Coronavirus: Should you cancel your summer holiday? – Which? News

With no end to the coronavirus crisis in sight, many are wondering whether summer holidays will still go ahead. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) is currently advising against all non-essential travel to every country in the world. This advice runs until 15 April, but it is likely that the travel ban will be extended, so don't assume travel after this date will go ahead.

Equally, if you've already decided you don't want to travel abroad this summer, don't assume you'll be able to get your money back yet. We've rounded up everything you need to know, from rebooking holidays to cancelling cruises and claiming on travel insurance. Read on to find out if, when and how you should cancel any holiday you're due to go on after 15 April.


For information on holidays that have already been disrupted, see our coronavirus outbreak travel Q&A[1].


Why is the FCO advice important?

In light of the coronavirus crisis, the FCO is currently advising against all non-essential international travel until after 15 April.

As a result, any holidays booked until then are likely to be cancelled, meaning you should be entitled to a refund. It's less clear what will happen to holidays booked for after this date, though. The FCO advice also means that, if you are left out of pocket, you should be able to recoup any financial loss from your travel insurer -- provided you have cover for holiday disruption.

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 after 15 April 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.

However, 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. Before rebooking you should ensure that you have travel insurance[2] that covers you for travel disruption. If your existing cover has expired then you will struggle to buy a new policy that covers you in the current climate.

Some 33 insurers have temporarily suspended sales, and a further 11 have changed aspects of their policy. For more advice, go to our coronavirus hub[3]. 

Coronavirus: Should you cancel your summer holiday? – Which? News Should I cancel my summer 2020 package holiday?

Given the disruption facing holidaymakers at the moment, you may be tempted to just cancel now. Don't.

The best thing to do is hold off on making changes to your package holiday for the moment. 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, because insurers don't typically allow you to claim for cancellation because of a 'disinclination to travel'.

In other words, you'll be paying to cancel a holiday that might end up being cancelled by the holiday provider, in which case you're entitled to a full refund.


Should you cancel? No. Keep your booking in place for now and wait to see if the FCO advice for your destination changes in the next few weeks. You'll be entitled to a full refund if the holiday can't go ahead.

Bear in mind, though, that 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 still paying for a package holiday, it might seem counter-intuitive to continue paying off the balance, especially if you're due to travel in the next few months. But unless you're willing to lose the deposit -- you should continue to pay your holiday installments. 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. Holidaymaker Catrina Wilkinson asked us about this very issue. She has a holiday to Tenerife booked for 16 June and the full balance is due before 21 April.

She isn't sure whether she should accept the loss of the GBP256 deposit, or put even more money into a holiday that might go ahead. We recommend paying the full balance, but not until after 16 April, as the FCO advice will have been updated by then and the situation may be clearer. There is a chance, however, that if the holiday does end up being cancelled, the provider may only offer travel vouchers, even though they're currently required to offer a full refund.


Should you cancel? No.

If you do you'll lose your deposit and any installments you've already paid. Continue paying for now. If the holiday is later cancelled, or your provider goes bust, you'll receive a full refund (although if it's cancelled there is a risk you'll be given travel vouchers rather than a refund).


Coronavirus: Should you cancel your summer holiday? – Which? News

Flights booked for summer 2020

If you have flights booked for any date after 15 April, you won't be able to cancel these yet without incurring a fee.

But you may be able to amend the date of your journey for free if you paid for a flexi ticket. And some airlines have updated their policies to be more flexible (but be aware you will usually have to pay the fare difference). These include:

  • EasyJet - free date changes up until two hours before departure until further notice
  • Emirates - free date/destination changes for travel up to 30 June
  • Ryanair - free date changes on bookings up to 30 April
  • Jet2 - free date/destination changes on bookings up to 30 April (changes must be made before the end of March)
  • Tui - free date changes, up to seven days before departure, on travel before 30 June

Some airlines are offering vouchers for those who cancel.

British Airways passenger Alan Chambers is due to fly to California in late May. BA are offering to cancel his booking in exchange for a voucher of the same value, which he can use within a year of the original flight date. However, 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.

Alan isn't sure he'll want to do that, so his best bet is to hold off on making changes to his booking for now. If the FCO's ban on non-essential travel is extended beyond mid-April, the flight is likely to be cancelled, in which case Alan will be entitled to a full refund.


Should you cancel? Not yet, you should be able to get all your money back if your airline cancels your flight. Keep a close eye on the FCO travel advice.


Coronavirus: Should you cancel your summer holiday? – Which? News Accommodation booked for summer 2020

If your accommodation was booked as part of a package, refer to the above advice on package holidays.

But accommodation that you've booked yourself is subject to different rules. If the hotel you're due to stay in is closed as a result of government advice in that country, you should be able to get your money back -- provided the hotel stays in business. If the hotel 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.

If you booked with an accommodation booking site, check their terms. Hotels.com is currently offering anyone with hotel stays up to 30 April a full refund or face-value voucher. But both Booking.com and Airbnb say that cancellation policies are decided by the hotel or host.

You should also contact the hotel directly. They are not obliged to offer a refund, but they may given the current circumstances. Or they may agree to postpone your booking.

If not, check your travel insurance to see if you are covered for any financial loss.


Should you cancel? Not yet. If you're still hoping to go on the holiday and have already paid for the accommodation, keep your booking for now, but check the cancellation policy and the terms of your travel insurance.


Coronavirus: Should you cancel your summer holiday? – Which? News Cruises booked for summer 2020

Most of the major cruise companies are provisionally planning to restart sailing in either April or early May, so if you've got a cruise booked after that, it's probably going ahead as things stand. So you're unlikely to get a refund if you've already decided that you don't want to go on your cruise this year, although there's no harm in checking with the provider.

However, 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 31 August 2020, for instance, you can decide to postpone your voyage up until 48 hours before departure, in which case you'll receive credit to use up to March 2022. Other brands allowing customers to rebook for a future cruise in 2020 or 2021 include Royal Caribbean, Celebrity, Azamara and Silversea.

If you still want to go on your cruise holiday this year, or are holding out for a full refund, then it's another case of wait and see for now. But make sure you're clear on your rights if the cruise is cancelled, as they can vary depending on how you booked the cruise. If you booked as a package, with flights included, you're entitled to a full refund if the cruise provider cancels.

The same is true if you booked multiple elements of the trip through a third party, such as a travel agent, although you would need to cancel the agent for your money back, rather than the cruise line. But if you booked elements of your holiday separately then your rights are different. Your flights, for example, would be subject to the cancellation advice set out above.


Should you cancel? No.

If your cruise is still scheduled to operate, there will be a cancellation fee. Even if it doesn't go ahead you should be able to either get a refund or at least get a voucher that provides you with flexibility. Keep your booking for now but contact your provider to find out more about their cancellation and postponement policies.


Should I take out travel insurance?

You should always take out travel insurance at the same time as booking a holiday. But travel insurance has changed dramatically since this crisis began.

Check our guide - Coronavirus: what it means for your travel insurance[4] before buying a policy. While buying insurance now for your summer holiday may not cover you for claims related to coronavirus, it should cover you for a range of other issues. If you buy an annual policy, the start date needs to be the date you booked the holiday (or as soon as possible afterwards) in order to cover you for claims before your holiday starts, such as cancellations.

But if you take out a single trip policy, you just need to provide the holiday's start date and duration when taking out the policy, and you'll be covered from the day you take out the insurance to the day you return home from holiday.

For more, go to our guide on Travel insurance explained[5].

References

  1. ^ coronavirus outbreak travel Q&A (www.which.co.uk)
  2. ^ travel insurance (www.which.co.uk)
  3. ^ coronavirus hub (www.which.co.uk)
  4. ^ Coronavirus: what it means for your travel insurance (www.which.co.uk)
  5. ^ Travel insurance explained (www.which.co.uk)

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