Over the past year, we’ve seen how we, as a society, can cause whole industries to shift. That’s become increasingly true with travel – where traveller demand (or lack thereof) has encouraged airlines, hotels, car hire agencies and more to come up with creative ways to navigate restrictions while helping travellers get to where they need to be safely and with flexibility.
Flexible travel has been at the core of this shift. You may remember a time not too long ago when you only had a short window to change your flight after booking (typically 24 hours, but sometimes not even that long). After that window closed, a change of plans meant eating the cost or paying a steep fee. But with so much uncertainty, flexibility has become a non-negotiable for many considering travel.
As many providers change their policies and add more flexible options, you can now book when you find a great price and have the assurance of knowing you can change your dates or cancel if your plans change.
To help you make the most of this new landscape and better understand your options, we’ve built filters that make finding flexible travel a bit easier.
What does “flexible travel” even mean?
Generally speaking, when we say “flexible travel” we mean having the option to change your mind post-booking without being penalised. Whether this means free cancellation on stays and car hire or changing your flights without paying a fee, having the option to cancel or rebook without your wallet taking a hit can bring much-needed peace of mind – now more than ever.
However, while many travel providers, hotels and airlines have increased their flexibility, policies can vary by provider. To make the entire process easier to navigate, KAYAK has practical filters that allow users to filter their search results to only include options with flexibility. But if you have any questions on a specific provider’s policy, we do ask that you confirm with the provider directly to find out exactly what their constraints may be.
In this guide, we’ll break down exactly how to find flexible tickets on flights and free cancellation on accommodation and car hires, so you can book confidently, knowing you have the option to change your plans later if you can’t travel or aren’t ready.
How to find a flexible flight ticket
When you start a flight search, enter your origin and destination, number of passengers and preferred travel dates. After you click search, our results page will populate with all the available flight routes and options. On the left sidebar, you’ll see our tools and filters that help you narrow down our extensive search to the criteria that are important to you. In that space, you’ll see a category called “Flexible flight tickets.” Under that, tick the checkbox for “No change fees” and the list will automatically update to show you flights that allow you to change your ticket at no extra charge.
If you’re using our KAYAK app, the process is a little different. When you search, click on the “Filters” button at the bottom of your screen. There you’ll see “Flexible flight tickets.” Check the box next to “Show only flexible flight tickets.” Like with our desktop site, your results page will automatically update, showing only those flights that let you change your ticket without paying a fee.
If you’re interested in learning more, here are the airlines offering flexible flight tickets.
How to book a flexible stay
Even before COVID-19, some of our partners already offered great cancellation policies. And because we know free things (like parking and wifi) can be important when you’re looking for a place to stay – you can find our “Free cancellation” filter under “Freebies” when you search. To get there, after you’ve kicked off a search and are taken to a list of results, go to the drop-down menu underneath the search bar (if you’re on the app, just look for the filters button). One of the first categories that pops up is “Freebies” where you’re able to filter by selecting “Free cancellation.”
Many major hotel chains have made their cancellation policies public. Take a look at some of those hotel policies.
How to book a flexible car hire
Car hire agencies have a similar history to hotels and vacation homes as offering varying cancellation policies even before the pandemic. To find our flexible options, do a car hire search and, once you’re looking at your search results, you’ll see the category “Policies” show up as a filter under the search bar (or use the filters button on our app where you’ll see “Policies”). Click to see a list of available filters and select “Free cancellation” to only see results with flexible options. You’ll be able to read more about each individual policy on the provider’s page when you select “View Deal,” or you can see our list of some of our partners on our COVID-19 and travel guide.
If you’re looking for more information on travelling safely, or want to know more about using our flexible travel filters, check out our comprehensive guide on COVID-19 and travel.