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25 Jul 2020

Coronavirus: will my summer holiday go ahead? Should I cancel?

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

With coronavirus restrictions eased and the UK government's announcement we can travel again to 59 destinations without quarantining, holidays are back on.

Last month, a 14-day quarantine period for travellers arriving in Britain was put in place. However, the government's recent announcement of 'travel corridors' means Brits can travel abroad to countries on the list without the need for quarantine on return to the UK from July 10.

It has been announced that the same travel corridors will apply in Wales and Northern Ireland. Scotland has different rules, with 57 countries on its list.

[Update] Read our Spain holidays Q&A for up to date information on refunds and holiday cancellations now it has been removed from the travel corridor list.

Crucially though, this corridor system is not a two-way deal. You may still be required to isolate at the foreign destination if they have their own quarantine rules in place. Some countries may deny Brits entry, such as in New Zealand.

Confusingly, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) lifted its non-essential travel warning to a longer list of countries on July 4, so the two don't quite match up. For example, Canada has no FCO warning in place, but you must quarantine on return to the UK. So where does this leave you with regards to holidays?

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:

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 and 'travel corridor' information important?

In light of the coronavirus pandemic, the FCO advised against all non-essential international travel. This unprecedented advice was announced on 17 March, initially for a 30-day period, but was then extended indefinitely. However, from 4 July, this advice was removed for 76 destinations, now deemed 'safe' enough to travel to.

With this change of advice, things have become more clear cut for holiday makers. If your holiday is in is set to be in a country with no FCO warning, it will likely now go ahead. It's great news if you're keen to travel. If you're too concerned to go abroad though and you cancel, you're less likely to be able to recoup money.

More generally, the FCO advice is also important because it means that if your holiday is now cancelled by a travel company, 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. But it won't cover a disinclination to travel.

How does the 'travel corridor' system affect travel?

The system selects 'safe' countries based on their coronavirus transmission risk levels. Countries that are on the approved list have lower or similar infection rates than the UK. It means you are less or equally likely to contract the disease.

Spain, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, the Vatican and Gibraltar have been confirmed as places we can travel to, with no need to quarantine on return to the UK. Further afield, the likes of Australia, Barbados, Jamaica, New Zealand and South Korea are also on the list.

Scottish citizens however will be able to visit 57 countries without quarantining on return - two less than the wider UK's list. The two exemptions differing to the rest of the UK are Spain and Serbia.

Because FCO advice will be lifted, your holiday will likely not be cancelled. If you choose to cancel your holiday because you feel unsafe, you won't be entitled to a refund. You should push for a date change instead, but there are no guarantees. If you are a high-risk person, you may be able to claim on insurance - check your policy.

It gets confusing with countries such as Canada. The FCO says you can travel to them but you will have to quarantine on your return making the holiday less feasible. This is where it gets tricky because the holiday may still go ahead without you wanting to go and companies may still try to take the money.

Will I have to quarantine on return from high-risk countries?

The all but essential travel warning will remain in place for higher-risk countries. And if you visit those you will have to quarantine for 14 days afterwards. This 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.

Under the current rules, anyone other than exempt workers arriving into the UK could face a fine of up to £480 in Scotland or £1,000 in the rest of the UK, 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.

Find out what the quarantine rules mean for your summer holiday.

Video: your travel questions answered

Can I holiday with my household in the UK?.

From 4 July, you were allowed to stay away from home. Holiday accommodation was permitted to open, including hotels which need to follow Covid-19 secure guidelines to minimise the risk of infection for visitors.

In this new loosened phase, you can visit your second home.

Should I cancel my summer 2020 package holiday?

No. If you're happy to travel, then it's likely your holiday will now go ahead if it's in an approved country.

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're opposed to going abroad and the country you're set to go to is on the approved list, you have a few options. Assess how much a deposit you've laid down. If it's negligible, it might be worth cutting your losses if you're definitely not going to travel.

Another option is to wait until closer to the time to see if where you're heading is still deemed a safe country by the FCO. The advice could change if a country's coronavirus infections spike. If your holiday is cancelled 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. It may also be worth cancelling early if it means you're charged less of a cancellation fee - this is often the case with villa-only bookings.

If you 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 instead. Some travel companies will have flexible policies in place, so it's worth checking.

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 45 days before departure - if you booked by 31 July. If you book after July 1 and before September 30 for a holiday in 2020, you can cancel up to seven days before and gain a full refund
  • British Airways Holidays - bookings up to 31 August 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
  • Great Rail Journeys - free postponement on all holidays up to 31 July
  • 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 from 31 July (holidays before then are cancelled)
  • Saga - all bookings up to 1 September have been cancelled and you can amend bookings up to 31 October free of charge
  • 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 1 October have been cancelled)
  • Trailfinders - bookings up to 31 October can be amended for free (most bookings up to 25 July have been cancelled)
  • Tui - holidays up to 10 July 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. Tui has also announced it will pay all extra holiday costs incurred by Brits if they catch coronavirus while on holiday.The Covid-19 Cover will be provided to every customer travelling on any Tui holiday between 11 July and 31 December 2020. It applies to all new and existing bookings. The extra protection can be used alongside travel insurance and covers medical tests, flights and extended hotel stays if customers fall ill or are asked to self-isolate.

Should you cancel? Not unless 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 and travel.

plane taking off

What if I haven't paid for the holiday in full yet?

Now that some holidays are going ahead, you need to check first if the country you're due to go to is on the 'safe' list as dictated by the government. Then decide if you're willing to travel. If you're still paying for a package holiday and you are not willing to travel, it might be best to assess how large your deposit cost and whether it's best to cut your losses.

Before you do that though, it's best to look at available options as soon as possible. Many companies will defer payments and some at least for the next few weeks are allowing free rebooking if you are not inclined to travel. These are your best options if you stand to lose a large deposit.

If you want to travel, pay up in full and if it gets cancelled nearer the date you'll be entitled to a refund. If you don't pay up, you'll forfeit protection under the package holiday protection scheme and lose your deposit. This is important because it's what will protect your money should your holiday provider go bust between now and your travel date.

If you have to pay a balance on a holiday to a country which the FCO advises against travelling to, you could ask for a date change, so that your Atol protection remains in tact, or decide if you're willing to lose the deposit. If not, pay in full and if the warning is still in place by the time you travel, the company might cancel the holiday anyway, meaning you're entitled to a refund. There is a chance the provider may only give you 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.

In both instances, it is best to contact your travel provider to find out all eventualities and what you stand to lose. You might be offered a decent resolution. 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.

Should you cancel? If you cancel you'll lose your deposit and any instalments you've already paid. However if the country is open for business and you don't want to travel, you may have to forfeit your deposit. Check with your holiday provider for options before cancelling as you may be able to rebook for a later date.

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 cancelled your flight, you probably won't be able to cancel these flights without incurring a fee. It is likely most flights will be up and running soon. EasyJet, Ryanair and Wizz Air have already begun flying and Jet2 restarts flights on July 15. If you want to cancel, you may be able to amend the date of your journey for free if you paid for a flexi ticket. If you paid for a regular fare, standard terms and conditions may apply and you'll need to pay to rebook, but it's bet to ask for your options.

Some e 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/destination changes up to 14 days before travel
  • Emirates - tickets booked before 31 July have been given 24 months validity, so you can change the flight if you don't wish to travel
  • Jet2- is also offering free date and destination changes on travel up to 15 July. However, it has ceased all flights between now and then, so you're better off waiting for Jet2 to contact you and explain your options, as you're 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.

easyJet is also offering a voucher if you cancel currently. If the country you're flying to is not a 'travel corridor' and an FCO warning remains in place, you may be better off holding out for a voucher, but it's a gamble.

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.

hotel lobby

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 advises you shouldn't visit that country and you have no way of getting there because your flights were cancelled.

If you booked with an accommodation booking site, check its terms.Airbnb said that reservations for stays and experiences made on or before 14 March with a check-in date between 14 March and 15 July 2020 are eligible for a full refund, if customers cancel before check-in.

Booking.com was issuing refunds if you booked before April 6. Now that the FCO warning is lifted for some countries this will likely change. 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 as there are no restrictions in place from 4 July.

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. We've also found the same was happening to Villa Plus customers, until Which? stepped in.

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

The government is still advising people to avoid cruises despite the blanket ban on non-essential travel being lifted for a number of destinations.

Many of the major cruise companies have cancelled sailings at least until July, while P&O Cruises and Cunard have cancelled until 15 October and 1 November respectively.

If you're booking is currently scheduled to go ahead, 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 Fred Olsen in 2020, for instance, you can amend your booking to any of its other cruises currently on sale without any admin fees or loss of deposit, provided you let Fred Olsen know at least two weeks before your original departure date.

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.

With FCO advice lifted on 59 countries, it will likely be possible for you to get insurance again.

While many travel insurers stopped selling new policies back in March, a growing number are starting to return to the market, so it should be possible to buy travel insurance. Lots of policies don't provide any cover for claims relating to coronavirus, though. Some insurers, including Staysure and Saga, are offering insurance for medical claims related to coronavirus, such as if you contract coronavirus while on holiday, while holiday provider Trailfinders has introduced a policy that also provides cover for coronavirus-related cancellations. But you'll need to scrutinise these policies very carefully to find exactly what you are and aren't covered for.

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.

Read the latest coronavirus news and advice from Which?.

sunny beach bulgaria

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?

It's best to book only to destinations where the FCO has approved. However, be aware these countries' coronavirus cases could spike at any time. You also need to check out restrictions in place at local destinations. Find out about entry requirements, whether bars, beaches and hotels are open in Italy, Spain, Greece and other popular European destinations in our where can I go on holiday in Europe guide.

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.

Find out more about when you should book your next holiday.