WITH no end to the coronavirus crisis in sight, many are wondering whether summer holidays will go ahead.
The Foreign Office (FCO) currently advises against all non-essential travel to every country in the world and this advice runs until April 15, but the travel ban may be extended, so don’t assume travel after this date will go ahead.
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However, if it’s you who doesn’t want to travel abroad this summer, don’t assume you’ll be able to get your money back yet.
The experts at Which? Travel have rounded up everything you need to know, from rebooking holidays to cancelling cruises and claiming on travel insurance.
Which? Travel editor Rory Boland says: “The best advice we can give at this stage is not to cancel just yet, and wait until the FCO updates its advice against all foreign travel.
“Which? has heard from many passengers whose airlines or travel operators have not been fulfilling their legal obligations to issue refunds for cancelled holidays. If the FCO’s ban on travel is to be extended operators should not rely on passengers accepting credit notes.”
When should I rebook my cancelled holiday?
If you’ve already had to postpone or cancel a holiday booked due to coronavirus, you’re probably wondering when it’s safe to rebook, especially if your travel provider gave you credit, rather than your money back.
Hold off on rebooking any holiday until April 15 at the earliest, as the FCO advice will have been updated by then and the situation might be clearer. If you need to commit to new travel dates sooner than that, the later in the year you’re able to book for, the more likely the holiday is to go ahead.
If you’re in a category that’s thought to be particularly vulnerable to coronavirus, it’s likely to be longer before it’s safe for you to travel.
If you’ve been given travel vouchers instead of a refund, you might want to spend them sooner rather than later, as you may not be able to get your money back if the provider goes bust.
I’ve booked a package holiday for this summer – should I cancel?
Don’t cancel now. Hold off making changes. If you cancel your booking now, you’ll almost certainly have to pay cancellation fees. And you won’t be able to claim this back on your travel insurance.
You could try to see if your travel provider will let you cancel without a penalty but it is unlikely they will do this unless you are in a high risk group.
Should your holiday not go ahead, you’ll be entitled to a refund but bear in mind many travel agents are currently offering travel vouchers, rather than full refunds.
What if I haven’t paid for the holiday in full yet?
If you’re paying for a package holiday in instalments, you may not want to continue paying off the balance, especially if you’re due to travel in the next two or three months.
But unless you’ve only paid the deposit — and it’s an amount so small you’re willing to lose it — you should probably continue to pay your holiday instalments.
Otherwise you’ll lose what you have paid and forfeit protection under the package holiday protection scheme.
That’s important because it’s what will protect your money should your holiday provider go bust between now and your travel date.
If you cancel now you’ll lose your deposit and any instalments you’ve already paid.
I have flights booked for the summer – what should I do?
If you have flights booked for any date after April 15, you won’t be able to cancel these yet without incurring a fee.
You may be able to amend the date of your journey for free if you paid for a flexi ticket and some airlines are also offering vouchers for flights that are yet to
Amending your travel dates or accepting credit vouchers is only worth doing if you’re sure you’ll want to take the trip at some point in the next year. Bear in mind if the FCO extends its travel ban, you will be entitled to a refund.
If you cancel, you will lose some or all of the money you paid for the flights. If the airline cancels, you should get your money back.
I have accommodation only booked for summer – what happens?
The situation with accommodation booked on its own and not part of a package is a little more complex.
If the hotel or villa is open for business and you don’t show up you will probably have to pay for the room, even if the government advice is not to travel and you have no way of getting there because your flights were cancelled.
It’s worth checking your travel insurance as you may be covered for any financial loss. If you’re not covered, contact the hotel as you may be able to postpone your booking to a later date.
If the accommodation you’re due to stay in is closed you should be able to get your money back — provided it stays in business.
If you cancel, how much it will cost you depends on the terms and conditions of the party you booked through. If you used a site like Booking.com you may be able to cancel for free.
If you’re still hoping to go on the holiday and have already paid, keep your booking for now but check the cancellation policy and the terms of your travel insurance.
I have a cruise booked for this summer – what happens?
Most cruise lines hope to restart sailing next month, so if you’ve got a cruise booked after that, it’s probably going ahead as things stand.
You’re unlikely to get a refund if you don’t want to go but there’s no harm in asking and you may be able to postpone the trip by up to two years.
If you’re booked to sail with either Cunard or P&O before August 31 you can postpone your voyage up until 48 hours before departure, in which case you’ll receive credit to use up to March 2022. Many other cruise liners have similar policies in place.
If you’ve booked your cruise as a package, with flights included, you’re entitled to a full refund if the cruise provider cancels. If you booked multiple elements through a third party, such as a travel agent, you would need to contact them for your money back.
If you cancel and your cruise is currently scheduled to go ahead you may lose money. Keep your booking, but contact your provider to find out more about their cancellation and postponement policies.
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Should I take out travel insurance?
Yes. But bear in mind if you buy a policy now for a holiday this summer, it may not cover you for claims related to coronavirus.
Always take out travel insurance at the same time as booking a holiday.
What if my travel provider goes bust?
There’s a strong chance some travel companies will go bust. For upcoming bookings that you paid for on credit card you should be protected, but the situation is less clear for hotel bookings and providers with whom you have taken travel vouchers rather than a full refund.
If you have been offered vouchers — as many people have — it’s a good idea to check with the provider what your rights are before accepting them.