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Can I book a holiday for 2021?

My easy to follow expert advice…

By Lyndsey Thomas – 10th February 2021

Can I book a holiday for 2021 ?

She said, he said… none of it makes any sense!

Conflicting messages from politicians. Isolated media headlines. Hancock’s booked to go to Cornwall this summer, Shappers says, “No you ain’t mate.”

And let’s not forget that last summer Boris spent the window when we’d got the infection rate down suggesting there wasn’t going to be a second wave and that everything would be back to normal by Christmas!

So for those of you who, like me, booked a February 2021 half-term ski holiday on the back of a promise from Boris that we’d be snowploughing down the slopes and swigging gluvine next week, once again we are instead out of pocket and out of a holiday.

Even Simon Caulder, travel editor at The Independent and once the trusted guru and GOD of travel media, now seems to change his tune every week too!

Can I book a holiday for 2021?

The holiday headlines…

Here’s a little recap of the recent headlines quoting all sorts of contradictions from our trusty – I MEAN RUSTY – politicians…

26th Jan 2021: “It’s far too early for us to even speculate about the summer.”
Nadhim Zahawi, vaccines minister

1st Feb 2021: “In six months we’ll be in the middle, I hope, of a happy and free Great British summer – I have a high degree of confidence that by then the vast majority of adults will have been vaccinated.” Matt Hancock, health secretary.

10th Feb 2021: “People in the UK should NOT be booking holidays at home or abroad yet due to coronavirus.” Grant Shapps, transport secretary.

Shapps told the BBC he did not know, “Where we’ll be in terms of cases, deaths and vaccination” by the summer.

He said the UK was talking to other countries about setting up an ‘international system’ for checking if people have been tested or vaccinated.

But this should not be likened to a Covid “passport”, Mr Shapps added.

 

Meanwhile…

In the last week the first minister of Wales, Mark Drakeford, has indicated parts of the tourism industry could reopen by Easter if cases of Covid-19 continue to decline.

But…

Scotland’s first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, said last week: “Do not be booking holidays right now, and don’t be travelling unless it is really, really essential.”

 

Confused? Me too. Desperate to go on holiday? Me too.

Just want to get something booked and have something to look forward to? I get you! Me too.

These politicians haven’t the foggiest idea about how Covid is going to impact on our holidays this year – they are all playing their own tune – and I certainly can’t give you all the answers you want.

But what I can give you, with 20 years of travel industry experience under my belt, is some advice on what NOT to do, and what, if you’re hell bent on getting something booked, you could do.

 

UK staycations: Easter and beyond

According to Simon Caulder’s tweets, a hotelier in Cornwall has started taking bookings for 8th March onwards – convinced that the re-opening of schools means the re-opening of hotels. He’s obviously had a big bang to the head.

Easter is pretty late this year with Easter Sunday falling on 4th April – just under two months from now.

Our very own Girl About Cheshire, Jenny Schippers, has taken the plunge and booked a staycation for Easter. Here’s some really sound advice from her:

“I only went and booked an Easter holiday!”

So here’s the thing, we don’t know what the situation will be come April. Who knows whether we’ll be able to leave our respective towns, let alone our county, or heaven forbid, our country!

“So this is what I’ve done. 

  1. Booked a free cancellation stay with AirB&B that allows us to cancel up to 24hrs before arrival and incur no charge.
  2. Contacted the property owner directly before booking to double check whether we could cancel up to the day if we cannot travel due to Covid restrictions (we can).
  3. Paid the initial fully-refundable 50% payment using a credit card.
  4. Booked a reasonably priced stay that if for any reason we cannot travel (e.g we were ill) then it is not a humongous amount to loose. We’ve booked a static caravan!
  5. Booked a self-contained stay within England, avoiding ‘popular’ areas thus allowing for cheaper accommodation and hopefully less people.

 

Holidays abroad

Right now no one knows if we will be able to enjoy a ‘happy and free Great British summer’, so if you choose to book a holiday in the UK or abroad you are doing so with risks attached.

There is a reason that Ryanair’s controversial ad campaign beckoning people to JAB & GO got pulled. If only ‘jabbing and going’ were that simples.

According to the vaccination calculator as a 41 year old person with no underlying health issues I SHOULD have had my second dose of the vaccine by early September. But September is a long way off – who knows what developments could have been made with the vaccine by then?

The Irish Times reported on 28th January that Ireland is in “advanced stages” of producing a tablet that stops the spread of the Covid-19.

Link to article: https://www.irishpost.com/news/irish-firm-in-advanced-stages-of-creating-pill-that-stops-spread-of-covid-19-202501

The treatment is currently in stage 2/3 trials with the first results on effectiveness expected between January and March this year, according to the Daily Mail. And, unlike the majority of jabs, you won’t need to have multiple doses.

Grigoris Tasios, president of Greece’s hoteliers federation, has indicated that Greece wants us Brits back on their sunbeds as early as May 2021.

But if you’ve got a teenager who is 16 years old or younger, and proof of vaccine is required to travel, you’re not going anywhere anytime soon because health officials are advising against inoculating anyone under the age of 16.

However, if, like mine, your nippers are under the age of 12, then they should be able to travel.

You can check when you are likely to get your vaccines here: https://www.omnicalculator.com/health/vaccine-queue-uk

To note – the vaccine won’t be available privately for a LONG TIME! So if you’re thinking of parting with a few notes so you can jab and go quicker, it ain’t happening love.

And with new and potentially vaccine-resistant variants of this crappy virus threatening us, all of this is an unhelpful mix of hypotheticals backed up with ego-driven political hot air and isolated, sensationalist headlines that have you on the promise of a holiday one minute, that hope well and truly stamped on the next.

So, here’s some advice from me – No bias, no bull. I’m a travel industry expert and I’m using my 20 years of global travel industry experience gained from working on behalf of major international tourism brands and my behind-the-scenes access to major UK tour operators and airlines to arm you with my dos and don’ts.

 

DO Book a package

Don’t book flights and a hotel separately – make sure you book a package so you are protected by ATOL. ATOL protection means if the company fails your money is safe. By a ‘package I mean you must book flights and a hotel in one single transaction. And make sure that you check the operator is covered by ATOL (they’ll display their ATOL number proudly on their website if they are).

 

DO Choose your holiday provider wisely

Some travel companies have had their customer’s interests and money at heart throughout the pandemic, others – not so much. There are some companies, such as Jet2/Jet2 Holidays who have been a shining example of how to do the right thing by refunding clients sharpish, while others have left frustrated customers chasing their money owed for months and months.

 

DO Look for flexible booking policies

Booking with holiday companies that offer flexible options to change plans is essential. The world might open back up, but when it did last year we also saw rising cases of Covid and the government shutting down travel corridors with just a couple of day’s notice. This could happen again.

You want to be booking with an operator that allows you to cancel or change your holiday right up to 24 hours before. Do your homework!

 

DO Use a credit card to book

If you like to book directly with either airlines or accommodation providers, please use a credit card to make the payment – simply because if either the hotel or airline were to fail, they’re not obliged to reimburse you.

But if the transaction is over £100, Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act says the credit card company is equally liable with the supplier if something goes wrong; you’d be entitled to a refund from your credit card company (but that’s where the assistance would end – you won’t get any further support with rearranging travel plans or finding alternative flights, which is why you want to book with a reputable travel company. They will help with this).

 

DO Book direct with the hotel

If you are booking your hotel separately, look at booking directly with the hotel. Last year when we went to Greece, I found the hotels I wanted to stay in on Booking. com, and then contacted them directly.

I was able to book with no deposit needed – payment on arrival in some cases, and in cases where I had to give my credit card details to secure the booking, their cancellation policy allowed us to cancel right up to the day before arrival.

Also, booking directly – rather than through a third party such as AirBnB or Booking. com, means you have direct contact with the hotel and can form that all-important relationship.

Also by forming this relationship, if availability allows, you’re more likely to get a better room and a bigger discount for longer stays.

 

DO Book with a travel agent

The travel industry is structurally similar to the grocery industry. It’s dominated by a few huge players but is also made up of many under-the-radar local independents that you might not know about because they don’t have the budget to plaster themselves all over your TV screens in every Coronation Street ad break.

Many of us have come to realise just how far our local shops will go to help us out throughout the pandemic. The same applies to small, specialist tour operators and travel agents – these guys are the ones who are putting the blood sweat and tears into rebooking, trying to get refunds and doing all they can to help their customers.

The sad part is that some of them won’t survive Covid-19, and the ones that do need a more level playing field. It’s these guys who will go above and beyond for you, and ensure your holiday is all that you dreamed it would be, and not straight out of a brochure.

 

DO Buy your travel insurance as soon as you book

Travel insurance that covers you for coronavirus-related illness and disruption is available, although there are currently no completely comprehensive policies.

Make sure you take out insurance as soon as you book rather than when you travel, so you’re covered for illness or disruption before you travel.

 

DON’T Use an OTA (Online Travel Agent)

Skyscanner, Love Holidays, Expedia, On The Beach – they are all OTAs, third party faceless websites that offer very little protection and when the sh*t hits the fan, their customer service levels leave a lot to be desired. Yes you might save a few quid but trust me, it’s not worth it.

Over in the Girl About Travel Club (free to join right now – CLICK HERE) a couple of our members would have rocked up at hotels in Europe that weren’t even open, had it not been for our advice to call any hotel you book via an OTA before you leave to check that it’s actually open.

OTAs do not have direct relationships with hotels, they book via online bed banks and because they work on volume, they often get better rates from the hotel – but that cheaper rate can lead to all sorts of preventable problems.

So there you have it – book now, and you’re sure to get a better deal and the holiday you want, and you keep the travel industry afloat a little longer, because let’s face it, we’ve had very little support from Boris and co.

 

I really hope this helps – it’s all as clear as mud right now, but I get it, you want to book something, have something to look forward to – do it! Just follow my advice.

Lyndsey x

 

TRAVEL TRUTHS BY LYNDSEY THOMAS – GIRL ABOUT’S FOUNDER

 

No bias, no bull. I’m a travel industry expert and a very well-travelled mum. Using my 20 years of global travel industry experience gained from working on behalf of major international tourism brands and my behind-the-scenes access to major UK tour operators and airlines I commit to bringing you regular travel truths and my honest opinions.

Lyndsey Thomas
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