So: you booked a vacation with Airbnb—and now, thanks to the pandemic, you’re stuck at home. Will you get your money back, and how do you go about finding out?Read more...
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Important cancellation policies and dates for 2020 holiday travel: Marriott, Airbnb, Hilton, and more
Summary List Placement Despite the pandemic, many will likely consider holiday travel this year to visit...Summary List Placement Despite the pandemic, many will likely consider holiday travel this year to visit family and take deferred vacations after months of isolation. Cheap fares, hotel rates, and packages are also aiming to lure those who are comfortable with the risks associated with travel. If you're considering booking a great deal but want to watch and see what happens, it's important to understand cancellation policies. We compiled key 2020 holiday dates and cancellation policies for hotel brands, vacation rental platforms, and online booking sites. Read more: Is it safe to travel for the holidays? Here's what doctors, a microbiologist, and a travel pro told us. Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky The holiday travel season is going to look very different in 2020. Many people will be weighing whether they should go anywhere at all, not just because of safety, but because of social responsibility. And while some will stay home, others will still plan to travel by plane, train, or car to see loved ones after months of separation, or to take a long-anticipated vacation. After all, exceptionally low prices are being promoted right now on everything from flights to hotels and vacation packages, adding serious temptation. "In normal years, the holidays are one of the most expensive times of year to travel," explains Scott's Cheap Flights founder Scott Keyes. "That's because it's such a popular time not only to see family, but for many students, teachers, and families with kids, it may be one of the few coordinated vacation breaks they get. With all those people traveling at the same time, fares are bound to go up." He cautions, however, "But this isn't a normal year." Because far fewer people are booking holiday travel, Keyes says the opposite has occurred, and holiday fares have precipitously dropped. "We have found more cheap Christmas flights in 2020 than the past five years combined. So while people mistakenly assume that all cheap flights these days are a result of the pandemic, the one area where cheap fares are directly attributable to coronavirus is for holiday travel." And while many travelers will want to take advantage of such lucrative deals, the situation surrounding the novel coronavirus is fast-evolving. While one destination may seem safe right now, it could easily emerge as a new hotspot in two to three months if a second wave of the pandemic occurs, and as cold and flu season begins. For those that want to book travel, but lack confidence that they will actually be able to go, or may not ultimately feel comfortable doing so, it's important to know that your travel purchase is protected amid so much uncertainty. Fortunately, right now is also a good time to find more generous cancellation policies than ever before, with flexible options that allow travelers to back out without added fees, for any reason at all. Like airlines, major hotel brands and third-party booking engines are offering similarly lenient policies, competitive pricing, and refund options for both new and holiday bookings. They're also promoting stringent new cleaning procedures in an attempt to reassure concerned travelers. I did some heavy online digging to see how this side of hospitality is responding, and while few travel outlets are publishing special cancellation periods specifically targeted at holiday travel, some do specify a mid-December cutoff — approximately the week before Christmas — for refunds. That means most Thanksgiving travel may be booked right now, worry-free. For an at-a-glance guide to cancellation periods, we rounded up the current published policies from major hotels, online travel agencies, and home rental platforms. And if you do decide to book, here's what experts say you should know about whether it's safe to fly over Thanksgiving, Christmas, and the holiday season, specifically. Keep reading for key dates and cancellation policies from hotels and online travel booking platforms for 2020 holiday travel. Airbnb Airbnb hosts set their own cancellation policies, which vary depending on the listing as well as the amount of time from booking, or until check-in. Individual cancellation details are available towards the bottom of each listing page, and you can also search by this filter for more flexible options. Available policies hosts can choose include Flexible, Moderate, and Strict. For some places, hosts offer a choice of refundable or non-refundable booking with a different price and terms. Reservations for stays and Airbnb Experiences made on or before March 14, with a check-in date between that date and October 31, are covered by Airbnb's extenuating circumstances policy and may be canceled before check-in. Guests who cancel their bookings will see cancellation and refund options: Airbnb will either refund, or issue travel credit that includes, all service fees for covered cancellations. Booking.com Look for bookings that state flexible cancellation policies; if you don't book a flexible rate, you may not be entitled to a refund. If you already have a booking that is non-refundable or no longer free to cancel, you may face a cancellation fee if you cancel. You may also try calling the hotel property booked directly as they may be willing to change your dates at no additional cost. If your reservation ends up being a no-go because of pandemic-related events — like a border closure — sign into your account and check your options. In these situations, the property must provide a refund, offer a free date change, or a credit for a future stay. Expedia For future travel, look for the filters labeled "free cancellation" (for lodging) and "no change fee" (for flights) to avoid penalties. Car rentals are flexible. For existing travel, many reservations made through Expedia already qualify for either free cancellation or no-fee change. Sign into your account and check your itinerary. If you qualify, you can change or cancel your reservations from within your itinerary. If you booked a package vacation, you'll have to cancel your lodging and your flight separately, subject to the cancellation policies of your specific booking. If you don't have an account, you can use your itinerary or confirmation number. Four Seasons For any future arrival date, reservations (even pre-paid ones) qualify for any changes or cancellations at no charge up to 24 hours before arrival, as long as the change or cancellation is made by December 31 — which generously includes the entire 2020 holiday period. But some exclusions do apply during holidays, so check your individual rate rules when booking to confirm. Changes to any reservations will be subject to availability as well as any potential rate differences. Hilton Hotels All reservations made through September 30 can be changed or canceled at no charge, up to 24 hours before check-in date. If you're booking a new reservation now (in other words, past that cutoff date), your reservation is subject to published cancellation policies. If you are a Hilton Honors member, and cancel an advance purchase rate, you may be eligible for a free night certificate for each canceled night, to use by August 31, 2021. Hotels.com If you haven't yet made your booking, look for rates stating flexible cancellation policies. If you have already booked one that offers free cancellation, you'll get a refund for the amount that you paid. If you made a non-refundable booking, but your destination is considered inaccessible, you qualify for a full refund or a hotel voucher if you cancel at least 24 hours in advance. But that's just under those circumstances: If your destination is considered open for travel but you just want to cancel anyway, your booking's original cancellation policy applies. Hyatt Hotels New reservations booked on or after July 1 for arrival dates through July 31, 2021, can be canceled at no charge up to 24 hours before your scheduled arrival (with few limited exceptions), making all holiday travel flexible. Find a list of change and cancellation fee waiver exceptions online to check before booking. Some individual hotel properties may adjust this cancellation policy during high-demand periods like holidays, so review the rate rules when booking. These will show the current cancellation and deposit policies for your specific stay. Reservations can be changed or canceled on hyatt.com or via the app. Changes to existing reservations are subject to availability and possible rate differences. Note that these policies apply to reservations made directly through Hyatt directly. Online travel agents or other third parties may have different policies. InterContinental Hotel Group The hotel group offered more flexible cancellation policies due to COVID-19, but those are mainly not applicable to the 2020 holiday period because all non-refundable and pre-paid bookings from October 1 onward will be subject to the terms and conditions stated during booking. Some rates do have flexible cancellation built-in, so check your booking for the details. Langham Hotels & Resorts Langham will provide a full refund (including related fees) on cancellations for bookings as long as they're made at least 24 hours prior to arrival date. This applies for stays up to and including December 18. Outside of that window, policies differ for individual Langham hotels. If you made your booking through a third party, you'll have to contact that entity, as their policies will apply. Lowes Hotels Lowes' flexible policy allows cancellation with 24 hours notice for any new and existing reservations. Pre-paid and non-refundable reservations may not be included in this policy. Reservations made through a third party are subject to that entity's terms. Marriott Bonvoy Existing reservations for future travel are subject to the policies stated at the time of booking. Late cancellation booking may be equivalent to the room night cost. For guests with reservations made on or after July 6 for arrival dates through December 30, Marriott will allow changes or cancellations without a fee up to 24 hours before the scheduled arrival date. Pre-paid reservations and a few other exclusions will be subject to the policies stated at the time of booking, such as the responsibility to pay the nightly room rate if canceling late. Rosewood Hotels & Resorts For new individual reservations booked as of March 14, for stays through December 19, a flexible 24-hour, no-fee cancellation policy applies. Travelocity Travelocity doesn't charge its own cancellation fees, and as long as you're canceling with three days' notice of your stay, most hotels in your itinerary won't charge one either. If you need to cancel a flight within 24 hours of booking it, most airlines don't charge a fee, and neither does the online agency. Vrbo (and HomeAway) Note that Vrbo and HomeAway are now the same platform, except in name, and as such, they have the same cancellation policies. With the summer COVID-19 policies now past, the host's standard cancellation policy currently applies. It falls into three categories. The first is called Relaxed. Bookings canceled at least 14 days before the start of the stay receive a full refund. Those canceled at least seven days in advance receive a 50% refund. The next category is Moderate. Bookings canceled 30 days or more from check-in receive a full refund. Two weeks or more from check-in and guests can receive a 50% refund. The most stringent policy is Firm. Bookings canceled 60 days out receive a full refund; then guests can receive a 50% refund until 30 days before check-in. Wyndham Hotels For new or existing direct bookings, all properties are required to accommodate non-cancelable rate reservation changes without penalty if the request is received at least 48 hours prior to arrival, and the same number of room nights or more are booked for a future stay. This policy does not apply to group bookings, such as meetings or events. Guests who are prohibited from traveling to their booked hotel will have their cancellation or change penalties waived on direct bookings. Join the conversation about this story »
6 things to know before booking a vacation rental, and where to search if Airbnb is booked or too expensive
Due to the pandemic, private vacation rentals are proving especially popular with those seeking a...Due to the pandemic, private vacation rentals are proving especially popular with those seeking a safer, more socially distanced summer vacation. As a result, inventory on Airbnb might feel quite limited, especially when booking last minute. Many other vacation rental services are available, but if you're not used to booking vacation homes, there are important points to consider before booking. We compiled 6 things you should know before booking a vacation rental, plus top places to search if Airbnb is booked up or too expensive. Read more: Everything to know about vacation rentals, COVID-19 safety, and the best places in the US The way we travel has been upended in the wake of the novel coronavirus. With an eye towards safety and social distancing, private vacation rentals are being increasingly booked over amenity-rich resorts. It's a strategy supported by experts, too. After breaking down the risks of both hotels and vacation rentals such as Airbnb or Vrbo, doctors and cleaning specialists agree you're less likely to risk infection in a private home than in a shared space such as a large hotel. This is because the virus is mainly transmitted via respiratory droplets from person-to-person interactions. Though no matter the type of lodging, the main factors to consider are the degree to which you'll encounter other people and whether the region is experiencing high rates of infection. Without a vaccine, there is no guarantee of safety, so follow CDC and WHO guidelines and wear a mask, wash your hands, and practice social distancing. You'll also want to weigh your own risks and whether you're traveling to or from a hotspot, before deciding if travel is right for you. If you're comfortable with those parameters, it's not too late to book a socially distant summer or fall getaway — if you can find one. Airbnb reported that from May to June 2020 — yes, at the height of the pandemic — there were more nights booked for listings in the US than during the same period in 2019. With quarantine fatigue at a high, this summer has become surprisingly competitive to find an Airbnb, especially if you want to be beachfront or enjoy pool access. I tried to find one for a long weekend in Cape Cod, booked three weeks in advance, but was met with limited results that did not meet my search criteria, or far exceeded my budget once cleaning and service fees factored in. And while Airbnb might be top of mind for vacation rentals, it's hardly the only offering. There are many other vacation rental services, but if you're not used to booking vacation homes, there are important points to understand before booking. I've compiled the following tips and recommendations based on my extensive experience as not only a travel editor but an avid traveler. Keep reading for 6 tips to find the best vacation rental, plus top places to search for vacation homes and socially distant lodging online. 6 things you should know before booking a vacation rental during COVID Establish where you want to go and be flexible with dates. To weed out destinations, determine how far you're willing to travel, especially if you are driving. Factor in needing to stop for gas, food, and bathroom breaks, which all may increase exposure during a pandemic. Then, decide how flexible your dates are. Pandemic or not, weekends in summer and early fall are always more expensive than midweek or off-season stays. If it's peak season, and your schedule allows it, make it an entirely midweek trip. You might save hundreds by skipping the weekend completely and will encounter fewer crowds, too. Identify the amenities or criteria most important in a stay first. Then, commit to a certain type of lodging. Before you limit yourself to a specific platform, establish the type of stay you desire. If you seek a standalone home with a private entrance, kitchen, and contactless check-in, you might be surprised to learn that many small hotels offer cottage-style residences where you won't brush shoulders with other guests. Plus, hotels won't charge arbitrary cleaning or service fees — though it's always possible there will be a resort fee.If you know you want to stay in an actual home, narrow it down further and ask yourself: Is an apartment or mother-in-law unit acceptable or do you prefer a single-family house? Do you want to something exceedingly private or do you like chatting with your host? You may also be surprised to find that many listings adjoin the owner's home. I once stayed in a cottage in my host's backyard that was pleasant enough until the owner spent most of our visit working in his adjacent shed, while his kids played in front of our patio, which made it feel far from private. Search and compare vacation rental platforms to find the best deal. Once you know where you want to stay and when, input that data into multiple sites. The search process doesn't have to feel overwhelming; our list below includes some of the most popular platforms, which we've detailed.And, as you'll see, the same home can sometimes be listed across websites with different prices and policies. A quick search can save money and also provide peace of mind about the home you ultimately book. Confirm cleaning and cancellation policies, especially when booking far in advance. When traveling in a pandemic, it's crucial to consider policies put in place by hosts and management companies related to cleaning and sanitization. Enhanced cleaning programs are often promoted but not required. Company-wide statements promise safety and cleanliness, but it is ultimately the host's choice to comply and to what degree. Similarly, some hosts go the extra mile but may not include it in their description, and small hotels might not promote new policies online.It's a good idea to reach out to the host, property manager, or owner to verify their policies and ask questions related to cleaning products, contactless services, social distancing, and how those procedures are enforced. And don't forget to read the fine print. Cancellation policies are typically strict for vacation rentals, pandemic or not. Know that COVID is a rapidly evolving situation and a place with low infection rates now could be a hotspot later. No matter what happens, the policy will likely stand. Double-check for amenities, house rules, what's included — and what's not. If you're not used to staying in a vacation rental, you may be surprised to see some hosts specify that guests must bring their own linens, pillows, towels, or cookware. Or, they might leave you with a laundry list of chores to tackle before check out. My family once spent the last day of an otherwise relaxing vacation stripping all beds, cleaning the kitchen, and taking out bags of trash. Finally, if you're booking a home to take advantage of nearby attractions, verify what the host provides. For example, does the beach house come with beach chairs, towels, parking passes, and other gear you'll want? Knowing these details will leave you with more time to enjoy where you're staying. Once you arrive, follow our expert-led advice on how to lessen COVID risks. We interviewed several doctors, cleaning experts, and travel industry pros to identify how to travel safely and steps you can take to mitigate risks. This includes taking preventative measures such as running utensils and dishware through the dishwasher, laundering or bringing your own linens, and running a disinfecting wipe over all flat surfaces, phones, TV remotes, door handles, faucets, and toilet handles. If there hasn't been a significant period of time before the last guest or cleaning, open all the windows and air out the space for a few hours. These are the best vacation rental sites to search when Airbnb is booked up.Vrbo Book a vacation rental on Vrbo An acronym for "vacation rentals by owner," Vrbo lists private vacation homes searchable by destination, price, and amenity filters. They tend to be large and well-suited to families and groups, though there are plenty of attractive options for couples or solo travelers, as well. Unlike Airbnb, Vrbo listings are exclusively for entire homes, so there's no chance you can accidentally book a shared room or space. It also now includes HomeAway, which used to be its sister company. Read our overview of how Vrbo works. TurnKey Vacation Rentals Book a vacation rental on TurnKey While you may find some TurnKey homes listed on Airbnb or Vrbo, you'll find their largest inventory on their site directly. TurnKey specializes in premium luxury homes with hotel-like amenities managed by a team of professionals, as opposed to the homeowners themselves. TurnKey vets every property, which means guests can expect high standards in customer service, cleanliness, and amenities. They also incorporate tech features such as time-coded digital locks for contactless check-in, in-home tablets for requests, noise decibel monitors to ensure peace and quiet, automated housekeeping schedules, and more. However, so much white-glove attention comes with a higher price tag, and TurnKey homes aren't as widely available as other rental platforms. Read our overview of how TurnKey Vacations Rentals works. Vacasa Book a vacation rental on Vacasa Vacasa is another property management company that lists homes on Airbnb, in addition to operating over 25,000 vacation rentals across the globe that are accessible through their site. Their booking process is extremely transparent, with all homes listing past guest reviews as well as 3D virtual tours so there are no surprises upon arrival. The platform also promises flexible, no-fee options for changes and cancellations, which many competitors don't provide. Reschedule your trip, cancel and receive 100% credit for a future stay, or cancel for a refund (minus the booking fee) at least 30 days before check-in. Each trip is also backed by 24/7 customer support, a local property manager, smart locks or lock boxes for a contactless check-in, a mobile app for requests and instructions, and professional housekeepers that clean and stock each home using EPA-approved disinfectants. Marriott Homes & Villas Book a vacation rental on Marriott Homes & Villas If you really love a hotel, or want to show brand loyalty, look into the homes listed and managed by Marriott International. Their portfolio includes over 2,000 homes in over 100 destinations around the world that deliver a hotel-like experience in a private home environment. Marriott's vacation rentals are professionally managed and vetted with 24/7 customer support. Just like in a hotel, they provide excellent cleaning and high-end amenities. You can even earn and use Marriott Bonvoy loyalty points for stays, which is a perk not provided by most other rental companies. Read our overview of how Marriott Homes & Villas works. onefinestay Book a vacation rental on onefinestay Another offshoot of a well-known hotel brand, onefinestay is part of the Accor group, which includes luxe brands like Sofitel, Raffles, Banyan Tree, and more. Their highly-curated homes and villas are design-forward, spacious, and quite posh. They're found everywhere from cities such as New York to beachfront escapes in Turks & Caicos. They too tend to be larger abodes with sleek, sophisticated styling. Every booking includes local guest services and the option to add amenities and experiences. The starting price tag, however, is a bit higher than some others on this list. Booking.com, Hotels.com & Expedia.com Book a vacation rental on Booking.com, Hotels.com, and Expedia.com You likely already turn to Booking.com, Hotels.com, and Expedia.com to book the best deals on hotels, however, you can also find private homes and apartments. Most searches include these results, but you may also filter specifically for "homes and apartments," "vacation homes," and "guest houses." Just like hotels, these vacation rentals list review scores, amenities, and more. It's also worth looking at these OTAs for less traditional hotel experiences when vacation homes are unavailable, but you seek a similar style of lodging. Filter for property types such as "villas" or "cottages," to yield small, intimate properties that often count just a handful of guest rooms. They typically come with private entrances, kitchenettes, and contactless check-in, so you'll limit interactions and avoid shared enclosed spaces. You'll also remove inflated cleaning and service fees. Just make sure to check the hotel's COVID policies before booking. I took this approach when I searched for a vacation home in Cape Cod this summer. The vacation homes on Airbnb that met my search parameters were limited or exceeded my budget when cleaning and service fees totaled more than one night of lodging. I ended up booking a cottage-style hotel on Hotels.com with all the privacy and social distancing features I wanted in a vacation home, for at least $600 less than Airbnb or other sites.
For years, home sharing has put pressure on hotel rates and occupancy levels. Social distancing, hygiene...For years, home sharing has put pressure on hotel rates and occupancy levels. Social distancing, hygiene and refund policies may be the new game changers.