Booking a holiday at this time comes with added risk. Non-essential travel within the UK and overseas is prohibited and the Government has yet to issue a potential date for the end of lockdown, let alone the resumption of tourism.
Travelling abroad when we are permitted to do so could also come with as yet unspecified regulations – some destinations may require proof of vaccination, while quarantine and testing rules are under frequent review in most countries.
However, six weeks into lockdown 3 – with homeschooling, home working and the dregs of winter getting Britons down – many people are in need of something to look forward to. The prospect of a holiday could be your chosen form of respite.
If you are tempted to book ahead for a trip abroad, it is vital to secure flexibility. The current circumstances mean it is necessary to look closely at travel companies’ terms and conditions before you book. Some points to note include:
The cost of the deposit
How close to your holiday the final payment will be due
If you will be charged for making changes to a booking (and, if free changes are permitted, how far up until travel they are allowed)
The company’s policy, and record, on issuing refunds
Its approach to changes in Foreign Office advice that affect your trip
That the operator is Atol-protected
Here are some of the most flexible policies – for both foreign and domestic breaks.
The luxury operator brought in its Flex+ policy in response to Covid-19, which offers more flexibility to its customers than ever before.
Selected holidays to the Indian Ocean and Asia are covered, allowing you to change or cancel your booking (with a full refund) up to 10 days before your trip, without charge.
For holidays to Europe you can change or cancel bookings without a fee up to 21 days before departure. This only applies to holidays that include flights with British Airways, however.
Under these Flex+ terms, if you change the date of a holiday and the new booking is cheaper than the original, Kuoni will refund the price difference. If the amended booking is more expensive, you will have to pay the extra.
Be sure to check that your chosen destination and the airline you’ll be flying with are included in the Flex+ policy. If not, it will not apply to any element of your booking. The policy is good for holidays up to September 30, 2021.
The operator’s Holiday Refund Guarantee promises to refund quickly if it has to cancel your trip.
Customer experience backs this up: Jet2 holidays was ranked as the best travel firm for providing refunds in a survey of over 77,000 consumers by Moneysavingexpert.
If a holiday cannot go ahead due to lockdown or self-isolation rules then customers can change their booking to a later date without facing an admin fee.
However, if you decide to alter your plans for another reason, you will be charged.
Deposits for Jet2holidays start from £60 per person and the full balance of a trip is due 10 weeks before departure.
Explore also offers fee-free booking changes up to 10 days before departure – or customers can opt for a credit voucher.
However, in both instances, the money you’ve paid for any elements of your trip that are designated as non-recoverable (such as pre-booked tours) would be lost.
The terms and conditions should detail which elements of your holiday would be deemed “non-recoverable”.
If your holiday goes against Government rules, due to national or local lockdown, Explore would cancel the trip and refund or transfer the full holiday value without charge.
Anyone who has received a Covid diagnosis or been contacted by track and trace and required to self-isolate will receive a refund for recoverable costs (this may not include your flights) and Explore will waive cancellation charges – this will cover all customers under a booking.
British Airways Holidays
You can secure a booking with a low deposit of £75 per person with British Airways holidays. However, the latest you can defer the final payment is three weeks before you travel. If you wish to change booking details within the final three weeks before your trip, you will face additional charges.
If you decide you don’t wish to travel for any reason before the three-week mark, you can change your booking for free (while paying any difference in the price of the holiday) for journeys that are due to have been completed by April 30, 2022. If you choose to cancel the holiday within this time frame, you can also receive a voucher for future travel up until the end of April 2023.
The company suggests securing travel insurance with its official provider, Allianz Assistance, to cover the cost of your trip in the event you, or any family members included in your booking, cannot travel due to being diagnosed with the virus or being required to quarantine.
Audley Travel is offering full refunds for cancellations up to 14 days before travel to selected destinations for bookings made before March 31, 2021.
Short-haul destinations covered by this include Croatia, Cyprus, Greece, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Scotland, Iceland, Scandinavia, Egypt, Morocco and Turkey. However, some hotels are excluded from the offer, so check before you book.
Long-haul trips to the Maldives, Seychelles, Mauritius, St Lucia, Antigua, Grenada, Barbados, St Kitts & Nevis and Dubai are also covered, for selected flights routes – again, check before you book.
As it stands, for bookings made after March 31 for travel up to December 31, 2022, you can change the dates or destination without incurring charges up to 45 days before departure.
The travel firm allows amendments to bookings, without charge, up to 28 days before departure for holidays between May 1, 2021 and October 31, 2021. These terms only apply to customers on a Tui flight, however.
Tui also includes Covid-19 cover as standard. This allows you to change your holiday booking without facing any charge if you catch Covid-19 in the days leading up to your trip, if you are required to self-isolate under track and trace, or if your local area is under lockdown restrictions.
If your new booking is more expensive you will have to pay the extra, but you will be refunded the difference if it is cheaper.
National Trust Holidays
National Trust Holidays has changed its booking policy in response to Covid restrictions.
Anyone who needs to alter their booking due to government guidance relating to Covid can postpone it for up to 24 months or opt for a full refund, without facing an administration fee. This applies to any holiday up until October 31, 2021.
You can also change your holiday booking, or receive a refund, if you are prevented from travelling due to contracting Covid or being told to isolate by test and trace. If you’ve booked to stay in a large property but the current restrictions only allow you to stay with a smaller group, you can also change your booking or request a refund.
If you choose to cancel the booking for other reasons, you will incur a cancellation fee. However, you can change the date up to 30 days before you trip by paying a £25 admin fee.
A slew of unusual properties is available through the charity, from cottages to castles.
For any booking with Landmark Trust up to September 30, 2021, you can change your dates – for whatever reason – up to 14 days before your trip, without charge.
However, if you have booked into a property that the Landmark Trusts lets on behalf of someone else you will need to contact the Booking Enquiries team to defer your break.
The minimum notice period for cancellation is 14 days. As such, you could face losing money if sudden changes to local restrictions mean you cannot travel. In this case, it is best to get in touch with Landmark Trust to discuss your options. The charity will operate discretion in this case.
Should all properties, or the property you are booked to stay in, be required to close down ahead of your booking, you will receive a full refund.
If Covid rules mean that you have booked for a large party, but only a portion of that party is allowed to travel, you will be given the options of a refund, a date change for properties that sleep six or more, or a rate reduction.