So there you are. It's 10 o'clock the night after a holiday in the middle of France. Next to nothing is open except the boutique hotel you booked online, which already took an hour of wandering through a dark, Gallic village to find.

You speak barely a word of French. Your host speaks enough English to communicate that he'd like another 100 euros up front for the room, that it comes without a lock and he intends to tack on a massive surcharge to cover the "costs" of heat and electricity.

It all ends poorly.

Now, after refusing to pay and getting ejected (I'm talking about myself of course), finding a Best Western wasn't much of a problem, even on one of France's many days off. Nor was walking through the gas lit streets of a medieval city; I should suffer like that more often. No, what occupied my mind through the hunt for a new room, checking in and later while poking at the fried egg on my pizza was this:

I paid for that room in advance.

It's a problem as old as vacations themselves. Travel is a major investment of time and money, but what happens when something goes wrong? It's not unreasonable to want to get some of that money back, especially the disruption costs still more money to fix.

Figuring out how to get that refund can make a big difference to your travel plans, whether it's from a Marriott Resort in Cleveland or a run-down bungalow outside of Ankara. Here are five tips to keep in mind:

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