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Non-Refundable Hotels and Trip Planning
Old 12-02-2014, 10:54 AM   #1
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Non-Refundable Hotels and Trip Planning

They like to make life "interesting". Apparently they've added the wrinkle now where you pay something like 30% more for a booking that you can cancel a day or two before arrival. I wonder how folks handle this.

Here's my situation:
  • Two weeks in early January, just outside of London
  • An AM meeting during the weekdays (afternoons and 1 full weekend is/are free)
  • Playing it by ear with respect to what I'll be doing
  • Rental car
My first thought was have a home base for the whole time. But I got to thinking that I might want to stay the Friday and Saturday night of the free weekend somewhere else. If the hotel turns out to be "really bad" for whatever reason, if one books non-refundable, you're stuck having a horrific vacation! I read about various places to stay on TripAdvisor and I see that some places get really bad reviews. I'm not that hard to please, but I find myself gravitating to chains that have decent reviews. Then the decision is whether to pay quite a bit more to stay there if I want flexibility of movement. What would you do and what parameters would drive that decision?
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Old 12-02-2014, 11:05 AM   #2
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My husband is a big fan of booking the first night or two - then if he likes the place, extending the reservation... if he doesn't, he finds someplace new.
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Old 12-02-2014, 11:16 AM   #3
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I tend to prebook everything. I'm not averse to prepaying or being responsible for cancellation fees. If you use a credit card, you probably have a certain amount of trip insurance built into the card benefits. The other thing I've done is taken out a small travel insurance policy which I get primarily for the health evacuation coverage.

You probably book non-refundable airline tickets. Why would you be adverse to non-refundable hotel rooms?

I use TripAdvisor reviews to select my hotels and B&Bs. I don't let one bad review put me off but glancing through a dozon or so gives a pretty good idea of what it's like. Only you can judge what is worth putting up with for a lower price.

Prebooking everythings requires you to plan ahead and to stick with your plan. I have no problem with that because I have an agenda of what I want to see and do when I book a trip. Some people are more free spirits where they want to follow their muses. I think that makes the trip less efficient although I have the ability to change my basic plans. I just know were I'm sleeping every night and sometimes have prebooked train tickets.
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Old 12-02-2014, 11:31 AM   #4
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You probably book non-refundable airline tickets. Why would you be adverse to non-refundable hotel rooms?
Actually, I wish airlines were more flexible (one of the reasons I prefer Southwest) but the premium for refundable airfares is just outrageous. Heck, even if you book a "free" flight with miles they charge you a few hundred $$ to change those.

I'm more reluctant to book non-refundable hotel reservations, especially longer stays. It just adds to the potential cost of cancelling a trip. I've also noticed that some "pay it now" bargains purchased through Orbitz or other sites don't count as stays in the hotel's loyalty program, making them a little less valuable.

Typically for our major trips, we're stuck with non-refundable airfares and train reservations (we book ahead for longer, mission-critical trains in Europe). We prefer to book hotels that are cancellable, just in case.
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Old 12-02-2014, 11:31 AM   #5
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Look at the nonrefundable as the discounted price rather than the refundable being the overcharge premium. Unless we bought a package price of hotel plus flight, I don't think we have ever prepaid for a nonrefundable hotel room. We used Venere.com to book hotels in Europe a couple of years ago, which does often offer levels of refundability; of course, a lot of people don't reserve rooms ahead of time at all.

I was going to suggest travel insurance but it doesn't sound like you are worried about losing the prepaid reservation because you can't do the trip, so probably not a solution.
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Old 12-02-2014, 12:12 PM   #6
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You probably book non-refundable airline tickets. Why would you be adverse to non-refundable hotel rooms?
They are not the same.

You can pay a fee to change your airline tickets.

For the hotel - you are flat out the $$ if you change your plans.
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Old 12-02-2014, 12:14 PM   #7
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I only book non-refundable if - there is a significant discount and I am very, very sure of my travel plans. Occasionally that has been the only way to get a room in a give hotel - and again, only if I'm very, very sure.
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Old 12-02-2014, 12:54 PM   #8
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I'll typically go for the non-refundable room if it's a 30% discount to market rates at similar properties (or the same property) for a refundable room. I figure that over time I might have to cancel and lose out on 1 out of 10 hotel nights or some even smaller proportion. I'll come out ahead in the long run.

We booked this past summer in some airbnb places where they varied from partially refundable to non-refundable and only ended up out $38 when we argued the reservation on one place that was really gross and then cancelled the next place we planned to stay due to schedule change. Just a cost of travel, implicit in the price. I would expect to pay more to put the risk of guests cancelling and leaving a vacancy on the host instead of the guest.
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Old 12-02-2014, 02:22 PM   #9
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I have actually had very good luck with hotels not holding me to the non-refundable agreements when I have needed to leave earlier than planned. I do not do this often; and, I do not count on it. But, I have found it is definitely worth being very nice to the front desk staff and being a long term customer for a specific booking site.

Like many, I only book non-refundable when the discount is large enough and I am fairly sure of my travel plans.
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Old 12-02-2014, 03:01 PM   #10
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I only book non-refundable if - there is a significant discount and I am very, very sure of my travel plans. Occasionally that has been the only way to get a room in a give hotel - and again, only if I'm very, very sure.
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Non-Refundable Hotels and Trip Planning
Old 12-02-2014, 03:12 PM   #11
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Non-Refundable Hotels and Trip Planning

We always do the non/refundable internet price if it is available. Can't remember an occasion where we actually cancelled a trip.
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Old 12-02-2014, 09:36 PM   #12
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I think I'll book the first week non-refundable, and the next week as refundable. That way, I would have insurance against being left out in the cold, so to speak. But I'll have a plan to book at the non-refundable rate while I'm over there if the hotel and location suit me. Hopefully they won't have enough sophistication in their reservations system to prevent that shuffle!
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Old 12-03-2014, 08:40 AM   #13
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The only time I ever booked all my hotel rooms in advance was on the ill-fated trip to Italy with my mom in 2006. She fell down the stairs at some villa on the 3rd day, and I had to get her back home ASAP after she got out of the hospital in Florence. No refunds, and an expensive change to the flight. I can tell you all about Italy on $700 a day.

We are usually moving around, not staying in one place, so we can stumble into whatever is available without prior reservations, though I did book for a week in Cusco, Peru back in 2012 at a particular hostel, because it was New Years' week and I knew rooms would be in short supply. But our standards are admittedly WAY lower than yours, lol!
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Old 12-03-2014, 10:31 AM   #14
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The only time I ever booked all my hotel rooms in advance was on the ill-fated trip to Italy with my mom in 2006. She fell down the stairs at some villa on the 3rd day, and I had to get her back home ASAP after she got out of the hospital in Florence. No refunds, and an expensive change to the flight. I can tell you all about Italy on $700 a day.

We are usually moving around, not staying in one place, so we can stumble into whatever is available without prior reservations, though I did book for a week in Cusco, Peru back in 2012 at a particular hostel, because it was New Years' week and I knew rooms would be in short supply. But our standards are admittedly WAY lower than yours, lol!
You had a classic case for justifying trip insurance. It was the accident that caused your problem and not the non-refundable hotel rooms.

I filed one claim on trip insurance when my FIL passed away on the same day we were leaving for 2 weeks in GB. We could have made our flight but for some reason DW wanted to stay in Houston. Filing and collecting the claim was a pain but it pretty much eliminated any financial loss.
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Old 12-03-2014, 10:33 AM   #15
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I think I'll book the first week non-refundable, and the next week as refundable. That way, I would have insurance against being left out in the cold, so to speak. But I'll have a plan to book at the non-refundable rate while I'm over there if the hotel and location suit me. Hopefully they won't have enough sophistication in their reservations system to prevent that shuffle!
My experience has been that the non-refundable discount is removed a couple of weeks before the date of the stay.
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Old 12-03-2014, 11:06 AM   #16
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You had a classic case for justifying trip insurance. It was the accident that caused your problem and not the non-refundable hotel rooms.
Well, actually, what I had was a classic case of "never, ever, take your mom on vacation. Leave that to dad, instead".

While she was unconscious may have been the best part of the trip.
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Old 12-03-2014, 11:10 AM   #17
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Well, actually, what I had was a classic case of "never, ever, take your mom on vacation. Leave that to dad, instead".

While she was unconscious may have been the best part of the trip.
Winner, my all-time-favorite e-r.org post.
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Old 12-03-2014, 11:42 AM   #18
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Winner, my all-time-favorite e-r.org post.
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Old 12-03-2014, 12:03 PM   #19
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We often prepay hotels. We use Hotwire, and Priceline bidding extensively. If the discount is attractive and our plans are firm we will book, prepay with no refund. Just did this for early Jan in Bangkok. Discount was 30 percent plus a great buffet breakfast in a 5 star hotel. Reduced it to a three star price so we grabbed it. I can only think of one occasion where we forfeited one night's accommodation. And that was a $50. Priceline hotel win.
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Old 12-10-2014, 04:40 PM   #20
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We used to prepay hotels. And we will if the travel is soon, but we just reserved hotels for Spain in March/April and were reluctant to do so. We were thinking what if someone broke a leg? Our airlines tickets are from FF miles, so we could change (with fee), and I like having that feeling. Overall, hotels are pretty inexpensive in Spain. We booked 16 nights for about $2100US. Cheap!
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