Ask the Traveller: 'Can we get our money back if we have to cancel our holiday?'

Q. We're booked to go to the US in September, but have not yet got travel insurance. My husband's brother has been diagnosed as terminally ill, so we may have to cancel. I paid for flights through ebookers, which appears to offer changes to flights. But the hotel was booked through and was non-refundable. We paid the £188 cost on a credit card. Do I remember correctly that if you need to cancel, you are covered by the card issuer? Name withheld

A, A sad story, with little optimism about the financial aspect. First, the flights. The ebookers mention of an "administration fee" of £25 if you need to "change or cancel any part of your booking" looks promising. But that charge is in addition to the airline's cancellation fee, which could be the entire fare – though you may be able to reclaim Air Passenger Duty and other charges.

Next, paying with a credit card is advantageous for travellers, only when the agreed service isn't delivered (for example, because an airline goes bust), when the card issuer is jointly liable with the supplier. In your case, the hotel room is presumably available as booked. If you explain the unfortunate circumstances to the hotel management, they may agree to a postponement, but there is no obligation for them to do so.

You will not want to be reminded that, had you taken out a reasonable travel insurance policy at the time of booking, you would be able to claim the cost of cancellation.

One other issue for future travel. It's puzzling that you chose to book flights through an online supplier, ebookers, that also offers hotels, and accommodation through another,, that also offers flights (through its parent, Expedia).

While it would not have made a difference in this unhappy case, buying a package brings many advantages and could well cost less.

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