The coronavirus crisis doesn’t have to leave you out of pocket: How to book a holiday with more confidence in the months ahead
- Always buy travel insurance the moment you book a holiday, says Neil Simpson
- Book with a company that is flexible enough to cope with uncertainty
- Make sure you provide up-to-date contact info so you can be notified of changes
- Coronavirus symptoms: what are they and should you see a doctor?
Every week our Holiday Hero Neil Simpson takes an in-depth look at an important holiday topic, doing all the legwork so you don’t have to. This week, how to book breaks with more confidence.
Planning a holiday is becoming a nerve-racking affair as we try to find a guaranteed ‘safe haven’ overseas amid the uncertainty of the coronavirus outbreak.
For those of us yet to book a trip for later in the year, here is how to achieve some security in the months ahead.
Deep clean: Workers disinfect the Dolmabahce Palace in Istanbul
Book with a company that is flexible enough to cope with uncertainty. That’s particularly important for cruises, where the Government now advises over-70s and people with pre-existing medical conditions to delay departure. Fortunately, most firms including Norwegian Cruise Lines allow anyone due to depart before the end of September to choose not to go up to 48 hours before departure. If you cancel, you’ll be reimbursed your holiday cost as a ‘future cruise credit’ to be used before the end of 2022.
For flights, British Airways and Virgin Atlantic will waive fees for those who want to change flights up until the day of departure, but only for bookings that were made after Tuesday, March 3. EasyJet and Norwegian have also removed ‘change fees’. For package holidays, most firms will offer full refunds if the official advice means your destination becomes a no-go area.
Tui will also allow you to switch bookings to a same-value trip elsewhere if this happens, although you will need to act quickly as alternative resorts may have limited availability. The best advice is to have a ‘second-choice’ holiday in mind and contact your package provider fast if you are informed about problems in your original destination. Tour firm Exodus offers ‘transferable deposits’, so customers can switch trips more easily.
As usual, you should also check that your tour firm is part of the ATOL and ABTA safety nets. If you book accommodation independently, some firms are more flexible than others. Hotel groups such as Hilton and providers including Airbnb will waive cancellation fees (which can be 100 per cent of your booking), but only for locations in Covid-19 hotspots.
If you’re booking a pre-flight stay at a UK airport hotel, it may be worth paying a little more with Premier Inn and others for flexible terms that give refunds for last-minute cancellations.
Always buy travel insurance the moment you book a holiday, says Neil Simpson
Always buy travel insurance the moment you book a holiday and tell your insurer about pre-existing health conditions. Insurance won’t pay for ‘disinclination to travel’, so you can’t claim if official advice says your destination is safe but you decide not to go.
Policies should cover medical costs if you’re hit by coronavirus, or anything else, while you’re away.
It’s more important than ever to ensure that your tour firm, airline, hotel, travel agent or insurer has your current email address and mobile number so it can tell you if your flights, hotel or holiday details change. If you booked online, log in and check the details you gave are correct, or contact your provider by phone or in a high-street branch so that staff know how to reach you in an emergency.