The coronavirus pandemic has wreaked havoc on holiday plans, from changing travel restrictions to cancellations across the travel industry.
However, that’s not to say that if you want to go on holiday, you can’t; you just need to be aware of a few factors when you book a trip.
Key ones include whether your firm offers flexible policies, what your insurance will cover and, of course, the latest government advice on your chosen destination.
Of course there is some risk involved in that your trip may not go ahead and it can mean a headache in terms of getting money back – ultimately, it’s a personal choice whether you want to book.
To give you a helping hand we’ve flagged some top tips on what to check when booking a holiday during the pandemic.
Check out the top tips below…
Book a package holiday
Package holidays offer a bit more reassurance and protection around your money.
For example, most package holidays are ATOL protected. This means that if your firm goes bust, you’ll be refunded your holiday cost. If you’re already abroad, then you can still continue your trip and be brought home at no extra cost.
Travel companies usually display the ‘ATOL Protected’ logo on their website – but it’s always worth checking the ATOL database especially if it’s a firm you’re not familiar with.
During the pandemic, if your holiday is cancelled because of a change in rules or travel advice, it can also be a smoother process in getting your money back.
If you book flights and a hotel separately, you could struggle to get a cash refund and have to settle for vouchers instead. However, with a package holiday if the firm cancels your break you are entitled to a full refund (although some are still offering alternatives such as rebooking for a later date).
Check the firm’s Covid-19 policy
In response to the pandemic, a lot of travel companies and tour operators have introduced new Covid-19 policies, in the event that your holiday is affected by travel restrictions or other factors.
When you’re considering a holiday, make sure to check the company’s Covid-19 policy (these are often flagged on the website).
For example, some are offering flexible booking policies (more on this below), while others are adding new reassurance measures – for example, Riviera Travel is offering to bring back holidaymakers if after two days their trip isn’t quite the one they wanted due to the pandemic.
A number of companies are also including coronavirus-specific travel insurance as part of their bookings, so it’s worth finding out if your firm is offering this. However, you should also have your own travel insurance in place – scroll below for a fuller explanation on this.
Make use of flexible booking policies
A wide array of travel firms and airlines have changed their booking amendment fees, meaning that you can change your dates of travel at no extra cost.
This means that if you decide you don’t want to go on your trip, instead of losing out on your cash you can simply defer the trip to a later date.
Make sure to read the fine print – a flexible booking policy won’t apply if you want to cancel the holiday entirely.
Get travel insurance
It’s a given for any holiday, but it’s even more important in the days of the coronavirus pandemic.
Travel insurance can cover a host of factors including your medical bills abroad, costs for cancellations, as well as things like lost luggage or gadgets.
If you’re buying new travel insurance, it’s worth looking for Covid-19 specific policies. A lot of providers are rolling these out, and they will cover everything from cancellations to your costs if you end up having to quarantine.
If you bought an annual policy before the pandemic broke, then you are covered as normal – but again, double check the terms of your policy. It’s also worth getting in touch with your provider before planning a trip, so you can be clear what you’re covered for if your holiday is directly affected by the pandemic.
It’s also worth noting that the validity of travel insurance is dependent on FCO advice – if the advice warns Brits against all but essential travel to a destination, then your insurance is void, unless you were already on holiday. You can read more in our travel insurance explanation here.
Always check the FCDO advice
During the pandemic, the UK government is constantly reviewing advice for Brits, and can quickly change to warn against ‘all but essential’ travel. ( What is defined as essential travel isn’t set in stone, but it won’t include a holiday).
This can mean holidays are cancelled/deferred, and that your travel insurance will be void if you’re not already on a trip.
Before booking any holiday, make sure to check the latest FCDO advice for your chosen destination – this will also advise you on any entry requirements, for example if you need to provide a negative Covid-19 test on arrival.
You can check all the latest updates for your chosen destination on the FCDO travel advice website.
Don’t rule out a staycation
If you’re in need of a few days away from home but you’re wary of the changing rules during the pandemic, then a staycation can be the perfect compromise.
There are heaps of beautiful spots across the UK whether you’re after a seaside break, countryside retreat or even city getaways. Yes, we’ll concede that the weather might not always be dreamy, but there are heaps of indoor attractions and cosy cottages for hire that can still make for a brilliant getaway.
Check out our UK holidays page for plenty of inspiration around the best destinations, sales and accommodation options that need to be on your radar.