The prospect of taking a summer holiday this year still looks unclear, as Covid-19 cases in the UK still need to be driven down.
The UK government is due to outline its lockdown exit roadmap in the week commencing 22 February, but it is not yet known if the strategy will include any changes to the rules on travel and holidays.
However, with the Covid-19 vaccine rollout now well underway, surpassing more than 13 million vaccinations, it is possible that coronavirus levels will fall to a level that is safe enough to allow summer holidays to go ahead.
If you have a summer holiday booked that is unable to go ahead due to lockdown restrictions, this is everything you need to know about protecting your money.
Can I book a holiday?
Both domestic and international leisure travel is banned in the UK under current restrictions.
However, rules do not stipulate that you cannot book a holiday for a later date in the hope restrictions will be lifted in time for the departure date.
Will I get my money back if the trip is cancelled?
Your rights to refund will depend on the type of trip and the reason for the cancellation.
If a travel company cancels your holiday you are entitled to get your money back, and those who have booked a package holiday, which usually includes flights and accommodation, have the strongest protection.
When you book a package holiday you are protected under consumer law, meaning that you are entitled to a refund in the event your trip is cancelled or significantly changed.
How long will I have to wait for a refund?
Legally, refunds for flights and package holidays should be paid within seven and 14 days respectively.
However, due to the huge volume of cancellations over the course of the pandemic, thousands of consumers have been forced to wait much longer for their money back, with the process taking several months in some cases.
A full refund must be processed by the company within 14 days and in the case of package holidays, your money remains backed by the government’s Atol scheme while you hold your booking, even if the departure date has passed.
This means you will still get your money back even if the company goes bust, which is not necessarily the case if you accept a voucher.
Do I have to accept a voucher?
Many travel companies have offered vouchers or refund credit notes in the event of a cancelled booking.
While companies are entitled to offer these alternatives, they must also offer the option of a cash refund within 14 days.
Before accepting a voucher or credit note, consumers are advised to check they are financially protected.
What if I cannot travel due to lockdown restrictions?
The Competition and Markets Authority says that consumers should be refunded if you are unable to travel due to lockdown restrictions.
However, some airlines and accommodation providers have only been offering vouchers in this instance.
What if I decide I don’t want to travel?
If you think you might change your mind about wanting to travel, it is advisable that you make a flexible booking.
Several major airlines and travel companies have now removed their fees for changing dates up to a certain time before departure.
Some accommodation providers, such as Airbnb, are also offering refundable bookings.
What if a travel firm goes bust?
Consumers who have booked a package holiday would be entitled to a full refund through the Atol scheme in the event a travel firm goes bust.
However, those with other bookings would likely need to try to claim their money back through their credit or debit card provider.