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20 Aug 2020

Prices plummet for cheap last-minute summer holiday deals to Portugal, Turkey and Greece - is it safe to book?

Package holidays are a bargain, but be careful who you book with and how
Kefalonia greece package holiday

The introduction of quarantine measures for holidaymakers returning to the UK from Croatia, Spain and other popular European destinations has put many people off taking a summer holiday. The result is that prices for last-minute, cheap deals to places that are on the travel corridor list and exempt from quarantine restrictions, such as Turkey are at rock-bottom prices.

Packages to Portugal and Greece are also cheaper, but you can only benefit from the travel corridor if you live in England or Northern Ireland, as Wales and Scotland recently removed them from their lists.

The risk is that these destinations are suddenly removed from all UK isles' lists, and you're unable to get a refund for some or all of your holiday. But book with the right company, in the right way and you can protect your booking if disruption does occur.

How cheap are summer holiday deals to Portugal, Greece and Turkey?

Cheap. You can book a basic, seven-day, all-inclusive to Portugal leaving in the next week for around £500pp (two people sharing). That's a bargain for a trip leaving in the school summer holidays.

Which? Recommended Provider Jet2 Holidays has an all-inclusive week in Dalaman, Turkey, leaving in the first week of September, for £430pp (two people sharing).

Is it safe to book a holiday to Portugal, Greece, Turkey and other travel corridor destinations ?

The prices may be right, but the risk of disruption remains high. The UK government continues to introduce quarantine measures to countries when cases of coronavirus rise with little notice. And Scotland, Wales, England and Northern Ireland don't always have the same rules. These restrictions are usually announced each Thursday evening. Your holiday could also be affected by a local lockdown or you being asked to isolate by test and trace, for example.

But it is possible to book a summer holiday with confidence and protect your money against further disruption. Simply answer the following questions first:

1) Can I quarantine on my return?
If you can't quarantine on your return to the UK because your work situation or personal life makes it impossible, you shouldn't travel. There is no guarantee that any country, including Turkey, currently on the UK travel corridor list, will still be on the list when you travel. Portugal has within two weeks been removed by Wales and Scotland, but not yet England or Northern Ireland. However, rising cases there make this likely.

The government re-introduced quarantine restrictions on travel to Malta and France with just a day's notice. If you're abroad when this happens, it's unlikely you'll get back to the UK before mandatory quarantine rules are introduced.

2) Is it a package holiday?
This is not the time for a DIY trip. When the quarantine rules for Spain changed and the FCO warned against travel to the country, package holiday providers such as Jet2 Holidays and Tui cancelled trips and offered customers an alternative booking or a full refund.

However, airlines kept flying, meaning customers couldn't claim a refund. Some airlines did allow rebooking, but this often came with a hefty charge and a fare increase. For some travellers it meant writing off the cost of the holiday.

Your money is better protected against disruption if you book a package. Well, it is if you book with the right company.

3) Can I trust the holiday operator?
Most tour operators broke the law over refunds for cancelled holidays in recent months, misleading customers over their rights and/or refusing or delaying refunds. Some have since apologised and sped up the process, but others continue to give customers the run-around.

With some customers chasing refunds for months, you want to make sure that you book with a company you can trust with your money. Check out our list of the 23 holiday companies you can trust. This list isn't exhaustive, so if you're considering a company that isn't on the list, check its social media platform to see whether customers are praising it or pleading for their money back.

Avoid Love Holidays and On the Beach. While they do sell package holidays, unlike other tour operators they're refusing to issue refunds when the FCO issues a warning against travel.

4) Will my travel insurance cover me?
It's possible to get travel insurance that covers almost all eventualities, including cover for coronavirus-related disruption. This can help cover cancellation or disruption caused if, for example, test and trace tells you to self-isolate or if a lockdown causes your hotel to close.

However, for comprehensive cover, you're going to need to combine a good insurance policy with a package holiday booking. That's because very few travel insurance policies will cover holders who don't wish to go ahead with a holiday because the FCO is warning against travel, or the destination country introduces restrictions. But if you've booked a package holiday, the holiday will be cancelled in those circumstances anyway and you can claim a full refund anyway.