Canceling Travel Plans Due to Omicron? Here's What You Need to Know

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A lot of people are rethinking travel plans. Here's what to expect if you're one of them.

Key points

  • Traveling for the holidays may not seem like such a safe prospect in light of rising COVID-19 cases and a highly transmissible variant.
  • In some cases, you may be able to recoup some of your costs for canceling your plans.

A few months ago, it seemed like holiday travel would be a go in 2021. Not only have COVID-19 vaccines been available for many months, but booster shots were approved for the general population in time for most people to get a jab before the last week of the year.

But things have taken a turn for the worse on the COVID-19 front over the past few weeks. Not only have cases soared on a national level, but the omicron variant has taken hold, and its high level of transmissibility has a lot of people spooked.

If you're now rethinking your holiday travel plans -- for your own safety, as well as that of the people you'd be going to see -- then you're no doubt in good company. But what happens if you cancel a flight or hotel room now? Will you get your money back? Here's what you need to know.

You may have to take some losses, but not necessarily

A lot of companies are sympathetic to COVID-related concerns and are likely to be understanding due to the recent explosion of cases. If you need to cancel a flight, you may not be eligible for a refund. But an airline may be willing to give you a credit or voucher that allows you to rebook your flight at a later time.

If you end up doing so, you won't be out that money. But, of course, if you fail to rebook your flight within the window your credit or voucher allows for, then a loss may ensue.

Meanwhile, if you've booked a hotel room for the holidays and want to cancel, you may be in luck. Some hotels have very flexible cancellation policies, allowing you to back out of your stay up to 48 hours in advance. If you're within that window, it pays to call and see what your options are.

On the other hand, if you've booked a private rental for your holiday travel, you may not have as much flexibility. Often, vacation homeowners require several weeks' notice at a minimum for a full or even partial refund.

Still, it pays to contact your host and see what options you have. Your host may, out of the goodness of their heart, allow you to cancel even if they're not obligated to do so. They might also try relisting their rental and refunding you if they manage to find a replacement guest.

Can your credit card company help?

Even if you're not eligible for a refund or credit for canceled holiday travel plans, in some cases, your credit card company may be able to help. Contact your issuer and see if you have any protections available. Your credit card company may allow you to dispute the charge at hand, but this won't always be an option and is apt to vary on a case-by-case basis.

What if you have travel insurance?

If you purchased travel insurance, you may be in luck. Many travel insurance policies allow you to cancel your plans for any reason and get the bulk of your money back. Read through the terms of your agreement and see what you need to do to file a claim.

In some cases, you may need to file a claim before your scheduled flight or hotel stay. In other cases, you may need to file that claim once your flight has already been missed or you didn't show up to your hotel. If you have questions, contact the company you purchased your policy from so you don't accidentally ruin your chances of getting reimbursed. Some of these policies can be confusing, so a phone call may be worth making.

While many people will no doubt forge forward with their holiday travel plans despite the COVID-19 situation, it's understandable that you may want to cancel yours. Whether you're able to get your money back will depend on the specifics of your situation, but either way, it certainly doesn't hurt to try.

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