There are some fantastic 2021 holiday deals surfacing at the moment but many of us are torn between booking early to get the pick of the best dates and prices (plus, let’s face it, we all want something in the diary to look forward to!) and the fear of whether the holiday will actually go ahead! More importantly, how easy will it be to get our money back?!
With so much uncertainty around whether it’s a good idea to book right now, I thought it would be useful to cherry pick the top tips for you. I’ve pulled advice from a couple of my favourite and most reliable sources (links to full articles below)…
Book an ATOL protected package holiday rather than booking everything separately
This will protect your money if the company fails – and this has become essential. Several tour operators, such as STA Travel and Fleetway Travel have already gone bust. We will see many more in the coming months. But if you have booked a package holiday then you’ll get a full refund, as package holiday operators pay into an insurance fund run by the Civil Aviation Authority. It’s crucial that the package holiday is Atol protected. Almost all tour operators in the UK sell holidays that are Atol protected, but there are a handful of exceptions.
The government changes to the countries on its travel corridor list has left many holidaymakers who booked flights and hotels separately out of pocket. Despite the government removing countries from the list and advising against travel airlines have continued to fly and refused to refund customers. Again, a package holiday can stop you losing out. When the travel advice against a country changes most tour operators, unlike airlines, will cancel package holidays (with some exceptions). You’ll be offered a trip to an alternative destination or can claim a full refund under the terms of the Package Travel Regulations. Similarly, some tour operators promise clients ‘quarantine-free’ holidays. If your destination is removed from the UK’s rapidly changing list of travel corridors, they will either cancel and refund you in full or you’ll be allowed to move your holiday to a later date
Use a Travel Agent to book; avoid booking online
During the current crisis many customers have struggled to contact travel companies who have failed to keep them informed of changes to their bookings, about cancellations or the progress of their refunds – some companies have even turned off their phones. You won’t get that if you book with a good travel agent. A good travel agent will be on hand to amend your booking if further travel restrictions are put in place, or if things go wrong while you’re away. You’ll know someone is at the other end of the phone to help if you have questions or, if your trip is cancelled, fight for your refund.
Ask your Travel Agent to look for flexible booking policies for 2021
Whether rising cases in the destination puts you off travel, NHS Test and Trace tells you to isolate or a change to the travel corridor rules means the holiday is off, booking with firms that offer flexibility to change your plans is essential. The best are those that allow you to cancel or change your holiday right up to the date of departure as you might only become aware of a problem, such as a change to the travel corridors, at the last minute. That sort of flexibility only seems to be available with luxury operators, but there are some other useful policies to look out for. British Airways Holidays allows changes free of charge up to 21 days before travel. Tui will allow you to change your holiday up to 28 days before the holiday.
Sort your Travel Insurance ASAB (As Soon As Booked)
Travel insurance that covers you for coronavirus related illness and disruption is available again. This is going to be essential in 2021, as from 1 January UK residents will no longer be entitled to free medical treatment in the EU under the Ehic scheme. You’ll need medical cover. It’s essential you take out travel insurance as soon as you book your holiday, rather than when you travel, as you’ll be covered if illness or disruption happens before you travel. Look for policies that include cover for coronavirus-related disruption, such as cancelled and delayed flights or the need to self-isolate for a period. You won’t find a policy that covers changing FCO advice and travel corridors. This won’t be a concern if you have booked a package (see above), but those with flights and hotels booked separately won’t be able to claim from insurance if they don’t travel because the FCO advice has changed.
Pay with a credit card
You’ll get more financial protection if you pay for your holiday, flight or hotel with a credit card as Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act makes card issuers equally responsible for the delivery of a service. This means that if your holiday is cancelled by the operator, or the operator or airline fails, or there’s a problem with the hotel, you could claim a refund from your card issuer as long as the holiday cost more than £100 and less than £30,000. You get some protection if you pay with a debit card under the Visa and Mastercard voluntary chargeback scheme, but banks aren’t legally obliged to refund you.
Book no or low deposit options where possible
You might be nervous about travelling if COVID-19 cases are on the rise by next summer or you might no longer be able to afford the holiday if you’ve lost your job or had a pay cut. Book with a travel company that is offering zero or low deposits and you’ll reduce your loss if you decide to cancel before the balance is due. Check the operator’s T&Cs to make sure you don’t have to pay an additional fee if you do cancel. To further reduce the risk look for a company that will allow you to pay the balance as late as possible, in case things change. Tour operators typically demand the final payment 70 to 90 days before departure, but some have more generous terms.
Check and keep checking the FCDO (Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office) website for the latest travel advice
Check the FCDO advice for your destination before you travel or go straight to that country’s government website to make sure you’re fully aware of the current requirements.
To stand the best chance of avoiding a last-minute change to the FCDO travel advice, look at Coronavirus rates for the country you are planning to visit. Although other factors can come in to play, the UK’s criteria seems to put countries with a COVID-19 rate of less than 100 cases per 100,000 on the travel corridors list – and it’s when they experience a spike that they are removed.
Speak to your employer
Beyond approval for your annual leave, you may also need to speak to your employer about what to do if the FCDO was to change its advice for your holiday destination while you’re away. For example, check if you can work from home if you end up having to quarantine.
If you do decide to book everything separately, book a hotel that offers free cancellation
If you’re booking a hotel separately, look for one that offers free last-minute cancellation. Some individual hotels, especially in the UK, are offering this and booking direct is the best way to get the cheapest price. Failing that, hotel booking sites such as Booking.com offer free cancellations for many properties, but they may charge a higher nightly rate for the flexibility.
Is it safe to book for 2021? How can you cover yourself in the event of future UK lockdowns, closure of travel corridors and travel companies going bust? Here is a checklist of things to consider before you go ahead and book but if you have any questions or would like to discuss how I can help, please get in touch! Sources used https://www.which.co.uk/news/2020/09/is-it-safe-to-book-a-holiday-for-later-this-year-or-2021-8-dos-and-2-donts/ https://www.moneysavingexpert.com/news/2020/02/coronavirus-travel-help-and-your-rights/ https://www.travelsupermarket.com/en-gb/blog/travel-advice/coronavirus-cancel-holiday-travel-insurance/
Posted: 7 November, 2020 | By Kelly Ball