Is your money protected if you decide to go on holiday this summer?
It seems that as soon as hotels reopened there was a mad rush to book a staycation. And then when overseas travel was allowed via “corridors”, it felt like actually, yes, a proper holiday this summer was a reality.
But with the reinstation of the quarantine for anyone coming back from Spain, it might not be long before more overseas destinations become problematic. And who knows if there’ll be local lockdowns across the UK which could also scupper your travel plans.
So before you jump on a site to book (or cancel), there are a few things you need to consider and a handful of actions you can take to help protect your cash if the situation changes (again).
Staycation or abroad?
There’s certainly more risk for something to go wrong if you book an overseas holiday.
For a start, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) is still advising against all non-essential travel abroad to any country not on its exemption list. This means if you do go away and something goes wrong – Covid related or not – your insurer can choose not to pay out. So avoid those destinations.
Yet, even with travel to countries such as France, Cuba and Australia “permitted”, there’s also still the risk of a 14-day quarantine at your destination, or, you might not even be let in! And as we’ve seen with Spanish trips this week, you could get hit with two weeks of forced isolation when you return.
You’ll also find it difficult to get travel insurance, and near impossible one that will cover you for cancellation or disruption caused by coronavirus.
The flip side is it could be tough to find the availability you need or the prices you can afford in the UK now.
Personally, I’d look to stay at home.
Cancelling existing flights and packages
Already got something booked but you’ decided you don’t want to go away? This is known as “disinclination to travel” and it’s not covered by insurance.
If you haven’t paid in full and still have the balance to pay then it’s a tough choice. You could cut your losses now and only lose your deposit. But do this and you’ll also miss out on the chance of a refund or the possibility to rearrange.
See if you can get any of the money back, perhaps in credit, or if you can rearrange the trip to next year. And do check your travel insurance just in case they’re some money you can claw back.
But if not, wait it out until closer to departure. If the holiday is officially cancelled later on you’ll get a refund. Or the situation might have changed enough that you feel confident going away.
Of course, it’s different if there’s a cancellation policy that’ll give you a full or partial refund. In that case make sure you don’t miss the deadline!
Booking now vs last minute
Generally “last-minute” for overseas summer holiday deals is a couple of months before the trip. Of course right now, the opposite could be true. In fact any booking for this summer is going to be last minute!
There will be more empty rooms out there than normal as lots of people will still not be keen to travel. So even with the sudden demand over the last month you might find you can cut it really close to the wire and see what bargains are around just before you want to go away.
Here are a few places to look for last-minute packages.
Make sure you can cancel your accommodation
If you’re yet to book, lots of booking sites, and even direct with hotels, will give you the option to cancel your hotel room up to 24-hours before your stay begins.
I tend to do this when I go away as it allows me to hunt around for last-minute price drops, but I’d 100% be doing this right now.
You might have to pay a small premium for this, but I’d say it’s well worth it.
You should also aim to pay when you stay, rather than in advance. It’s not the end of the world if you can’t but it’s an added level of protection in case the hotel or B&B goes under.
Here are a few more hotel booking tricks.
Buy cheap flights
If you are committed to getting out of the UK, then I’d look for dirt cheap flights that you don’t mind losing out on the cost if you can’t or choose not to go. That most likely means places like Europe. Here are some tips to help you find low price flights.
There are of course flexible or cancellable flights, but these can be quite expensive.
If the flight itself is cancelled you are legally entitled to the money back, so don’t accept a voucher. Saying that, people have had a tough time getting their full refund.
Go via a travel agent or package
I always book the component parts of my holidays separately – the DIY approach – to get the lowest prices and most flexible itinerary. But that’s not necessarily a good idea right now.
The travel industry is suffering more than most right now and there will be more companies that collapse. Booking yourself increases the risk that you’ll lose out if that does happen to the provider of any part of your holiday.
So to protect your money it’s best to book overseas holidays via a travel agent so you get ABTA cover, or a flight and hotel package together so you get ATOL protection. Though you can get ATOL if you book the flight and hotel yourself from the same website. Here’s more on these protections and travel insurance.