Question

: I'm a former wrestler, and have made it a priority to attend the college wrestling nationals every year.

Money is always a challenge, so I try to shop around for deals. This year, I thought I had found a nice one with Priceline.

I booked a package leaving on what I thought was March 17 from Philadelphia to St. Louis and returning March 22. The cost of the trip, including a flight and five nights in a hotel, was $862.

On Feb. 18, I received an e-mail from Priceline informing me that my trip was canceled. I realized then that I had mistakenly booked my trip from Feb. 17 to Feb. 22 - a month early.

I called Priceline a number of times, but was told there was nothing anyone could do. I called the Hyatt Regency St. Louis, and an employee said I had been charged for only one night, but without receiving anything directly from Priceline, there was nothing the hotel could do to refund my money. I realize it was my mistake, and Priceline tells you upfront: no changes or cancellations.

Could you help me get back the money from my four remaining hotel nights?

- Eric Childs,

State College, Pa.

Answer: Let's go over a few important facts. You have to pay close attention when you're making a reservation. Priceline displays your dates twice before it even asks for your name and credit card information. To miss that, you would have to be in a pretty big hurry. Slow down.

The reason Priceline's rates are so low is that it imposes significant restrictions on its products. Often, hotels and airlines are willing to lower rates because they know no one will be able to ask for a refund or a credit. But if a hotel is willing to refund Priceline, then I think it's reasonable for Priceline to at least consider refunding the rest of your hotel payment. It's under no obligation to do so, but it can't hurt to ask.

I list the names, numbers and e-mail addresses of Priceline's customer-service managers on my site (http://elliott.org/company-contacts/priceline/). It looked as if you'd been back and forth with Priceline a few times, so I thought I'd try to help.

At the risk of repeating myself, Priceline didn't have to do anything for you. You made a mistake, and it could have pocketed every penny of your $862.

I asked the company to take another look at your case. Priceline contacted the Hyatt Regency and confirmed that the hotel would refund all except the first night.

"Nothing we could do about the airfare, unfortunately," a Priceline representative told me. Fair enough.

You should be getting a refund for your hotel. And next time you book online, pay attention to your dates and review your confirmation.

chris@elliott.org.

Christopher Elliott is the author of "How to Be the World's Smartest Traveler (and Save Time, Money, and Hassle)" (National Geographic). He's also the ombudsman for National Geographic Traveler magazine and the cofounder of the Consumer Travel Alliance.