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Questions to Ask Before Booking: pt 5 – What Happens When Life Happens

February 18, 2011

So far in our multi-part series about questions to ask and consider, we have discussed the topics of breakfast, check-in, parking, location, and deposits. This week, we’d like to take a few minutes to continue to help you become a more proactive and educated bed and breakfast / inn guest by tackling the topic of cancellations.

We’ve all been there, you’re in the middle of getting ready for some long over-due quality time with your friends or partner when work calls you back in, Little Susie says, “My tummy hurts,” or your car breaks down. When it’s just a day out with friends or a nice dinner, you can just pick up the phone and say, “I’m sorry, but I need to cancel/reschedule, something came up.” But what happens when these things happen before your long awaited vacation?

Below is a set of questions to ask about an accommodation’s cancellation policy when making a reservation. Consider the answers you are given to these questions before booking your stay.

What is your cancellation policy?

Bed and Breakfast / Inn cancellation policies are probably even more varied than their breakfast styles. Typically, a B&B or inn will have some sort of cancellation policy, ranging from an extremely strict 30 days before your arrival date to a more liberal 14 days out, with some accommodations only requiring 3-5 days notice.

At the Catherine Ward House Inn, we trust that you have every intention of traveling, and that you want to be in Savannah as much as we want you to be in Savannah. Because of this, we have a very liberal cancellation policy of 3 days notice, or as soon as you know.***  We understand that plans change and you may have to cancel your reservation. We are not interested in charging you for a room you cannot use. All we ask is that you provide enough notice to permit us an opportunity to rent the room to someone else.

Why is the window that large?

The reason for the lead-time is two-fold. First, it helps the B&B / inn to adjust their staffing and purchasing – no need to purchase perishable foods for a guest that isn’t coming – in turn, reducing their operating costs. Secondly, during high-season many B&Bs / inns will fill up and have to turn away potential guests, conversely during low-season B&Bs / inns need more time to publish the newly available rooms. A larger lead-time gives the accommodation the best chance to rebook the rooms, regardless of the time of year.

At the Catherine Ward House Inn, we do our best to operate under the Golden Rule – “Treat Others the Way You Want to be Treated.” Quite frankly, we wouldn’t want to be expected to know if we will be able to travel 30/14 days out. Still, we do need to know if we should plan for 6 or 10 (or 16) for breakfast, so we do ask for some warning (as well as needing some opportunity to re-rent the room).

What if something comes up last minute?

Life happens. What is the accommodation’s policy should something major come up in the days (or hours) before you are to arrive? You may find that some accommodations are just that – accommodating and understanding of your situation and thusly willing to bend their cancellation policy. You may also encounter those who are rigid on their policy, offering an, “I’m sorry to hear that, but…”

Simply that, “Life Happens.” Give us a call, talk to us about what’s going on.

Will I be charged for cancelling? / Will I get a refund?

As we covered in our discussion about collecting deposits, you may find that an accommodation charges a “cancellation fee.” This fee is intended to help dissuade you as a guest from cancelling, as well as to cover the charges incurred from their Credit Card service provider (if they charged a deposit for the room).

Some accommodations will charge a secondary fee for a cancellation made less than 30/14/3 days before your intended arrival date. This is to cover the potential revenue loss, should the accommodation be unable to re-rent your room. This charge may be nominal, but may also be as large as the total cost of the reservation.

At the Catherine Ward House Inn, we are not interested in charging you for a room you cannot use.  All we ask is that you provide enough notice to permit us an opportunity to rent the room to someone else. As long as you give us that lead-time (3 days), we will not bill you any sort of fee.


*** Please note that we do extend our cancellation lead-time to 10 days notice for major holidays/festivals including: St. Patrick’s Day and New Years Eve.

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