Booking a holiday

Holidays can be expensive, so it’s always a good idea to shop around to get the best deal. Always try to book through a travel operator that can offer you protection and make sure to get travel insurance that covers you if things do go wrong.

Choosing a travel operator

There are lots of travel operators online and on the high street, meaning you can get a great deal but it can also be overwhelming to choose one.

Speak to your travel agent or tour operator about the protection they have if something happens. You should ask if:

  • they have an Air Travel Organisers Licence (ATOL)
  • they are a member of an approved body such as the Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA)
  • they have a suitable insurance policy
  • they have a protection scheme or trust fund for any payments you make ahead of travelling

Make sure to ask if the protections they have in place cover the travel arrangements you are making. If they don’t, the company may be able to offer suitable insurance to cover you.

Booking tips

Here are some tips for booking your holiday. You should:

  • shop around to get the best deal
  • use a reputable travel company – this can be on the high street or online
  • get your travel insurance sorted at the same time – make sure it gives you the cover you need
  • pay your deposit with a credit card

Paying your deposit or your whole holiday with a credit card can give you extra protection. This is especially handy if you’re not protected by an ATOL, as you may be able to claim back from your credit card company. However, be aware, you may be charged a fee for using a credit card.

If you book a package or flight plus holiday you should get an ATOL certificate. This certificate will tell you what cover you have. Make sure to read it carefully and bring it with you on holiday.

Holiday and flight scams

Be careful of unsolicited emails, phone calls or adverts online offering you cheap flights and holidays. If it sounds too good to be true, then it probably is.

Find out more about scams.

Package holidays

You are going on a package holiday when you pre-book at least two of the following, with the same tour operator or travel agent for a period of more than 24 hours:

  • transport to and from the holiday destination
  • overnight accommodation in the holiday destination
  • other tourist services not related to transport or accommodation and accounting for a significant amount of the package, such as day trips or tours, fishing rights or car hire

You must also get a total price for the package, including all the travel arrangements and services you’ve booked.

If you have booked a package holiday (usually a combination of transport and accommodation) in the UK then you will be protected by the Package Travel Regulations.

These laws give consumers special protection where things go wrong or circumstances change in the period after the booking has been made. They also outline when you can claim compensation.

Holiday brochures

When you buy a package holiday, the brochure must contain information about:

  • the destination and the type of transport used to reach the destination
  • the type of accommodation, its location, category or degree of comfort and its main features (if the accommodation is in a country in the European Union, its approval or tourist classification under the rules of that EU country must be given)
  • the meals included
  • the itinerary
  • general information about passport and visa requirements which apply to the nationals of the member State(s) in which the brochure is made available
  • health requirements for the journey and the stay
  • either the amount of money or the amount of the overall price which is to be paid on account and the timetable for payment of the balance
  • if a minimum number of people is required for the package to take place and the deadline for informing you if the package is cancelled
  • any arrangements in place if you are delayed on your way to or home from the destination
  • arrangements to make sure any money you paid for your holiday is safe
  • arrangements to bring you home if the holiday company goes out of business

Price changes

Price changes to your flight or accommodation are only allowed to cover changes to:

  • transport costs
  • taxes
  • fees
  • exchange rates

If the price increase is less than two per cent, the tour operator must absorb the change.  No price increase may be passed on to you within 30 days of departure on your holiday.

Flights Plus

A holiday is Flights Plus if you book a flight along with car hire or accommodation with the same holiday company that lasts over 24 hours and includes an overnight stay. It must also include:

  • a flight departing from the UK
  • a booking where any transport is used to depart the UK, but includes a flight back into the UK
  • the hotel or car hire must be outside the UK

Your travel company can link to another company's website to book other parts of your holiday, but you must book, or ask to book your flight and either your hotel or car hire on the same day or within a day of one another.

Flights Plus bookings are covered by ATOL, unless you book directly with an airline. Airlines aren’t covered by the ATOL scheme.

Independent travellers

If you have booked your holiday independently, this could mean you booked the flights directly with the airline and the accommodation directly with the hotel; you won’t be covered by an ATOL. If you’re not protected you may want to consider getting extra cover in case things go wrong.

Insurance

You should always get travel insurance no matter how you book but if you’re booking independently check if your insurance policy covers airline failure or gives you extra holiday protection.

Most insurance policies won’t include a Scheduled Airline Failure Insurance (SAFI) as standard but you may be able to:

  • buy SAFI as an add-on
  • buy separate holiday protection insurance

If your insurance policy includes a SAFI, always check the airline you’re using is covered. Adding extra protection will increase the cost of your policy so you may want to consider the following before you buy:

  • what you paid for the trip
  • how confident you feel about the airline
  • how cheaply or easily you could get home another way

Make sure to read the booking tips above if you’re booking independently.

Cancelling your holiday

If something happens and you need to cancel your holiday, check the terms and conditions of your booking. It should explain your rights to cancel. If in doubt, speak to your travel operator.

You may be able to claim on your travel insurance, but you’ll need to show that you had a good reason to cancel.

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