HOLIDAYS are still up in the air for many Brits – but how can you protect your cash if you want to go on a summer jolly?
Holidays abroad aren't allowed under the current Covid restrictions, and trips won't get the go-ahead until May 17 the earliest.
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The government has confirmed a traffic light system will open up countries this summer, but it's yet to announce from when.
For those looking to holiday in England, self-catered holidays restarted on Monday, April 12.
This includes caravans and holiday lets, as long as it is with your own household only.
Hotels and mixed-group holidays will be able to resume from May 17, but only for two households, or more than two households with the rule of six.
When can I go on holiday?
These are the key dates you need to know for booking a holiday:
April 12 – Self-catered holidays are allowed in England, including caravans and holiday lets, with one household only, as well as some campsites without shared facilities.
April 12 – Day trips are allowed to outdoor attractions like zoos and theme parks.
May 17 – Hotels in England are allowed to reopen. Mixed groups of up to two different households, or, more than two households with the rule of six are allowed, there and at holiday lets and campsites with shared facilities
May 17 – This is the earliest possible date when international travel restrictions could be eased but no decision has been made by the government yet.
June 21 – Holiday homes can be let to groups of all sizes
From June 21, three households will be able to go away together even if it is more than the rule of six – as the PM to lift all the rules by then.
Currently anyone who travels abroad to the 39 "high risk" countries has to self-isolate for 10 days in a quarantine hotel.
In the meantime, travel companies are still selling summer trips abroad for those willing to take the risk that their holiday may not happen.
It can often be cheaper to book a holiday several months in advance and workers will also need to arrange time-off.
Consumer law states that airlines must give a full cash refund or voucher if your flight is cancelled.
This also applies to travel package providers.
But some providers are offering extra flexibility to encourage bookings.
Below are the best flexible policies at travel companies and airlines to avoid expensive cancellation fees.
What are the refund policies for airlines?
BELOW we round up the refund and rebooking policies of some of the biggest airlines.
If your flight has been cancelled, you can choose to get either a cash or voucher refund, or Avios points.
British Airways has also waived its fee to change bookings.
If you want to cancel your flights, you can claim a voucher to the value of your booking, which will be valid until April 30, 2023.
If EasyJet cancels your holiday, you’ll receive a full refund back to your original method of payment.
But if you cancel your trip yourself, EasyJet's terms and conditions state you won't get the money back.
The only exception is if you cancel within 24 hours of booking, which means you'll get a full refund minus the cancellation fee.
If you want to change your booking, you can do so at no extra cost (apart from the fare difference) up to 14 days before departure.
Ryanair offers vouchers equal to the cost of the cancelled flights, and these are typically valid for 12 months.
If you'd prefer the money back, you don't have to accept a credit note and can request a cash refund instead on Ryanair's website.
Sadly, Ryanair says customers can't get a refund if the flight is operational and isn't delayed by more than two hours.
Instead, you may want to consider changing your flight to a later date by using Ryanair's free rebooking policy.
The flight change fee has been dropped for all new bookings made after June 10, 2020 but before March 31, 2021, for travel before October 31.
Just keep in mind you must change your flights at least seven days before the original scheduled departure date to avoid rebooking fees.
If you do, remember you must also pay the fare difference if your new ticket is more expensive.
Existing Tui bookings can be changed for free up until 21 days before your departure if you're due to travel before October 31.
This applies if you made your booking between November 23 and 30, 2020, or between December 22, 2020 and February 9, 2021.
Alternatively, other bookings with departure dates before July 31 can change the trip up until 28 days before departure at no extra cost.
You will still have to pay extra charges if you move to a more expensive destination but you will be refunded if it is cheaper.
Refunds are guaranteed within 14 days if Tui has to cancel your holiday.
First Choice is owned by Tui and customers are covered by the same "holiday promise."
Refunds will be given within 14 days if First Choice has to cancel a holiday.
First Choice and Tui holidays automatically include "Covid Cover," which lets you amend your holiday for free if you contract Covid-19 or are required to isolate.
First Choice is also offering free changes on selected holidays due to depart before October 31, 2021, including trips in May, June and July.
Customers will be able to change their trips for free if you'll need to quarantine on your return to the UK.
The risks of booking a summer holiday now
SECURING a summer holiday may give you something fun to look forward to, but there are risks.
You may face a long wait to get any money back if your holiday is cancelled.
Holidaymakers last year reported having to wait months for refunds on cancelled bookings as airlines and travel companies dealt with a large backlog.
You may not find a suitable destination or time to rearrange your holiday for so could end up losing out or face the stress of regularly rebooking.
Quarantine rules are changing both in the UK and abroad on a regular basis.
You could end up booking somewhere and have to quarantine on arrival.
You should check your travel insurance to see if you are covered such as if you need a coronavirus test when abroad.
Jet2 says customers will be refunded if it has to cancel their holiday.
If lockdown or self-isolation rules apply, customers can amend admin fee-free to a later date.
Jet2 was praised last year for repaying holidaymakers quickly for cancelled bookings.
You can book a range of package holiday deals to a range of countries through Expedia.
The cancellation policies will depend on the airline and hotels included though, so make sure you double-check this in advance.
Online travel agent Opodo lists hotels with free cancellation and also offers a "flexible dates guarantee" that lets bookers amend their holiday up to 24 hours before their departure.
The rebooked flight must be within 60 days before or after the original flight time and to and from the same destination.
It also has a "cancel for any reason guarantee" that can be purchased at the time of booking.
Customers can get a refund of their booking travel costs, minus a 20% excess fee.
Hays Travelbookings can be amended or cancelled for free on selected holidays up to six weeks before departure.
You can see if this is available on your chosen destination at the time of booking.
Hays Travel will also refund your unused holiday money at the same rate you purchased it.
If your holiday is affected by coronavirus, Hays Travel said it will try to offer you alternative arrangements for a later date.
If this isn't possible, or you don't want to accept the alternative, then you will be entitled to a full refund.
If you have made either a hotel only or flight only booking, then the options will depend on the relevant airline.
How to protect yourself if you do book a summer holiday
BOOKING a summer holiday is risky and there is no guarantee you will get to go, but there are steps you can take to protect yourself.
- Check the terms and conditions
Read and make sure you understand the terms and conditions before paying so you are clear about if and when you can get a refund or rearrange a booking.
- Get covered
Buy travel insurance once you have booked and check what you are covered for, such as if you can't travel due to local restrictions or if there is a lockdown at your destination.
- Pay by credit card
If you're struggling to get a refund for a cancelled trip, you may also be able to claim your money back through your credit or debit card provider.
Credit card payments between £100 and £30,000 are covered under Section 75 of the Consumer Rights Act.
To start a claim, you need to contact your credit card provider directly – Which? has a free tool that can help you do this.
If you booked by debit card, you may be able to claim a refund via your bank using the Chargeback scheme.
Chargeback can be used to reclaim cash for goods and services you didn't receive.
Claims apply for purchases made by debit card, or by credit card for purchases under £100, and must be done within 120 days of the transaction.
- Small claims court
There is also an option to go through the small claims court if you haven't been refunded and you're not getting anywhere with the firm.
On The Beach customers took the holiday company to court last year due to delays in issuing refunds.
The small claims court costs between £25 and £410 for an online claim, depending on how much money you're trying to recoup.
But if you win, you should be able to claim these costs back.
If you lose, you won't get these fees back and you could end up paying some of the other side's costs too.
The over-50s holiday company has already said all customers must have received the coronavirus vaccine at least 14 days before travelling on one of its holidays.
Saga is offering free amendments on bookings made before April 30 for travel until the end of the year.
Changes can be made until 60 days before departure.
There is also an option to buy flexible cover that lets you cancel a holiday due to a variety of medical conditions, including coronavirus.
Virgin Holidays offers deals to holiday destinations across the world.
If your holiday is due to start before 30 April 2022, you can postpone your holiday to any date travelling up to the 30 April 2023 with no amendment fee.
Virgin Holidays will also let you choose a different destination but there may be fare differences.
Customers with bookings website Lastminute.com can search for package deals that offer flexible terms.
These will let you rearrange flights with no fees.
You can also book hotels with free cancellation.
Lastminute.com was investigated by the Competition and Markets Authority last year after failing to pay refunds on time and it missed the latest deadline.
Read our guide on how to protect your cash if you're booking a summer holiday.
We also explain how to get a refund from Ryanair as it extends free rebooking policy.
As of last month, holidays abroad are illegal in England with a £5,000 fine for escaping the country.
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