New Which? research has found that holidaymakers booking bargain beach breaks in the Mediterranean for summer 2021 will find better deals and pay less if they book a package, rather than flights and accommodation separately.
Which? compared the price of 10 package holidays from the UK's two largest package holiday providers - Jet2 Holidays and Tui - for holidays in May 2021, with the cost of booking the exact same holidays DIY. The packages were cheaper in eight out of 10 cases.
Package holidays also protect you and your money against changing travel corridors, lockdowns and companies going bust
We compared the price of the cheapest package holidays available online from five UK airports from both Tui and Jet2 Holidays for May 2021 with the cost of identical DIY holidays.
In every case, we calculated the price of the DIY packages by finding the cheapest airfare available on any airline and the best price for the same hotel room using hotel booking websites. We included one check-in bag per passenger and the cost of return airport transfers, if these were included in the package, to create an identical holiday.
We found four of five Tui packages and four of five Jet2 Holidays packages were cheaper than identical DIY holidays. Savings ranged from 4% to 76%; in most cases they were double digits.
The only departure point from which it was cheaper to book flights and hotels separately was Leeds Bradford and even here the price was just £24 per person less than the Tui holiday and £31 per person lower than the Jet2holidays package, which is negligible given the protection packages offer.
In a couple of cases, we found there were ways to further reduce the cost of the DIY booking if you made some compromises by flying to an airport further away from your destination, or by opting for a lower luggage allowance. For instance, when travelling from Glasgow to Salou you could fly to Barcelona instead of Reus. This gives a saving of £54, but a much longer journey.
Similarly, when we looked at a seven-night holiday from Leeds to Majorca, we found a couple could save £49 by travelling with just 10kg hand luggage each instead of checking in two larger bags.
Many customers with flight-only bookings have found it impossible to get refunds this summer, even when lockdowns have prevented them travelling or the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office has issued a warning against travel. In many cases they lost the cost of their flight.
Tui and Jet2 Holidays and almost all other tour operators have issued refunds when customers have been locked down or travel corridor advice from the FCDO has changed. That's because package holidays are covered by the Package Travel Regulations 2018.
Almost all package holidays are also Atol-protected. That means you'll be fully refunded if your tour operator or airline goes bust. There's no similar scheme to protect you if you just book a flight with an airline - you'll likely lose your money.
In short, a package holiday is the best way to protect yourself against further disruption.
While all package holidays are covered by the Package Travel Regulations, we've seen during the pandemic that some tour operators are better at fulfilling their legal obligations than others.
Some have taken months to refund customers whose holidays were cancelled due to COVID-19, even though the law states they must be refunded within 14 days.
Given that many more holidays will be cancelled, it's worth considering booking with a tour operator that has done the right thing during the pandemic and paid refunds within the required timeframe. such as Jet2 Holidays, Trailfinders and Kuoni have committed to paying cash refunds within 30 days or less.