How to Get a Refund When You Cancel Travel Plans Because of Covid-19?

I too had to cancel my travel plans because of the Coronavirus (Covid-19) and the threat of quarantine issued by my local government. What first seemed as ‘too bad, you lose the money’ slowly turned into a nearly full refund of all my travel expenses thus far. Here I share my experiences and practical tips on what to do if you need to cancel your travel plans because of the novel Coronavirus and best practices to get a (partial) refund.

I’m not a doctor and I don’t have an opinion if you should or should not cancel your travel plans due to Coronavirus. My story will only help you once you’ve made the decision to cancel your travel plans. And helps you to get a partial refund of some of your travel expenses.

How to get a refund when you cancel your travel plans because of Coronavirus (Covid-19)?

Canceling my travel plans because of the Coronavirus

I was supposed to travel for 2 weeks in Italy. I thought it would be a cool idea to travel by train to Sicily. To break up the journey, I would stop in Bern (Switzerland) and Milan for a few days, before taking the night train to the south. 

I had 1st class train tickets from the Netherlands to Milan and a sleeper ticket for the overnight train from Milan to Catania. And I booked several hotels, tours and car rental for Sicily. I also booked a flight home from Sicily.

It has now been 3 days since I made the decision to cancel my trip due to the Coronavirus and I received nearly a full refund on all my travel expenses.

Stay overnight in Wengen to visit the Jungfraujoch in Switzerland.
I was looking forward to crossing Switzerland by train (again)

How to get a refund when you cancel your trip due to Corona?

Not all situations are clear cut or applicable for everyone, but I like to share my personal experiences and hopefully, you’ll be able to apply them to your situation. Either now or if you need to cancel a trip in the future.

Obviously, not all tips can be applied to all situations. Always check for yourself what your rights and options are in your particular situation.

Make sure you check the official websites to make an informed decision, for example, the World Health Organization’s website or your government’s travel advisory.

All my opinions are my own. This post does contain affiliate links. If you decide to book or purchase something via one of my links, I’ll earn a small commission. This is at no extra cost to you. In case you cancel, my commission fees are also canceled.

Choose the best time to cancel your trip

This might sound counterintuitive, but even if you’ve decided not to go on your trip, today might not be the best time to cancel.

For example, you have a flight booked to a destination that does not have a negative or restrictive travel safety warning. But you feel uncomfortable traveling at the moment or don’t want to take any risks. If you cancel today, the airline will take you off their schedule but you won’t get a refund. But maybe, if your trip is not until next month, the situation will have changed by then and the whole flight might be canceled by the airline themself!

If the airline cancels their flight, they have to offer you an alternative or give you your money back. The same result, but you just had to wait for a little!

In my case, I still was not able to get a refund for my flight home. I hope the airline will cancel themselves and this would mean I’ll get a refund.

Did you pay with your Credit Card? Check their cancellation policy for a refund

Depending on the type of credit card company, they might offer you a cancellation via travel insurance. Then your credit card company can offer you a refund, even though the airline or hotel doesn’t. 

Obviously, this depends on the credit card company you use. And you had to pay for the booking or reservation with your credit card of course.

Make sure to check the fine print of your credit card, as cancellation policies might change and it depends if you qualify for reimbursement of travel costs by your credit card company, but it is worth a call!

Cancel your hotel reservations

This might be fairly easy as most big hotel chains let you cancel your reservation or reschedule for the future. I always use booking.com and always choose the accommodation that offers a good cancellation policy. Usually, this entails a 24 or 48-hour notice for a full refund.

In the case of apartments or holiday homes booked via this platform, the cancellation policy might be less flexible.

That is why you’ll always have to check as quickly as possible. I knew I could get a full refund on my apartment rental in Sicily on Monday. I knew this would be the deadline for me to decide if I would cancel my trip or not.

What should you do if your hotel refuses to give you a refund because of the Coronavirus Covid-19?

Keep trying. This sounds very tedious and time-consuming, but contact the platform, or the hotel directly. Offer them any official statement that you can find. Either from your government or trip organizers.

Of course, it is very sad for local small businesses to lose their bookings and income due to the threat and fear of the Coronavirus. And if it was stated in their booking terms, they are absolutely right to keep your money. But you can keep trying.

Maybe you can reschedule or get a partial refund.

At least cancel all extras with the hotel as quickly as possible.

Did you book extras? Like breakfast, separate from the room rate? Or did you reserve a parking spot or airport pick-up service? Cancel them directly and make sure they don’t bill you for these services.

Make sure to get all cancellations in writing. Anyone who agreed to a refund should either issue it immediately or confirm the refund per email.

Get a refund for all trips, tours and rentals

Hurray for full refunds without any questions asked with tour agencies like Get-Your-Guide. I recommend them a lot as they offer many different tours and skip-the-line tickets. But with just one click of a mouse, you can cancel your tours and trips, up to 24-hours in advance. No questions asked.

In case your tour or trip is less than 24 hours away, make sure to contact them directly and see if you can get a full refund, partial refund or credit to use on a future trip.

The same applies to your car rental. I always use comparison websites, like this one or this one. They offer rentals with the cancellation policy and full coverage. I always select this option when booking my rental cars. Yes, it does cost a bit more money, but in the case of a cancellation due to a change of plans, you’ll get a full refund. No questions asked.

If you’ve booked tickets directly, with a museum or tour agency and they don’t have a clear cancellation policy in place, just try. I booked a ticket to see the Last Supper in Milan directly with the museum. As it was only €15, I didn’t want to bother them. But when I checked the website again today, I found a special section about the Covid-19 virus. They offered a full refund for tickets purchased. All I had to do was send an email to receive my money back.

Keep checking information from the airline or ticket service

Maybe today, the airline won’t refund your flight. But tomorrow they change their guidelines and offer different options for travelers affected by the Coronavirus spread. Some airlines waive their cancellation or alteration fees if you wish to change your flight to a later flight due to the Coronavirus.

Now, that is good news as changing the date of your flight or destination can start at 150$ per single flight. Money well saved!

Even if your airline declined your request today, that doesn’t mean they will do so tomorrow. The news and events surrounding the novel Coronavirus Covid-19 change quickly and drastically. The airlines may need some time to get their policy communicated or updated. It is always worth trying again as the situation develops.

Some airlines or travel agencies actively approach their customers, but a lot don’t. It is up to you to find what options are available in your situation!

Plan your own 10-day Lebanon itinerary with my detailed tips for your road trip from Beirut to Tripoli, the Qadisha valley, Baalbek and the Shouf.
The lovely magical sunset when I was flying above Lebanon

Check the website of your airline or ticket seller

Yesterday, I tried to get a refund for my train tickets with Trenitalia. I booked my train tickets directly on their website and I saved the confirmation. In the email of the confirmation, there was a link to change or cancel my ticket. As I clicked on it, I was redirected to the login page of my purchase. 

Unfortunately, it said I wasn’t entitled to a refund as I bought a non-refundable train ticket. A bit bummed, I clicked away.

But today, I decided to check the general website of Trenitalia, just to see if some trains were disrupted or if they had any news. On the homepage, I found a link for different cancellation policy of train tickets due to the Coronavirus.

I had to manually fill out a form and send my details and they confirmed, they will give me a refund! Hurray for trying a different route!

Get refunded for taxes

In case a full refund on your flight is not possible, make sure to request a refund of the paid taxes. Each flight ticket consists of the ticket price and any additional services but also airport tax, fuel tax and additional fees.

In case you don’t travel on that flight, you’re entitled to a refund of those taxes. Make sure to request a refund of the taxes at least 24-hours before the flight.

Some airlines charge a ‘refund-fee’ that might be higher than the taxes paid, so make sure to double-check your invoice or receipt of the purchased flight.

In some cases, the taxes for hotel stays and tourist tax is incorporated in the final price which you’ve already paid. In case the accommodation doesn’t refund you your money, you are entitled to a refund of the taxes.

In some cases, this might really be worth your trouble as the taxes add up quickly!

Get travel insurance when you book

Ok, it might be a bit late if you’ve booked your trip months ago. But it might still be useful if you’re thinking of booking a trip. Now is as good a time as any to take that travel insurance. Because what if you do get sick during your trip? Either by the Coronavirus that is going around or the common cold or you break your ankle on those romantic, but dodgy, cobblestoned sidewalks in Europe. 

It can happen! And travel insurance can help you save a lot of unnecessary money and stress when it does happen.

I have a continuous travel policy but if you don’t, you might want to look into getting insurance for your next trip, for example here.

Tips for planning your travels in 2020

So, does it mean you just cancel your 2020 travel plans because of the virus or risks of quarantine? Or do you still feel like traveling in 2020?

Of course, you do!

But what should you keep in mind if you still have to book your 2020 trip?

  • Get travel insurance. For example here.
  • When booking, choose a refundable or changeable airline ticket. For example with low-budget flights within Europe, Transavia has 3 different flexible tickets.
  • Don’t book any extras like additional bags or selected seats yet, especially if you’re not sure if you’ll use them. Wait until you check-in to select that window seat.
  • Check the refund or change policy of any train, boat or cruise tickets. If needed, upgrade to a more flexible ticket.
  • Book your hotels with a 100% refundable policy up to 1 or 2 days before your trip. That way you secure the best prices, but don’t end up losing money if you need to cancel. I always book everything with booking.com.
  • If you book an Airbnb, make sure to check the policy for the individual accommodation. It can vary greatly, but a lot of places can be canceled too.
  • If you reserve a rental car, make sure to add full cancellation to the policy. A lot of comparison websites offer the best car rental companies with this option, for example via this platform.
  • Book your tours and entrance tickets via a platform like Get-Your-Guide. You pay the exact same amount but you can cancel with a full refund for up to 24-hours. Lock in your travel itinerary but still remain flexible this way.

As you can see, there are a lot of options to minimize the risk of losing money when you cancel your trip. By booking smart ahead, you might end up saving money in the long run!

What is it like to ride the Train to the Clouds from Salta Argentina? Read my tips to arrange your trip on this high-altitude Tren a las Nubes.
I always make sure to book those epic train trips in advance

Other tips to get a refund when you cancel your travel plans?

These are just my experiences with canceling my travel plans (if you make a lot of travel plans, you bound end up canceling some of them). In some cases, it is a matter of tough luck and suck up the already paid expenses. But in a lot of other cases, you can get a full refund, without any questions asked.

Although I love booking in advance, I also like to be flexible. That is why I try to book as many refundable reservations as possible. 

Then I can always cancel. Either because of the Covid-19 virus or because I don’t feel like going anymore or any other reason.

Do you have any special tips for getting your paid expenses refunded when you needed to cancel your trip?

Have you made any changes to your 2020 travel plans because of the Coronavirus? Let me know in the comment section below. I’d love to read your story.

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If you want to cancel your travel plans because of the Coronavirus Covid-19, I can help you with practical tips to get a full refund of your travel expenses
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One comment

  1. Owren Sarratt

    I booked a train ticket from Toronto to Montreal and I booked to fast non-stop leaving at 11:15 AM. I thought it was that I had to make the reservation and pay for ticket with RailNinja. I didn’t realize they just did ticketing for Rail Via Canada. I canceled due to Corona Virus, Canada shutting border between US and Canada (this was 2 days after I cancel train ticket) The fee for canceling was 30%. (60.00). One week later RailNinja sent email and one paragraph states that if quarantine is extended they would refund all fees, but they had already gave me back my ticket cost less 30%. I am still trying to get my 60.00 back. This company is located in Hong Kong and only issues tickets for trains around the world. Lesson is warning when dealing with a company outside the actual train company. I had the return ticket on Via Canada and I received my refund within days of cancellation.

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