SUMMER holidays remain up in the air for many Brits, with no date confirmed for the return of international travel yet.
Deciding whether or not to book your next break here in the UK or abroad as lockdown lifts can be tricky with so much uncertainty – but whatever you do, you’ll want to make sure you’re not left out of pocket.
With risks of travel restrictions and cancellations, we explain where you stand when booking and how you can avoid losing money when planning your next break.
Can I go on holiday?
Holidays abroad are not allowed under the current coronavirus lockdown restrictions, even as they were eased this week.
In the latest stage of the roadmap out of lockdown, high street shops are now allowed to open and pubs and restaurants can serve guests outside.
For Brits wanting a break, there’s good new as self-catering stays in holiday lets and caravans are now allowed, though limited to one household, and some campsites have opened where there are no shared facilities.
When can I go on holiday?
These are the key dates you need to know for booking a holiday:
April 12 – self-catered holidays are allowed in England, including caravans and holiday lets, with one household only. as well as some campsites without shared facilities.
April 12 – day trips are allowed to outdoor attractions like zoos and theme parks.
May 17 – hotels in England are allowed to reopen. Mixed groups of up to two different households, or, more than two households with the rule of six are allowed, there and at holiday lets and campsites with shared facilities
May 17 – this is the earliest possible date when international travel restrictions could be eased but no decision has been made by the government yet.
June 21 – holiday homes can be let to groups of all sizes
Hotels and B&Bs remain closed and these are expected to open from May 17 under the current roadmap for leaving lockdown.
But a question mark still hangs over holidays as summer approaches.
There is no fixed date yet for the restrictions on foreign travel to be lifted – though we know for sure this won’t be before May 17.
When foreign holidays are given the greenlight there will be a traffic light system in place that will indicate the rules and requirements for visiting destinations abroad.
What’s the traffic light system and how will it work?
In the case of “green” countries, passengers can travel and return home without having to quarantine or self-isolate.
But they will need to have a negative test to come back into the UK — it is anticipated the cheaper lateral- flow tests will be acceptable — and then take a PCR test within two days of returning.
Which countries will be on the green list is yet to be given by the government, but it is thought countries including Gibraltar, Malta, the Caribbean and the US could be on it due to their vaccine rollout success.
“Amber” countries will involve spending ten days in quarantine as well as a lateral-flow test to get back into the country and two PCR tests, on days two and eight.
“Red” countries will mean a ten-day stay in managed hotel quarantine, with a test before before returning to the country and tests on days two and eight. It currently costs £1,750 per person for hotel quarantine.
The cost of travelling abroad could include costs for testing or quarantining here in the UK when departing and/or arriving as well as the country your travelling to.
Should I book a holiday and can I get a refund if it’s cancelled?
Whether you can claim a refund for a trip you book now that’s later cancelled depends on a number of factors – and you should be aware of all of these before you buy.
Check the terms and conditions before you book so you know where you stand, as policies can vary a lot between companies.
For holidays in the UK, Which? says that policies for self-catering accommodation vary, but should generally be on the side of holidaymakers.
The competition authority stepped in last year after some providers refused refunds and it’s view is that you “will generally be entitled to a refund when they have paid money in advance for services or goods that cannot be provided because of the coronavirus pandemic”.
But this may only apply when there are lockdown restrictions imposed by the government – not if you have to self-isolate or get Covid and can’t go on holiday.
It’s best to check when you’re booking what the provider’s policy is when it comes to cancellations like this.
The most flexible policies will let you rebook for a different time at no extra charge, or give you a refund.
For example, Which? says that National Trust, which has 400 cottages, will give you your money back if you fall ill with covid.
The consumer organisation also says that for stays booked through Airbnb, it’s up to the individual host you book with rather than a blanket policy across the platform, so check before you book.
Consumer law states that airlines must give a full cash refund or voucher if your flight is cancelled.
But don’t forget that there may be unknown additional costs involved with the traffic light system for travel, like covid testing and quarantine.
Rory Boland, Which? travel editor, said: “Booking a holiday in the UK is less complicated and you don’t have to worry about test costs and traffic lights but you do need to consider the potential for lockdowns, national or local, so book with a flexible policy.
“Booking with the cheapest provider is ok when things are normal, but as we’ve seen over the past year, they are not. It’s not always a case of cheap versus expensive, but quality, and you should absolutely take that into account.
“Which? has looked at how different providers compare, but also go and look at what customers are saying, social is good, especially Twitter as it’s public, but there are other sites out there too – you can quickly find out who’s good [with flexible policies and customer service] and it’s worth five minutes of your time to potentially save you weeks and months of heartache.”
How can I protect my money?
Check how flexible your booking is, including different scenarios, like what happens if you can’t travel because of lockdown or because someone falls ill or has to self-isolate.
Anna Sant, travel spokesperson at MoneySuperMarket said: “Consumers can book with confidence by using a package tour operator.
“This is a must- have if you want to be covered by the ATOL or ABTA schemes that ensure consumers have financial protection and flexibility, should anything change due to the pandemic.
She added: “Booking a holiday on your credit card is also advised and especially important if you’re in a situation whereby you don’t receive the service that you have been promised or expected to receive.
“This means that under section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act, you will be able to claim for any monetary value over £100 up to the value of as much as £30,000.”
Travel insurance is generally a good idea for any travel plans as it can cover you for non-covid related problems like lost baggage too.
Not all policies will cover for all covid-related situations, so once again you’ll need to check the policy in detail.
Which? says that it’s not aware of any policy that will cover you for cancellations because of lockdown and there’s no guarantee of coverage if there are future lockdowns.
Anna Sant of MoneySuperMarket said: “Not every policy is the same, so it’s worth doing your research to understand the benefits and how this will protect you. In particular, this will be invaluable if you find yourself in need of emergency medical treatment when abroad.
“Before booking, it’s worth checking the latest FCDO advice for your chosen destination. Whether you’re planning a trip in the UK or abroad this year, travel insurance will certainly save you a great amount of money, should anything happen on the holiday.”