Help with vacation cancellation planning
September 4, 2016 5:24 AM   Subscribe

This spring, I planned a trip from NYC to Denver and then SF in the middle of September. I purchased my three plane tickets and paid for strict-cancellation airbnbs in the two cities. Alas, I did not pay for travel insurance. Two months ago, I developed a health condition which to be treated, temporarily prevents me from flying.

It involves gas, which expands and contracts at different altitudes. It doesn’t look like the gas will completely disappear in the next week and a half.

I’ve considered taking the train, but it’s two days to Denver and another day and a half to SF. I can spare three days, but probably not four and definitely not eight.

Do I have any alternatives to cancelling the trip? If I do, what’s the best way to do so? The flights were bought at the cheapest rate, so I don’t expect them to be refundable… but maybe I can reschedule for an exorbitant fee. Can I wait until the last day to do so?

I’ve notified my airbnb hosts and they appear sympathetic, but I understood the terms and won’t resent them for abiding by them.

Any advice would be appreciated. Thanks!
posted by anonymous to Travel & Transportation (6 answers total)
Check the credit card you used to book the flights for travel insurance. Some have it and may help you out here.
posted by cecic at 5:27 AM on September 4, 2016 [1 favorite]

You have decent odds of getting the flights refunded if you call and tell them a medical condition will prevent you from flying.

For example, from United's website:

Illness situations:
Change fee refunds require a letter (on letterhead) from a licensed physician confirming that travel was not recommended due to the customer's illness. Ticket refunds require a letter (on letterhead) from a licensed physician confirming that travel was not recommended within the validity of the ticket (one year of ticket’s issued date) due to illness. If the request is due to the illness of an immediate family member, the request must contain the family member’s name and relationship to you.

We got tickets refunded by United due to a medical condition (pregnancy), and they took care of it all over the phone. No doctor's note was necessary.
posted by deadweightloss at 6:33 AM on September 4, 2016 [1 favorite]

I don't know about airbnb but I have been able to receive airline credit on nonrefundable flights when I was on bed rest. They did require a doctor's note on a form they provided. I didn't have to pay any fees, just got a credit with the airline that I had to use within a period of time; I think it was one year. I also had priceline refund nonrefundable hotel and car rental fees, less a $10 charge, in the same circumstance.

So feel free to ask but actually have your doctor write a note - the legitmacy of a doctor's note does a lot to circumvent policies that are in place to protect hosts or companies from flaky people.
posted by peanut_mcgillicuty at 6:33 AM on September 4, 2016

With the plane tickets, if it's not a refund, you may be issued a credit. Get that note from your doctor but give your Airbnb folks some lead time to let them know it's coming.
posted by childofTethys at 6:43 AM on September 4, 2016

I just had to do a lot of plane ticket rescheduling. They will happily easily cancel your ticket and hold that money in your name $cost of ticket-$change fee=$your account. Then later you buy a new ticket, and apply whatever's in your account to that new ticket cost.

The doctor's forms would be to avoid the change fee, usually $150-200.
posted by aimedwander at 7:17 AM on September 4, 2016

Cancellation fees will likely take up most of the value of your plane tickets. You should at least try to get them to waive them, but they've been being increasingly hard nosed for me recently.

On airbnb - if the hosts aren't budging and you do have solid medical documentation, you might try contacting airbnb. I'm a host and I've had a few instances in which airbnb stepped in and told me that because of X situation that airbnb was making the reservation fully refundable. They'll definitely want your medical documentation, as substantial as possible.
posted by arnicae at 7:19 AM on September 4, 2016

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