Self-catering holidays in England can go ahead from 12 April, subject to review of the scientific data ahead of that date. One household will be allowed to stay overnight elsewhere in England, meaning holidays can go ahead. This will include holiday cottages, but hotels and B&Bs will not reopen until 17 May.
At the earliest, holiday accommodation will re-open in Scotland on 26 April – a date where First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said she hopes most areas will be placed into level 3. This date is not guaranteed. Additionally, whilst accommodation can open in a level 3 area, only those local to the area should use the hotels and B&Bs. You should not travel into the area or leave it to go on holiday.
Wales is aiming for Easter to reopen self-catering holiday accommodation.
While you may have been waiting for a government announcement before planning to book holiday cottage or UK holiday, there are still hurdles to consider before rushing into booking.
First, dates set out by the government are target dates. It’s subject to a review, based on data on vaccination rollout and the number of people requiring hospitalisation. There’s no guarantee, so when booking you should take this into account. The lockdown may remain in place. If the holiday can’t go ahead, it’s important you have booked with a holiday cottage or accommodation provider that will refund you – and one with a good flexible booking policy.
Read on for everything you should consider before booking a holiday in the UK this summer.
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National restrictions for self-catered accommodation and holiday cottages to ease
Self-catering accommodation is targeted to open from 12 April in England, shortly after Easter. You can travel around England for a holiday, although only with your own household.
From 26 April at the very earliest in Scotland, you may be able to stay in holiday accommodation, but only in your local area if you’re under level 3 restrictions.
The risk is that the government, having reviewed the data, decides to push back the dates. Some holiday cottage providers refused refunds during lockdowns in 2020 until the Competition and Markets Authority stepped in as the result of complaints made by Which?.
It’s important you avoid these providers, as Which? has heard reports some customers are still chasing refunds. Instead, book with a trustworthy company Which? has investigated the refund policies and customer experiences from all major holiday cottage providers to help you choose.
The possibility of tier and level local restrictions
Rules can change overnight, and there’s no way of predicting if local restrictions will be in place at the time of travel.
Right now, the government has said it doesn’t intend for tiered restrictions to return in England, but you can’t rule out the possibility if certain areas see a sudden surge in infections.
In Scotland, there’s no guarantee that your area will be placed into level 3 on 26 April.
If the area where your holiday cottage resides is placed under tier 3 or 4 restrictions, or level 4 in Scotland (which prevent it from opening), then you should be given a full refund. However, it’s a grey area if you’re living somewhere that is placed under these rules.
To guarantee a refund, choose a cottage holiday company with flexible booking policies.
Contracting COVID-19 or being told to isolate
You need to consider the possibility you could catch COVID-19 or be asked to isolate by the NHS Test and Trace app at the time of your holiday. Many cottage holiday providers will not refund you in these instances. Instead, you’ll need insurance.
Some reputable cottage providers do offer free amendments or refunds if COVID-19 restrictions mean you aren’t able to travel.
Be clear before booking if you’re covered. If you need insurance, make sure your policy will cover you in this instance.
Limits on guests in holiday cottages
Groups of six people and two households will be allowed to meet inside from 17 May. From 21 June, the government hopes normality will resume, meaning you’ll be allowed to holiday with multiple households.
However, you need to remember that these are target dates. Choose a cottage holiday provider that will reduce your cottage cost, or refund you if you have chosen a large cottage and you can only travel in a rule of six, or with one other household at the time of your trip.