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Coronavirus: should you cancel your summer holiday?

Find out whether you should reschedule a disrupted holiday or cancel holidays booked for later in the year

Coronavirus: should you cancel your summer holiday?

With no end to the coronavirus crisis in immediate 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’s 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. Find out if, when and how you should cancel a holiday you’re due to go on after 15 April:

For information on holidays and flights that have already been disrupted, see our coronavirus outbreak travel Q&A.

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 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.

There’s no definitive answer, but we wouldn’t recommend booking anything until the FCO advice has been updated. That will happen by 15 April at the latest and may make the situation clearer, especially for people still holding out hope for a holiday in late spring or early summer.

But even if travel restrictions are lifted, bear in mind that 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’re not under pressure to rebook, the longer you can hold off, the more information you’ll have to base your decision on. Equally, if you are on a time limit, the later in the year you’re able to book for, the less likely it is that coronavirus will disrupt your holiday.

However, these are general rules and won’t apply to every situation. For seasonal beach holidays dependent on school holidays, for example, you’re best bet is to reschedule for August, assuming you can’t postpone to 2021.

There are two other important things to consider. 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 also need to ensure you have travel insurance 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.

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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.

Alternatively, if you’ve decided you definitely don’t want to take your holiday, you may be able to make changes to your booking without it costing you a penny. Several major holiday providers are in the process of updating their policies on amending bookings, while the following have done so already:

  • Audley Travel – the destination and date of bookings can be changed for free up to 31 days before departure
  • British Airways Holidays – bookings departing before the end of May can be exchanged for vouchers; the destination and date of bookings made between 3 March and 31 May can be changed for free
  • Great Rail Journeys – free postponement on all holidays scheduled for after 17 April
  • Inntravel – free date amendments or deferral for holidays scheduled from 16 May
  • Riviera – flexible amendment policy applies to all travel scheduled on or after 24 April
  • Saga – flexible ‘Peace of Mind’ policy applies to all bookings scheduled for May or June 2020
  • Titan Travel – departure date and destination can be amended for free on all travel scheduled up to the end of June 2020
  • Tui – bookings made before 16 March can be amended for free on all travel before July 2020.

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.

This is 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 £256 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. However, this advice does depend on how much you’ve paid as a deposit – and the policies of the holiday company with which you’ve booked. There is a chance that if the holiday does end up being cancelled, the provider may only offer travel vouchers. They are legally obliged to pay a full refund but we know that many holidaymakers have a fight on their hands to get what they’re owed.

Should you cancel? No. In most cases you should continue paying. If the holiday is later cancelled, or your provider goes bust, you’re legally entitled to a full refund. If you cancel you’ll lose your deposit and any installments you’ve already paid. However, be aware that some holiday companies will try and offer you a voucher instead of the refund to which you’re entitled.

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.

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 its terms. Hotels.com is currently offering anyone with hotel stays up to 30 April a full refund or face-value voucher.

Airbnb said that reservations for stays and experiences made on or before 14 March with a check-in date between 14 March and 14 April 2020 are eligible for a full refund, if customers cancel before check-in. Booking.com is also waiving its cancellations fees for affected bookings.

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’re covered for any financial loss.

The same applies to hotels booked in the UK. Check the cancellation terms of your booking. Some companies are currently waiving cancellation and date change fees.

For more information read our guide on what to do if your UK break is affected by coronavirus.

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.

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 until March 2022.

The cruise lines had previously suspended operations until April 11. This has now been extended up to and including May 15.

Other brands allowing customers to rebook for a future cruise in 2020 or 2021 include Azamara, Celebrity, Royal Caribbean 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 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.

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