evening I was looking at hotels near London for a 4 nights stay during the Easter week
So I booked with the above hotel then I realised that it was about 20 Miles from London
Within ten minutes of booking I hit the cancel request button
The next day booking.com sent me an email I replied explaining I had made a mistake and hoped to use another Holiday Inn hotel but nearer to London
The next day I got a reply saying that my booking was now cancelled and that the full amount for the 4 Days being £357 was taken from my account and would not be refunded
I have spoke to the hotel and they told me booking.com had my money and I should speak to them
Booking.com give me the hotels details and told me to ask for a free cancellation

I would have been happy enough with a change of dates for sometime during the summer

is there anyway leaglly of getting money back from a non refundable payment through booking.com made on a debit card?

Hi can anyone help me please.I booked a hotel room for 2 nights around the Christmas period however had to be out of the country for my sister’s funeral and forgot all about cancelling my booking. until when the full amount of money was deducted from my bank account. When I read the cancellation policy it stated they would only deduct the full amount for the first night. I therefore called and emailed them apologised and explain my situation. They confirmed saying yes it was an error on their part to deduct the whole amount instead of for the one night as per their policy.
They promised to refund me. It’s been quite some time now with emails back and forth,conversation with one rude staff member from the hotel. Still no money has been refunded back to myself. What I need to know is how and where do I report this establishment as I feel I am not being heard. I do not want to go through the solicitors as I do not have the money to sue these people.
All what I need is the board of hotels where to reporters them as a dissatisfied customer really.

I have to visit Switzerland in these summer holidays and booked the room at hotel through Booking .com. But now what happens that during that time I have to visit Mexico for my most urgent official work . When I called called Booking . com Customer service for cancellation of the room they told me that there are some non- refundable rooms and its cancellation is not possible and my room is booked under that category and in such condition either I have not to cancel the holiday program or forget about the booking amount. Now I am in a fix. I am thinking to send my family first and I’ll join them later on from Mexico.

Aparthotel in Liverpool town centre kept £150 for a wrong day booking. I went on book a room for tonight but once it was booked I noticed it was for the wrong weekend so phoned them up. They said nothing they can do and kept my money even though I phoned up 10 minutes after the booking was made. Surely this isn’t legal

It might be legal, but it’s a strange way to win customers in a highly competitive market. In my personal experience the Liverpool hotel trade tends to be rather sharp.

A lot of on-line bookings are ‘non-refundable’ but this isn’t always shown prominently on the booking page. Perhaps there should be a facility for re-selling your unwanted reservation.

Hotel booking – the bane of the traveller’s life. We’ve never had an issue but that may be because we follow some very simple rules.

1. We never use hotel booking sites, but always ring the hotels we want directly. A friend of ours who’s a manager in a 4 star hotel tells us that the booking sites are traps for the unwary. Frequently, the different sites get the information wrong and that can end up with anguished travellers arriving with no room available. And the hotels are always the best deal when you book directly.

2. We always read the Ts and Cs scrupulously. If they’re too long, or in very small print we use another hotel.

3. We always insure against having to cancel. And make absolutely sure we know the cancellation policies. The unexpected can always happen, especially if you’re not expecting it.

4. We stay in hotels we know from past experience to be decent. TA is useful for an overall impression, but only if there are at least 150 reviews.

5. Finally, if something does go wrong – and it can, even with the best hotels – then we complain, quietly and calmly and ask for some form of compensation.

We travel a lot and those simple rules have kept us happy for many years.

“Have you had to cancel a hotel room?” – yes, sometimes.

“Did you get a full refund?” – Not applicable – I don’t pay in advance unless I am reasonably certain that I will be needing the room. If so, then I am happy to take the small risk of not needing the room that I have just paid for.

I have sometimes made mistakes when making online bookings and have incurred fees from a few of those instances. In particular, I have found “date sliders” can sometimes move unintentionally, leading to bookings on different days from the ones required.

I agree with what Ian says about booking directly with the hotel, e.g. make the booking by phone and then make sure you get an email confirmation. (In olden days, I could send faxes from my mobile phone.)

Regarding Ian’s Point 1 above – almost every time we check-in at a hotel in London there seems to be an argument going on between a new arrival and a desk clerk about their booking and from what I can hear it relates to an on-line booking through a third party website. I also endorse Point 4 about sticking with a decent hotel and booking directly with them.

Derek’s third paragraph is also a good warning. When booking on-line for hotel rooms or train tickets keep a sharp lookout on dates and other details because they can easily revert to previous settings if you change any of the other options. When confirming the booking for payment double-check the dates and times and personal selections to make sure they are what you want. This is not helped by the countdown tickers that operate on many sites and close out the booking before you have confirmed so you have to start over again. I prepare myself for doing a hotel booking by writing up an index card in advance with all the relevant info and choices and then working through it methodically. If you return to the same places and go to the same hotels you at least get to know the quirks of their booking sites.

I have seen booked guests turned away because the credit card they present on arrival for compulsory ‘pre-authorisation’ to cover extras – a dishonourable practice by some hotels – is not the same one as they used to make the booking.

Bear in mind also that the number of stars alongside a hotel’s name on a booking site can be meaningless. Sometimes they are self-awarded, or are given as part of a city/resort hoteliers’ association scheme, or are just rankings by the bookings website. Look at the hotel’s own website and check for any official classification.

Kim Wilson says:
2 April 2017

As a small independent hotel owner – these sites charge us a minimum of 15% if not more so no you are not getting the best deal I am charging you 15% more. These sites make me sign a rate parity contract which means I can’t advertise my rooms cheaper anywhere else – all over europe these have been declared Illegal the UK is slow to catch up – I can however for example throw in a free breakfast, parking, wifi or an upgrade to get round these rules or do a discount over the phone. Yes too many people don’t read the terms or don’t feel they apply to them, we are a small business and can’t afford to have rooms empty – however if you do need to cancel always phone directly (if you have booked directly) we do our best to resell and if we do only charge you the difference so you are much better off ie £80 room resold at £60 – you are charged £20 so always cancel as early as you can if you need to you will always be better off. A perfect example is a couple we rang at 9pm as had not turned up – oh we arn’t coming – I had turned away 3 couples at the door who would have paid for that room and they would have paid maybe £10 – but didn’t let me know so I charged in full. Also make sure you have a confirmation if you turn up and the hotel doesn’t have a room for you they must find you one, no paperwork they don’t have to bother. Also when it comes check everything is right dates and so on while there is time to alter it. Also please ready check in and check out times – we shut down at 9pm under Booking.com terms and conditions you come after that I don’t have to take you in – we generally do but a lot of places won’t so if you need a late check in make sure the property does that so you could be in a strange town in the middle of the night and no room.