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Canceling A Trip For COVID And Need A Refund? An Expert Says Travel Agents Can Help

CHICAGO (CBS) -- You're about to leave for a trip, but you start feeling sick. Whether you have COVID-19 or suspect you may have it, you now have to cancel your hotel stay. But what happens if you're past the refund deadline?

CBS 2 Morning Insider Tim McNicholas got advice from a travel expert.

Michael Decman didn't strike out, but he did get thrown a curveball.

"I went dateless to the Cubs game. It was fun," he said.

He was supposed to attend the game with a friend visiting from Washington, D.C.

"The day of her flight she came down with COVID and obviously couldn't travel," he said.

Decman contacted the Intercontinental Hotel in Chicago to cancel her reservation. He thought getting a refund would be a breeze. Turns out, he was way off base.

"It was frustrating," he said.

Decman was already past the free cancellation window, but the hotel offered to refund him after he provided a COVID test. So he submitted an antigen test his friend took. But that didn't cut it. The hotel then said he needed a more reliable PCR test for the refund.

"After multiple attempts doing the same thing with different people at the hotel I came to no avail," he said.

So what can you do if you develop symptoms and it's past the free cancellation deadline? We turned to CBS Travel Editor, Peter Greenberg for answers.

"This is a perfect opportunity to talk to a travel agent," he said.

Greenberg said they can advocate for you when it comes to COVID cancellations and help you with complicated travel insurance plans.

"They can walk you through the Hieroglyphics of the policy language, so you know what you're covered for and, most importantly, what you're not," he said.

He also says you should splurge for a flexible booking package.

"I mean why wouldn't you? The rules are changing every day, the situation is changing every day, your medical condition may be changing, so the bottom line is get as much flexibility as you can afford," he said.

And while booking online can save you time, "do so at your own peril," he said.

And make sure to read the fine print:

"If you go on Orbitz or Travelocity, Expedia and make a hotel reservation, they are now being more specific and telling you it's fully refundable within X number of hours or X number of days. As a general rule, it's probably within two to three days of your intended arrival," he said.

We checked out what some local hotels offer. Under their flexible booking policies, the Hilton and Marriott often let guests cancel 24 hours before their arrival. And this Intercontinental – where Decman booked – two days prior.

Although Decman didn't cancel before that deadline, he finally got a win.

"I saw that you guys were good at solving situations like that, so I contacted you guys," he said.

After CBS 2 reached out to the hotel, they offered him a full refund as a courtesy.

"I appreciate you guys. Thank you," he said.

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