Should I book a holiday now and how do I protect it?

Added 03/03/2021

Boris Johnson’s roadmap out of lockdown included a clear indication of his ambition to open up international travel in time for summer, and travel within the UK much sooner.

If all goes to plan, we could be going on holiday within the UK as early as the 12 April (staying in self-contained accommodation only). From 17 May we could see the re-opening of hotels in the UK as well as a possible resumption of international travel.

Obviously, these dates are not set in stone and things can change, but they do give an indication of what the government is aiming for.

So here are the big questions:

Can I book a holiday now?

Yes. You may not be able to travel right now, but you can absolutely book a holiday now and there are some real advantages to doing so, for example:

Take advantage of discounts and special offers: There are currently some great discounts and special offers to be had on holiday departures this year and in 2022.  Tour operators have had an extremely tough year and are desperate to get people booking.  Why not take advantage of this and get a great deal on your next holiday before demand fully resumes and the prices go up! 

It may take several months for holiday capacity to get back up to pre-pandemic levels so we are likely to see prices rising and limited availability for a while once restrictions are lifted.

Get the holiday you really want: It is widely predicted that once travel restrictions are lifted there will be a surge in demand for both UK and foreign holidays, and after a tough year the travel industry may not have the capacity to cope with that demand.  By booking now you will be much more likely to get exactly what you want, if you wait, you will have to take your chances with everybody else.  

Flexible terms and conditions: Travel providers are currently being more flexible than ever with their terms and conditions, allowing changes of date and destination, and cancellation without penalty due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

What are the risks? Of course, there is also a risk to booking a holiday now. Your holiday could be cancelled or changed due to COVID-19 restrictions at home or abroad. All of the dates in the roadmap are subject to change and are dependent on the data going in the right direction, there could also be quarantine rules and travel restrictions introduced abroad which would affect your plans. 

However, if you book your holiday wisely that risk can be mitigated.

Make sure you are aware of the terms and conditions when you book your holiday and read on to find out how you can protect the money you’ve invested.

What if things change, can I get my money back?

What most people want to know is, can I get my money back or an alternative holiday if things change? The answer to that is yes, if you book wisely and take steps to protect your holiday.  Make sure you read the terms and conditions carefully before booking, and if you are unsure of anything, ask before you book.

Here’s our run down on the protection that is available for your holiday:

Package travel arrangements
Package travel means booking your flight and accommodation through the same provider at the same time and being charged an overall price for the trip.

Package holidays offer the best level of protection for you and your holiday if something goes wrong, much more than booking a flight directly with an airline and separate accommodation.

Package holiday providers have to abide by the package travel regulations which means they have a duty to provide the holiday that you booked, if they are unable to do that, for instance because of a change in FCDO travel advice or lockdown rules, they have a duty to provide you with a full refund or an alternative trip.

More information: https://www.abta.com/tips-and-advice/is-my-holiday-protected/new-package-travel-regulations

ATOL Protection
Booking a package which includes flights also gives you more protection if your holiday provider becomes insolvent.  If you book a flight and accommodation together through an ATOL bonded travel provider your trip will be ATOL Protected. ATOL Protection means that if your travel provider becomes insolvent, you will be able to claim a refund from the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), or if you are already abroad, they will arrange your transport home.

More information: https://www.caa.co.uk/ATOL-protection/Consumers/About-ATOL/

Pay by credit card
Using your credit card to pay for your holiday also gives you another level of protection.  If you use a credit card to buy goods or a service, including holidays, costing between £100 and £30,000, you’re covered by ‘section 75’ of the Consumer Credit Act.

The credit card company has equal responsibility with the seller if there’s a problem with the things you’ve bought or the company you’ve bought them from fails, meaning that you are able to make a claim from your credit card provider if your holiday is not provided as promised.

More information: https://www.which.co.uk/consumer-rights/regulation/section-75-of-the-consumer-credit-act

Buy travel insurance as soon as you’ve booked your holiday

Whilst a package tour operator may have to provide you with a refund if they are forced to cancel your trip due to a change in COVID-19 restrictions, they are not obliged to offer any money back if you have to cancel for a personal reason, for example you or a family member becomes ill.  That is where travel insurance comes in.

If you are booking a holiday it’s a good idea to buy travel insurance straight away, that way the money you’ve paid out is protected against the risk of you having to cancel.

For example Gold and Platinum policies from Goodtogoinsurance.com provide cover if you have to cancel your holiday for the following reasons:

- Illness or injury (incl. contracting covid-19 if you have Covid+ cover), redundancy, your home becoming uninhabitable, requirements of HM Forces, court appearance or jury service.