In the past, hotels generally allowed cancellations up to the day of check in with no penalties. Now, some hotels want up to 72 hours or more advanced notice for cancellations.

James Gilden, The Internet Traveler: "Even on the same Web site, for the same hotel, for the same room, for the same night, the cancellation policies can be different."

Generally, hotel rooms sold at a lower price have a stricter cancellation policy. It's not always the case, and that's why consumers booking online need to read the fine print.

Often, if you spend a little more on your room, you can get the option of cancelling the reservation without paying a penalty.

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