Even though the UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has indicated that he will start to ease lockdown measures in the UK from next week, it still seems highly unlikely that any of us will be jetting off on holiday any time soon.
Sorry to be the voice of doom, but there it is. Even if we’re allowed to travel in the UK this summer (and to be honest, even that isn’t by any means a given), we’ll probably still be banned from visiting other countries, at least until the autumn.
This is creating a dilemma for tens of thousands of people, especially families, who are due to pay the balance for their summer holidays any day now. Even though the holidays are unlikely to happen, tour operators have yet to cancel departures that far ahead and so – in most cases – they’re still expecting customers to pay the balance eight to 12 weeks in advance.
Should you pay or should you cancel?
If you cancel your holiday rather than waiting for the tour operator to cancel the trip, you could lose your deposit and possibly any other money you’ve paid upfront, depending on the tour operator’s terms and conditions and how long before departure you cancel.
However, if you pay the balance and the tour operator subsequently cancels your holiday (which they almost certainly will), you will be entitled to a full refund, assuming you booked a package. That said, it is taking some tour operators for ever to process these refunds and many are trying to fob customers off with vouchers or credit notes instead.
If you only paid a small deposit, it might be worth cancelling and risk losing only that rather than paying out more money that you might not get back until next year – but before you do, check your tour operator’s T&Cs to make sure they can’t claim further payments for a late cancellation.
The best advice if you’ve already paid a large deposit is to pay the balance and wait for the tour operator to cancel, then insist on a cash refund rather than vouchers or a credit note.
Alternatively, it might be worth contacting your tour operator, or speaking to your travel agent, to see if you can re-book your trip for later this year or for the same time next year. This would delay the payment of the balance by up to 12 months.
Several tour operators are allowing customers to re-book summer holidays that haven’t yet been cancelled. All TUI holidays up to July 11 can be changed free of charge, as long as the bookings were made before March 16. TUI cruises can be changed up to July 31, free of amendment fees.
If your tour operator won’t allow you to delay your holiday, you could still speak to your agent or tour operator about delaying the balance payment. Many agents have already asked tour operators for help in this regard and some operators are sympathetic.
Olympic Holidays is giving clients the option to pay only part of the balance for departures up to August 15, eastern European specialist Balkan Holidays is letting clients pay as late as four weeks before departure instead of the usual 10, and Egypt specialist Red Sea Holidays will let you pay the balance two weeks ahead for holidays due to depart in June and July and four weeks ahead for August and September departures.
Long-haul holiday specialist If Only said it was looking at balance payments on a client by client basis depending on the T&Cs imposed on the company by the hotels, cruise companies and airlines it works with.
Some cruise lines have also introduced more flexible amendment and cancellation policies, so it’s always worth approaching your travel company and asking what the options are before you hand over any more money.