Find out how to e book a visit with out the stress, with ideas for versatile bookings and insurance coverage
Do you feel like you need some winter sun even though we are still in autumn? Would you like to book a ski trip or a Christmas vacation to look forward to something?
We know that travel benefits our emotional and creative wellbeing. Several scientific studies have also shown that there is a link between the expectation of a trip and happiness. But with so many hurdles to overcome in order to leave the country – at least in the short to medium term – preparing for a vacation could be more fearful than joyful right now.
With the travel industry in dire straits, hotels, airlines and tour operators are increasingly looking for ways to instill optimism and confidence in potential vacationers – to bring back some of that happiness and inject much-needed cash.
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At the start of the pandemic, widespread rule violations hurt consumer confidence when travel stalled completely. Millions of flights and holidays have been canceled due to blocking, many of which have not been reimbursed within the legal timeframe (seven days for flights, 14 days for package tours under EU law).
On the opening day of the French holiday resort Les 2 Alpes in October, there will be skiing (Photo: JEFF PACHOUD / AFP / Getty)
More recently, targets have been temporarily overridden through advice and quarantine restrictions from the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO). The travel card has changed weekly since July, so anything but last-minute bookings feel like a calculated gamble when the “travel corridors” of the Ministry of Transport are opened and closed.
Now that winter infection rates soar in Europe, ski trips are at risk – France, Italy, Austria and Switzerland are inaccessible to British travelers. Still, the Department of Transportation’s “tradition” of updating its travel advice on a Thursday at 5:00 p.m. may restore favor as quickly as it removes it. The most recent beneficiaries are the Canary Islands, Denmark and the Maldives.
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Tour operators and travel destinations would therefore like to motivate customers to go on a winter ski trip with an increasing range of flexible rebooking and cancellation guarantees. “‘It’s likely that the holidays will continue to be suspended until 2021, so these flexible booking policies can really help,” said Rory Boland, editor of Which? Travel. “Those offering a rebooking or even a better refund are particularly useful when test and trace or a local UK lockdown means you cannot travel or the destination you are flying to is removed from the travel corridor list. “
Adds Boland, “It is important to study the details of the policy as some have snappy ads but small print and hooks behind them. For example, some offer free rebooking but limit the dates you can do this. This means that your summer vacation must now be in the fall. Others limit the number of times you can schedule a new appointment. It is crucial that a free rebooking usually only means that the administration fee is waived. You still have to pay the difference if the vacation on the new dates is more expensive – and it usually is. “
Find travel security
Without government support, the quickest route to trust is through these types of assurances. But without a common industry standard, knowing where to look and who to trust can be confusing at best. There are destinations that offer “free insurance”, individual operators that offer “Covid coverage”, and a selection of different guarantees and seemingly favorable booking conditions.
EasyJet Holidays recently launched its Protection Pledge, backed up by a refund guarantee. In practice, this means that his customers can cancel their vacation free of charge if they change their mind, up to 28 days before the start of the trip, when the balance is due. The deposit will be returned as a credit. A full refund will be due if the company cancels a vacation that “has a known need to quarantine or self-isolate at destination”. The company says the average time to get a refund is now 12 days for canceled trips.
Customer Director Matt Callaghan says, “As the country adapts to the new tiering system, we have allowed customers with upcoming departures to cancel their vacation free of charge so that the credit can be used for a future booking at the right time.” .
Cover for vacation
Tui reported a 600 percent jump in finding vacations in the Canary Islands after restrictions were lifted (Photo: Anthony Devlin / AFP).
TUI, the UK’s largest tour operator, and its ski subsidiary Crystal offer their customers Covid Cover. It enables changes if a customer is diagnosed with Covid, needs isolation, or is unable to travel due to local restrictions. It also covers medical care for the virus while on vacation and the cost of extending housing if self-isolation is required.
Family travel specialist Stubborn Mule, which usually sends its customers to long-haul destinations – Costa Rica, Sri Lanka, Vietnam and Cambodia – had to cancel all trips for the rest of the year. Of the 170 families who were supposed to travel over Easter, only three could leave. The operator is now offering its customers a “Covid Safe Guarantee” that promises a refund within one week of the cancellation. The money is stored in a travel escrow, which means that it is only released to the suppliers shortly before departure. This is far easier when customers have or need to cancel.
A stay on a neighboring farm in Scotland gave a traveler the taste of a vacation abroad
Beyond the tour operators, the travel destinations want to reassure visitors with free insurance policies. The Dominican Republic’s Travel Assistance Plan is in effect through the end of the year and includes “medical care,” payments for fare changes, and additional accommodation costs if travelers contract Covid there. Uzbekistan’s Safe Travels program reimburses travelers up to USD 3,000 (£ 2,310) for medical expenses related to Covid infection in the country.
More relevant for the UK market is the free Covid insurance in the Canary Islands, which was taken out by AXA and covers health care and accommodation costs for holidaymakers who contract the disease in the islands. None of these “insurance offers” or guarantees make personal travel insurance redundant. And while insurers are now returning to the market with policies that include Covid coverage, the extent to which this extends varies. “While most travel insurers will insure you for medical expenses if you intercept Covid-19 abroad and need emergency medical treatment, the range of additional Covid coverage that is included in the market policies varies,” said Fiona Macrae, head of the initiative Raising consumer awareness at travelinsuranceexplained.co.uk.
“Some insurers will insure you that if someone on your policy tests positive for Covid-19 will cancel your vacation before you leave. Some may also include coverage if you are refused boarding by an airline on suspicion of Covid-19. This type of coverage will help protect your finances as airport tests become the norm. “
Important tips – flexible travel
That’s what? Travel Guides What To Look For When Finding Flexible Booking Policies …
If you live in any of the third tier restricted areas in England, it is not recommended to travel outside of your area. However, this is not stipulated by law, which is why vacationers have difficulties getting refunds or even rebooking holidays. With the right policy, you can postpone your vacation for free.
FCDO Council changes
Some tour operators have promised not to send customers on vacation to destinations where the FCDO advises against travel and / or which they must quarantine on their return to the UK.
Often times, once you’ve paid your down payment, you still have to pay installments and eventually the balance of the vacation – even if it is unlikely to happen. Look for guidelines that will reduce the deposit amount and allow you to hold the deposit as credit for a new vacation in case you later change your mind about travel.
Look for vacation companies that care about their customers and follow the law on refunds for canceled vacation in recent months. There’s little point in booking with a company that has impressive promises when history shows they are unlikely to be kept. Which? maintains a list of companies you can trust.