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

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

It seems like there’s a new coronavirus case every day. If the alerts and headlines make you want to stay home and forgo that spring or summer trip you already booked, read on to learn how to cancel your travel and get most (or some) of your money back.

Check with your airline

As of this writing, airlines including JetBlue, are allowing you to rebook or cancel your airfare without penalty, no matter where your destination through select dates. Others, including United Airline, are waiving cancellation or rebooking fees for select destinations in Asia. 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. 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 with a credit card, reach out to customer service for help,” she says.

Try a different destination

If you used a travel agency, they may be willing to send you to a different destination, says Jessica van Dop DeJesus, a Washington D.C.-based travel and food writer with The Dining Traveler. “Back in 2003, I booked a trip with a travel agency to Hong Kong, then SARS broke out,” she says. “The travel agency was able to apply my deposit for a trip to Thailand instead.”

Resell your trip

If you can’t cancel or modify your trip because the rules of the booking provider won’t allow it, you may be able to transfer your trip to a different person, says Galena Stavreva, CEO of “Sellers might not be able to recover 100 per cent of what they paid for their holiday, but even getting half back is so much better than losing everything,” Stavreva says. With flights, your airline needs to allow name changes—and the ones that do always charge a change fee for the service, while hotels typically allow changes to the name of the guest without fees. The rules for package holidays depend on your travel agency, but most allow name changes and charge a small administrative fee for the service, Stavreva says. (Coronavirus isn’t the only thing you need to be wary of on vacation—find out about these real-life travel disasters.)

Travel insurance helps

If you’re thinking about planning a vacation, but are on the fence, invest in travel insurance, as 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 know specifics about coverage before buying,” says Benton. Read the fine print carefully, before signing on the dotted line.

Check with your cruise

Cruise lines have been proactive in cancelling cruises in regions affected by coronavirus, says Tanner Callais, founder of Some cruise lines have totally changed their itineraries through April to exclude ports in or near the affected areas, or they are issuing refunds or credit toward a different sailing date, Osborn says. 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. Some are allowing name changes on reservations within the specified dates up to 45 days before travel, Osborn says.

Reader's Digest
Originally Published on Reader's Digest