Book now, change later: The art of flexible travel


Being able to change your travel plans — whether its flights, hotels, or ground transportation — has never been more in demand.

Don't get weighed down by the terms when it comes to booking sustainably. Image credit: lechatnoir/iStock
Making flexible travel plans means you can book now and change later. Image credit: lechatnoir/iStock

In pre-pandemic times when you booked a trip, there would be little room to change or cancel plans without the risk of losing money or having to pay extra fees for a trip you’re no longer taking. 

However, with the pandemic comes change in our travel behavior and ultimately, a change in the way that travel providers must operate in order to meet their customer’s needs.

One of the biggest travel trends to come from the past 18 months is flexible travel – the ability to book travel services and make changes or cancellations without being penalized.

This could mean free cancellations or no fees when you want to shift dates, depending on who you book with.

Here’s how you can book flights, hotels, and ground transportation now with the flexibility to make changes as you wish in the future.

How to book flexible flights

Many airlines around the world have agreed – whether temporarily or permanently – to remove change fees and adapt their cancellation policies in response to the uncertainty we’re all experiencing.

Here’s a few airlines with updated change or cancellation policies, making your search for flexible flights easy. Please check sites directly for more information before you book, as cancellation and refund policies are subject to change.

American Airlines removed change fees for domestic, short-haul international and certain long-haul international flights on Premium Cabin, Premium Economy, and Main Cabin fares. This does not apply to Basic Economy fares bought on or after April 1, 2021.

Cancellations can be done by customers online with the option to rebook later. If the new fare is higher, the difference must be paid.

Delta Airlines has removed change fees for all Main Cabin fares or above on flights originating from North America. These fares can also be canceled at no cost – the ticket will become on eCredit to use for flights any time before the ticket expires (usually one year from purchase).

Basic Economy tickets, with a travel date through to December 31, 2021 can be changed with no fee.

United Airlines has permanently removed change fees for most domestic Economy and premium fares as well as for international flights originating in the U.S.

British Airlines lets customers change dates and destinations without a fee. Customers can also cancel flights and claim a voucher for rebooking.

Emirates has extended the validity of their tickets to allow for more flexible travel. Customers who’ve booked before April 1, 2021 for flights on or before May 31, 2022 will have their ticket life extended to 36 months (from original booking date).

For tickets issued after April 1, 2021 the validity period is 24 months. Changes to dates or refunds can be made to these tickets with no charge.

Singapore Airlines offers complimentary changes to be made on all tickets up to the end of the year. Before December 31, 2021, guests can make an unlimited number of changes to their ticket. After that date, only one free change can be made.

Qatar Airways allows customers to change their travel date or destination within the same class of travel as often as they like, however travel must be done by May 31, 2022. Fare difference applies.

How to book flexible hotels

Aggregated hotel sites such as Booking.com or Trivago have a filter function that allows customers to sort through accommodations offering free cancellation policies.

Airbnb also allows customers to filter by free cancellation, however the timeframe for free cancellation can range quite dramatically. You can often check the host’s cancellation policy once you enter your travel dates.

If you see a deal on an aggregated hotel site, take note and then contact the hotel directly. The hotel may be willing to give you an even better deal if you book through them.

How to book flexible ground transportation

When you’ve organized your flights and accommodation, the next step is to download the Blacklane app so you can book your airport transfer and any rides you’ll want in the city you’re visiting.

Blacklane’s flexible booking policy means guests can change or cancel one-way rides under 200km up to just an hour prior to pickup for free, all from the ease of the Blacklane app.

The only exception is Blacklane’s bookings by the hour and longer-distance rides — for instance New York to Washington D.C. — where guests can change or cancel the ride for free 24 hours in advance. If the change is COVID-19-related, it’s recommended to contact Blacklane’s customer care crew so they can help with last-minute cancellations.

Having a robust travel insurance policy is a good way to protect against COVID-19-related issues that might come up on any trip. Look for policies that offer COVID-19-related trip cancellations and medical expenses or policies that include “cancel for any reason” coverage.

As always, checking the travel restrictions for the country or area you’re visiting is always recommended so you can organize any required documents and make safe travel decisions.