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It’s a big weekend for booking a holiday abroad.
All travel restrictions for people coming into the UK will be scrapped at 4am on February 11th, just in time for the half-term break.
This is clearly the news that a lot of us have been waiting for because there has been a surge of bookings and travel companies are braced for a busy weekend of bookings.
But there’s still more risk than there was in pre-COVID times. What if another variant breaks out and wrecks travel? What if a COVID outbreak closes the hotel? What if one of group tests positive the day before the flight?
Watch: Shapps confirms plan to scrap travel tests for vaccinated passengers arriving in UK
You want to be sure that if something goes wrong then you can get your money back.
So, before you book that break, you need to know how to keep your money safe. Here’s how.
Book a package holiday
Shopping around for the various bits of your break can help you save money – but during COVID you may get better protections by booking a package holiday.
When you book a package break you get extra financial protections, meaning you get a refund if the travel company goes out of business. If you’re on holiday, you will be brought home.
Given the economic pressure on the sector after two years of pandemic, that’s useful extra cover.
Know your rights
One issue in 2020 was that people had rights when it came to getting refunds on their cancelled holidays - but they didn’t know about them.
That meant some holiday firms were able to delay refunding customers or to insist they accepted vouchers rather than refunds. Some people wanted vouchers, of course, but some didn’t realise they could get their cash back.
So, if your package holiday is cancelled or the flights are cancelled then you are entitled to a refund within 14 days.
But you still need to know what flexibility your holiday company is offering if you want to cancel yourself. Perhaps because the UK suddenly advises against travel to an area or if you don’t want to visit because of local restrictions.
So as well as your rights, you need to know what terms your holiday provider is offering.
Check cancellation policies (and then check again)
During COVID, lots of holiday firms have put extra flexibility into their booking policies to help customers feel confident about planning a break.
But don’t assume every holiday offers flexibility, make sure you understand exactly when you can cancel or not – or when a trip will be changed.
Some travel firms will immediately refund you if the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office advises against travel to a country. Others will let you change to a different holiday without paying any fees if local restrictions in your destination get tightened.
And some allow you to postpone a break or take a refund if you test positive for covid and can’t fly.
Just make sure that you understand the rules so that the disappointment of not being able to travel isn’t quickly followed by the disappointment of being seriously out of pocket!
The moment you book a holiday you should take out travel insurance. Lots of people wait until just before they fly but actually by booking it earlier you all that extra protection if anything goes wrong.
And things going wrong isn’t limited to COVID, unfortunately. You might lose your job or fall ill or have to attend a funeral.
There are many things that can happen between booking a break and boarding a plane and the sooner you have insurance, the sooner you are protected.
One thing you need to be aware of is that many travel insurance policies have limited COVID cover. Many policies will cover cancellations if one of your party tests positive for COVIID and can’t fly but you should always check carefully.
Some policies will not provide cover if you are told to isolate, which is something unvaccinated people really need to be aware of when they are shopping for insurance.
Almost no policies will pay out if you simply change your mind because of the COVID situation. It’s worth spending time understanding if a policy is right for you – and not just go with the cheapest.
Understand what will happen if you test positive abroad
Protecting what you have spent on your holiday is one thing. But another risk is what happens if you test positive abroad.
If you can’t fly home and have to isolate then that’s potential a very expensive isolation period in another country.
Some holiday firms will cover the cost of accommodation for your isolation period but make sure you know if yours does. If it’s not included then you need to be even more careful about finding an insurance policy that would pick up the bill.
This list of stuff you need to think about might seem boring compared to browsing beaches.
But it’s worth taking the time to understand the Ts and Cs, and to make sure your holiday is as safe as possible.
That way, you can relax and look forward to it instead of worrying every time you hear the word ‘COVID'.
Watch: Omicron - are we turning a corner?