What the latest news on overseas holidays means for your half-term break

Nick Trend
·3-min read
symi harbour, greece - Getty
symi harbour, greece - Getty

What does the latest news mean for the Whitsun half term week from May 29 to June 6? There was a surge of bookings for family holidays on those dates at the beginning of the year, when it looked as though the vaccination programme was starting to take effect.

However, it now looks almost certain that all the key destinations - including France, Spain, Italy and Greece - will still be rated amber under the government’s new traffic light system. That means that, while you can legally travel to those countries, you will have to self-isolate at home for 10 days on your return to the UK, as well as having to fork out for the costs of testing on days two and eight of your quarantine period – a hefty bill for a family. (True, you can shorten the isolation a little by paying yet more for an extra test on day five, but you probably won’t get the results for 48 hours, so it doesn’t make that much difference).

For almost everyone whose children will have to go back to school after half-term, self-isolation will be a non-starter. Nevertheless, if you have a holiday or flight booked to an amber destination after May 17, it will very likely still go ahead. As long, of course, as that country is open to UK tourists - which most likely will be the case for Greece, [Portugal] and Italy, though almost certainly not for Spain and France. Both TUI and Loveholidays, for example, have confirmed that they will be operating to amber zones which are open to UK tourists, despite the requirement for self-isolation on return.

So what can you do if your holiday is going ahead, but you aren’t in a position to travel? It probably won’t be feasible to switch to Portugal or one of the other green-listed destinations as an alternative, even if you wanted to because there is unlikely to be availability. So can you opt for a cash refund? Probably not. The legal position is not completely clear, but most tour operators won’t be offering this option. It is also highly unlikely that you would be able to claim the cost of cancelling – which is usually the whole cost of the holiday – from your travel insurer. All policies that I know of which have been issued in the last year have excluded such claims.

However, since the prospects for most of Europe being moved onto the green list by around the end of June are now looking much more optimistic, postponing your holiday until later in July or August (or alternatively until 2022) is almost certainly the best solution.

The good news is that most operators and airlines are remaining flexible about this. With TUI, all customers booked to travel before the end of August can change to a later date for free, up to 14 days before departure. Customers travelling in May can change up to seven days before. Loveholidays is also offering free amendments. So, while you may miss out on your half-term trip, the prospects for a holiday later in the year have never been better.