England, Scotland and Wales have all outlined different dates this spring for the restart of domestic holidays and for when you can cross borders.
In England and wales, domestic holidays are now permitted with members of your own household, while at the earliest, holiday accommodation will re-open in Scotland on 26 April.
Planning a holiday in England and Wales (provided you live there) is less risky now that accommodation is open, but booking one in Scotland is still risky. The 26 April is a target date so it makes sense to wait for it to be confirmed before booking a trip.
There are still some risks involved with booking any holiday, even domestic trips. Whilst the government hopes the easing of lockdown will be irreversible, there is always the possibility of a U-turn. Additionally, there’s no guarantee you’ll be allowed to mix indoors with other households.
If you do choose to book, it’s important you do so with a holiday cottage or accommodation provider that will refund you – and one with a good flexible booking policy. If rules change, then you should have more financial protections.
Read on for everything you should consider before booking a holiday in the UK this summer.
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When will holiday accommodation open in Wales?
Holiday accommodation in Wales is already open. Stays are permitted in self-catered accommodation only, or hotels that can offer room service. Places where guests have to use shared facilities will not be allowed to open.
When will holiday accommodation open in England?
Self-catered holiday accommodation in England, such as cottages and campsites is now open. This includes self-contained apartments and lodges within hotel grounds. Regular hotels and B&Bs will not reopen until 17 May at the earliest.
A single household will be allowed overnight stays away from home.
When will holiday accommodation open in Scotland?
It is hoped holiday accommodation will re-open on 26 April. This easing of restrictions will be based on scientific data nearer the time. Whilst travel to and from different areas is now permitted in Scotland, you cannot yet stay overnight and you cannot visit Scotland from other parts of the UK.
When can I cross the border and go on holiday elsewhere in the UK?
The border between England and Wales is now open, so you may cross over for a holiday with members of your own household. However, you still cannot travel to and from Scotland to other parts of the UK and holiday accommodation in Scotland is not yet open.
Should I book a holiday in the UK?
If you reside in England or Wales, holidays are now permitted, so booking is less risky in either of those countries. However, remember that if either country has a spike in coronavirus cases, travel could be reduced again, so just be sure to book with a flexible self-catering holiday company. It’s advisable not to book across the border in Scotland just yet though, wait until travel is permitted.
If you reside in Scotland, it’s best to wait until holidays are permitted again before booking.
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 in England.
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, levels still exist, so it would pay to keep an eye on infection rates in your local area.
If the area where your holiday cottage is located is placed under level 4 restrictions 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 amendments or refunds if COVID-19 restrictions mean you aren’t able to travel. However others have trickier terms and conditions and may let you amend your booking but only to bring the date forward. Others will try to accommodate requests to move your date but say there’s no guarantee.
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 hopefully be allowed to meet inside in England from 17 May.
From 21 June, the English government hopes normality will resume, which could mean you can holiday with multiple households.
Wales has proposed 10 May for when two households can mix indoors, while Scotland hopes up to 4 people from up to 2 households can mix from 17 May.
However, you need to remember that all dates are target dates.
Choose a holiday cottage provider that will reduce your costs, 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.