Booking a trip in 2021: Tips for booking during and after the COVID-19 pandemic

Are you starting to think about booking a trip this summer? According to the roadmap set out by the government, trips around the UK in self-contained accommodation will be allowed from 12 April, and with others no earlier than 17 May. There is still no confirmation on when holidays abroad will be allowed, so we recommended […]

Are you starting to think about booking a trip this summer? According to the roadmap set out by the government, trips around the UK in self-contained accommodation will be allowed from 12 April, and with others no earlier than 17 May.

There is still no confirmation on when holidays abroad will be allowed, so we recommended being cautious. As the situation is constantly changing, we’ve put together a checklist of things worth looking out for  so you can be confident before booking that well-deserved getaway.

Check the booking conditions

Firstly its important to read carefully the details of your booking before paying anything. Many holiday providers are selling cheap deals at the moment to encourage holiday-makers. However, you should never rush into making a decision with checking these details first:

  • Try to find accommodation with free cancellation before a certain date. Mark that date in your calendar.
  • Do you need to pay everything upfront or can you pay a refundable deposit now? This could be a good way to lock in a cheap deal with less commitment. Double check if the deposit is refundable, and by what date.
  • Check if you will get a full refund if government restrictions change between booking and your trip date. This could include changes to the restrictions where you live, or where you are going.
  • Check if you will be entitled to a refund if you contract COVID-19 or you or a household member are told to self-isolate. (More about this in the travel insurance section.)
  • Find out if your booking is covered by ATOL protection? (Read more further down the page)

Some holiday providers are providing more flexibility than ever to encourage bookings. Try finding a provider that will let you change your booking for free up to a certain date.

What is ATOL protection?

ATOL protection only applies to package holidays which include flights. If your package holiday is cancelled you are entitled to a refund within 14 days. This can make it one of the safest ways to book a holiday abroad.

What about Travel insurance?

Travel insurance is always important and when booking a trip in 2021 it is crucial to understand exactly what your policy covers. Some may cover medical assistance if you catch COVID-19 abroad, but provide no cover if you need to self-isolate in the UK and cannot travel. It is also increasingly important to check what cover you will have if an airline goes out of business. We recommended reading Which’s guide to travel insurance in the pandemic to decide what level of cover you need.

It’s a good idea to buy travel insurance as soon as possible after booking a trip to ensure that you are covered for any situation that changes before you go.

If you need to cancel

Cancellations due to coronavirus

If the cancellation is due to a change in restrictions that has just been announced, it may be better to wait for the provider to cancel. Then you will be entitled to a refund.

In 2020 when many holidays were cancelled, customers were offered vouchers instead of refunds. If you are entitled to a refund you do not have to accept a credit voucher. When calling a customer service team check what you believe you are entitled to and make sure to ask for it. In some cases a travel provider might offer you a voucher of a higher amount than what you paid. Consider carefully if this works for you. If you will definitely rebook with the same provider soon it can be a nice bonus. Check the terms and conditions of the voucher, such as the expiry date and any other restrictions. If there is a chance you will book elsewhere or might change your mind, you may be better off taking a refund.

If you need to cancel because you or a fellow traveler has contracted coronavirus, or needs to self-isolate, then check the booking conditions. Even if you are not entitled to a refund it is still worth contacting the travel provider. They may offer you the option to rebook or a voucher. If you have travel insurance, check if you are covered and they may be able to refund you instead.

Companies that have gone out of business

Firstly, check the website of the company. Package holiday providers will likely provide information on how to get a refund. Package holidays should be ATOL protected. If you are having trouble figuring out how to get a refund, try contacting the Citizens Advice Service, who may be able to help.

It is definitely worth taking some time to do some research before booking a trip in 2021. Check the details of any company you haven’t heard of, and make sure you keep any documents. Read our previous general tips on a booking a holiday here. You will find helpful financial tips on our blog, as well as customer rights information on Money Saving Expert, and Which?. If you would like to keep up to date with our financial tips and get emails directly to your inbox, sign up to our email list below.

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