Canceling a hotel reservation these days often comes at a cost, whether the reservation is made with an online travel agency such as Expedia or Travelocity or directly through a hotel's Web site or phone reservations line. And if you are hoping to cancel a room reservation made with an opaque travel site such as Hotwire or Priceline, you can pretty much forget it.

Rates for the same hotel room on the same Web site can vary depending on the cancellation policy.

"Many of the Internet-only rates are non-refundable or only partially refundable," said Henry Harteveldt, senior analyst for travel research firm Forrester Research. "And it varies from hotel to hotel."

The cancellation policies can vary even between different hotel properties in the same chain, said Harteveldt, often affected by the type of property such as urban (more restrictive) versus suburban (less restrictive) or by local government regulations.

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