Sure, online travel reservation portals, like Expedia and Travelocity, often offer better deals than booking directly through the airline or hotel. And the package deals are usually your best bet. But ONLY in a perfect world. ONLY if all goes as planned, which, when traveling, as we all know is wishful thinking. When planning for that dream vacation, Murphy’s Law typically rears its ugly head.

Such was the case for me this weekend. Nasty weather delayed my flight by six hours (which, btw, Frontier Airlines were nice enough to call me at home and let me know in advance my flight was delayed). Another bout of nasty weather left me stranded at my first layover (which was not my final destination). To make a long story short, I was stranded and forced to cancel my hotel reservations. All was well, as the hotel’s lax cancellation policy only asks I cancel before 6pm with no penalty. Oh, yeah, I booked through Expedia; must cancel through them also. Fine.

Not fine. “Customer service rep” informs me I am charged a 100% penalty unless I had canceled before check in day. (And, there are other penalties for canceling before check-in day, though not so severe.) In case you’re not following, as I wasn’t, I am to be charged 100% of the ENTIRE stay, even though I am technically canceling days before the second or third night. No exceptions. Not weather, not illness, etc.

So, yeah, I saved a FEW bucks by INITIALLY booking through Expedia, but it actually cost me quite a bit. I was told I had to eat the cost of the hotel I canceled in advance, but apparently not far enough in advance. Then I had to book a hotel in my layover city, where I was stranded overnight. Grrrrr…

I don’t give up without a fight though. I called Expedia back, knowing I would likely get a different “customer service rep” on the line. Fortunately for me she was much more understanding of my situation, and agreed to refund the total cost of the reservation. WHY couldn’t the first person have done this??? It’s not like it comes out of her pocket. But, at least justice was served.

When you find yourself in a completely ludicrous situation, demand the terms are unacceptable. Speak to another person. Speak to the supervisor. Always get the names of the people you speak with. Write a letter. File a complaint with the Better Business Bureau. Call your credit card company and refuse to pay the charges. Bottom line – do not let these companies get away with stealing your money. Sure, Expedia agreed to refund my money (in the next two billing cycles?), but I’m not entirely sure this is over. I fully intend to receive the credit, but not without a few more frustrating calls. In the future, I won’t be booking with Expedia. I would rather pay a few more dollars in exchange for a more forgiving cancellation policy.