Holidays are currently banned, despite coronavirus restrictions being eased. The UK government has announced a 14-day quarantine period for all travellers arriving in Britain, while the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) continues to advise against all non-essential travel abroad. We explain what that means for your holidays and flights.
Most arrivals into the UK will be required to enter quarantine from June 8 – including UK nationals returning from holiday. With the quarantine period lasting 14 days, this makes most holidays abroad impractical. Despite these new rules, you won’t automatically be entitled to a refund on flights or holidays you had already booked.
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 in 2020:
- Why is the FCO advice important?
- How do the new UK quarantine rules affect travel?
- Should I cancel my summer 2020 package holiday?
- What if I haven’t paid for the holiday in full yet?
- Flights booked for summer 2020
- Accommodation booked for summer 2020
- Cruises booked for summer 2020
- When should I rebook my cancelled holiday?
- Should I take out travel insurance?
- Can I book a new holiday?
Find more unbiased advice on travel and the coronavirus, award-winning investigations and legal advice on holiday refunds and cancelled flights with Which? Travel
Why is the FCO advice important?
In light of the coronavirus pandemic, the FCO is currently advising against all non-essential international travel. This unprecedented advice was announced on 17 March, initially for a 30-day period, but it has since been extended indefinitely.
While the FCO says this advice is under constant review, the decision to apply the current advice indefinitely, rather than for a set period of time, is significant for your holiday plans.
Rather than making it easier to cancel holidays you’ve got planned for later in the year, it actually muddies the waters because the open-ended nature of the advice can be interpreted in different ways by travel companies.
More generally, the FCO advice is also important because it means that if you’re left out of pocket you may be able to recoup any financial loss from your travel insurer – provided you have cover for holiday disruption – as we explain in more detail below.
How do the new UK quarantine rules affect travel?
From 8 June people arriving in the UK by plane, ferry, or train, must spend 14 days in quarantine. This will make most holidays impractical.
This means you will have to provide the address where you intend to self-isolate before you arrive, staying somewhere private, and away from others (except those who you’ve travelled with).
If you have nowhere appropriate to isolate, you will be required to isolate in accommodation provided by the government.
After two weeks, if you show no symptoms of Covid-19, you can return to following the social distancing rules that apply to the rest of the population.
The quarantine rules will apply to everyone, whether you are a UK national returning after being stuck abroad, a foreign visitor, or you are a Brit coming home from a holiday – once the FCO ban on travel lifts.
Under the new rules, anyone other than exempt workers arriving into the UK could face a £1,000 fine if they fail to self-isolate.
The quarantine will not apply to the Republic of Ireland, although Ireland currently requires Brits to self-isolate on arrival. It is likely that this will soon be lifted to create the potential for two-way travel.
Unfortunately, the imposed quarantine does not mean your airline or travel company will cancel your flight or holiday. If the holiday goes ahead, you will not be entitled to a refund. Your best bet is to ask for a date change.
Video: your travel questions answered
Do the new quarantine rules mean I can holiday with my household in the UK?
The new coronavirus lockdown plan means you can now travel as far as you wish in England to exercise and to visit beauty spots, but the government still says staying overnight in a location other than the place you live is not allowed. This rules out Airbnbs and holiday cottages. It also specifically states you cannot visit a second home.
UK holiday accommodation will reopen as part of ‘step three’ of the strategy, which will take place no earlier than 4 July. Even then, owners will have to meet Covid-19 secure guidelines to minimise the risk of infection for visitors.
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.
If you cancel your booking now you’ll lose all the money you’ve already paid and/or have to pay a cancellation fee. And you won’t be able to claim for this on your travel insurance as it’s classed as a ‘disinclination to travel’. If you wait for the holiday to be cancelled by the holiday provider, on the other hand, you’ll be entitled to a full refund.
Holiday providers are only applying the FCO indefinite ban on travel to ‘imminent’ bookings (a term for which there is no legal definition) on the basis that the FCO advice could change at any time.
If you have a holiday booked in the summer, the provider is likely to wait until closer to the time to see if the FCO advice is still in place. If it is, your holiday will be cancelled and you should be offered a refund. But if it’s not, you’ll be required to pay for the holiday regardless of whether you want to go on it or not.
Only consider cancelling your holiday now if you have decided you definitely don’t want to take the holiday anymore and you’re sure you can reclaim any losses from your travel insurer.
If the FCO advice against all non-essential travel is still in place up to 28 days prior to your departure, you may be able to cancel the holiday and claim back the cost from your insurer. This isn’t straightforward, though, so make sure you check the cancellation section of your insurance policy first. It’s also a good idea to call your insurer and ask them to confirm in writing that your understanding of that part of the policy is correct.
Alternatively, if you’ve decided you definitely don’t want to take your holiday this year and don’t want to risk running down the clock to see if you’ll get your money back or not, you may be able to make changes to your booking without it costing you a penny.
Major holiday providers that have updated their policies on amending bookings include:
- Audley Travel – the destination and date of bookings can be changed for free up to 31 days before departure for bookings up to 31 May
- British Airways Holidays – bookings departing before the end of July can be exchanged for vouchers, or the destination and date can be changed for free
- easyJet Holidays – holidays scheduled up to the end of August can be amended for free (holidays departing on or before 31 May have been cancelled)
- Great Rail Journeys – free postponement on all holidays scheduled for after 30 June (holidays departing before 30 June have been cancelled)
- Inntravel free date amendments or deferral for holidays scheduled from 16 July (holidays before then have been cancelled)
- Riviera – flexible amendment policy applies to all travel scheduled after 30 June, as long as you amend by 30 September 2020 (holidays until 30 June are cancelled)
- Saga – all bookings up to 31 August have been cancelled
- Titan Travel – departure date and destination can be amended for free on all travel scheduled up to the end of October 2020 (holidays up to August 31 have been cancelled)
- Trailfinders – bookings up to 30 September can be amended for free (bookings up to 21 June have been cancelled)
- Tui – holidays up to 11 June are cancelled. Bookings made before 17 March can be amended for free on all travel up to 31 August 2020 (this also applies to First Choice bookings and Marella Cruises). These amends must be carried out by June 30.
Should you cancel? Not unless you’re sure you can recoup the cost of cancellation from your travel insurer. Otherwise, your best bet is to either reschedule your holiday for 2021, if you can do so for free, or to leave your booking unchanged. As long as the FCO advice is still in place closer to your departure date, it will be cancelled and you should get your money back. Most holiday companies we spoke to are cancelling two to four weeks ahead of travel.
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 that is likely to be the best course of action for many people.
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.
But before paying anything further, you should contact your travel provider. They may be willing to defer the payments, the holiday, or both, which will be welcome if you can no longer afford the payments or have decided that you no longer want to travel this year. easyJet Holidays, for example, has said that customers with partially paid bookings for departures between July and August can choose not to pay the remaining balance, in which case they’ll get their deposit back in the form of travel credit. This can be used when booking a future holiday with easyJet in the next 12 months.
Even if you can afford the holiday and are still hoping it will go ahead this year, you should defer the payments if possible and pay your instalments as close to the due date as possible. Simply put, the longer you wait, the more likely it is that there will be new information to base any decision on.
Holidaymaker Catrina Wilkinson asked us about this very issue. She has a holiday to Tenerife booked for 16 June and the full balance was due before 21 April. She wasn’t sure whether she should accept the loss of the £256 deposit or put even more money into a holiday that might not go ahead.
It’s a tricky situation, especially as Catrina hadn’t yet spent much on the holiday. In the first instance, we thought Catrina should contact the holiday provider to ask if the payments, and possibly the holiday itself, can be postponed.
Failing that, Catrina’s best bet was to continue paying for the holiday as her money should be protected.
There is a chance, though, 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. As long as your holiday is Atol protected 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 instalments 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. And if the FCO advice is lifted, the holiday will likely go ahead, meaning you’ll have to pay for it whether you want to go on it or not.
Flights booked for summer 2020
If your flight is cancelled, you’re entitled to a refund as long as you were booked on an EU airline or any airline from an EU airport. Don’t be fobbed off with a voucher or the option to rebook if you want a refund, although there’s no rush. You have at least 12 months to claim your refund.
But if you are due to fly in the coming months and the airline has not yet cancelled your flight, you probably won’t be able to cancel these flights without incurring a fee, even if the airline has grounded it’s fleet. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean you won’t get a full refund in due course.
The FCO is indefinitely advising against all non-essential travel, but because that advice could theoretically change at any time, airlines are prioritising imminent flights. This also helps them to stop their customer service teams from being further overwhelmed.
If you’re due to fly soon, your flight is likely to be cancelled if it hasn’t been already, in which case the airline should get in touch with you prior to departure to offer you a full refund.
However, the bad news is more flights are starting to recommence. Wizz Air is already flying on some routes despite the FCO warning against travel and those with standard tickets have to pay a fee to claim a refund and cannot swap free of charge onto another flight.
Ryanair and Jet2 are due to restart more routes from July 1. Ryanair would not confirm whether it would allow passengers to rebook free of charge. Which? has asked Jet2 whether flights from July 1 will be free to amend.
easyJet is planning to restart flights from mid-June – mostly domestic (within the UK) and to France at first. The airline has assured us it will continue its free rebooking policy though if you don’t wish to travel.
These airlines are likely to hold off on deciding whether to allow these flights to go ahead however until closer to the time, to see if the FCO advice still applies.
But if you’ve already decided you don’t want to travel and aren’t prepared to wait until closer to the time to see if the airline cancels, you may be able to amend the date of your journey for free if you paid for a flexi ticket. Even if you didn’t, many major airlines have updated their policies to be more flexible (but be aware you will usually have to pay the fare difference). These include:
- British Airways – free date/destination changes for flights due to depart up until 31 December for bookings made between 3 March and 31 July
- EasyJet – free date changes up until two hours before departure for flights up to May 2021
- Emirates – free date/destination changes for travel up to 30 November booked on or before 30 June, as long as there is a valid reason to cancel, such as an FCO travel ban in place, quarantine measures in place, or a lockdown preventing you from travelling to the airport
Ryanair – free date changes on bookings up to 31 May, but the flight can only be moved to a date up until 31 August 2020. Ryanair would not confirm if this would continue beyond this date.
- Tui – free date changes up to seven days before departure on travel before 30 June.
- Jet2 – is also offering free date and destination changes until 14 June, if you’re due to depart up until 30 June. However, Jet2 has ceased all flights between now and 30 June, so you’re better off waiting for Jet2 to contact you and explain your options, as you are entitled to a refund.
Some airlines are also offering vouchers for those who cancel. British Airways passenger Alan Chambers was due to fly to California in late May. BA offered to cancel his booking in exchange for a voucher of the same value, which he could use within a year of the original flight date.
Alan wasn’t sure he would want to use the voucher in that time, so he was better off holding out for a refund as with FCO advice still in place, it was likely his flight would be cancelled anyway. It was a bit of a gamble, though, because if the FCO advice had been lifted before the end of May, his flight could’ve gone ahead, meaning Alan wouldn’t have been entitled to anything if he then didn’t want to go on the holiday.
Amending your travel dates or accepting credit vouchers is only worth doing if you’ve already decided you don’t want to take the trip this year, regardless of whether the FCO advice is lifted and if you’re sure you will want to book flights with that airline at some point in the next 12 months.
Should you cancel? Only if you’ve decided that you definitely don’t want to take the holiday this year and are happy to either postpone it until next year or accept travel vouchers. If you want your money back or are holding out hope the holiday will go ahead, it may be better to leave your booking in place for now and 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 abroad and open for business and you don’t show up, you’ll probably have to pay for the room, even if the government advice in the UK 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 31 May a full refund or face-value voucher, provided the booking is cancelled at least 24 hours before check in.
Airbnb said that reservations for stays and experiences made on or before 14 March with a check-in date between 14 March and 30 June 2020 are eligible for a full refund, if customers cancel before check-in.
Booking.com says waiving cancellations fees for affected bookings is down to the property owners. You should 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.
For UK accommodation, you should check the terms of your booking and contact your provider to see what your options are. Getting your money back may be tricky if you decide not to travel and there are no restrictions in place. However, Under Content and Market Authority (CMA) Guidance, you should be entitled to most of your refund provided it was booked with a site that operates in the UK. It says If a consumer has to cancel due to Government public health measures meaning they cannot access those services, they should be entitled to a refund.
Even in cases where stays have had to be cancelled because of the lockdown, we’ve found that some holiday cottage companies are refusing to refund customers.
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
Many of the major cruise companies have cancelled sailings into June and July, but 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 May 15. This has since been extended to 31 July.
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 ask 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.
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.
Unfortunately, there’s no definitive answer, especially since the FCO is still advising against all non-essential travel indefinitely.
The safest option is to hold off on rebooking until this advice has been lifted, but there’s no telling when that might be. And when the time does come, there may not be any indication that the change is imminent. When we asked the FCO if it was possible the travel ban could be lifted overnight, it told us that its travel advice is under constant review and would be relaxed as soon as circumstances allowed.
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 likely it is you’ll have new information to base your decision on.
If you are on a time limit, though, your safest bet is to reschedule your holiday as far in advance as possible, ideally until next year. If you’re still holding out hope for a holiday in 2020, the later in the year you’re able to book for, the less likely it is that coronavirus will disrupt your holiday.
But there are two important things to consider. If you’ve been given travel vouchers instead of a refund, you should 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’ll 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.
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.
Can I book a new holiday?
Not unless the FCO lifts its advice against all but essential travel. For holidays later in the year or in 2021, you should only book if you have valid travel insurance – not just for the duration of your holiday, but from the day you book.
If your annual policy is up for renewal, read the T&Cs to make sure they haven’t changed to exclude coronavirus-related claims.
If you don’t have insurance, don’t travel. If you do, and want to book, only book a package. That will protect your money if the trip is later disrupted or cancelled because of coronavirus. Pay by credit card, if you can, so your bank is jointly liable for your purchase.
Finally, choose a provider you can trust. Many companies have kept their promise to refund passengers whose holidays have been cancelled because of coronavirus. Which? Travel brand of the year, Trailfinders, is giving refunds. It ring-fences all customer cash in a trust fund.
On the Beach, also ring-fences customer money. It is issuing refunds, although it won’t pay the airfare portion of the refund until it receives this from the airline. Customers of adventure specialist Adventure People, South America specialist Journey Latin America and luxury operator Kuoni told us they were given refunds without argument.
This is not a complete list, however. The best advice is to ask the provider what options it will offer you if your holiday is disrupted.