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More than 2 million people have lost money during the pandemic because airlines have refused to refund them for flights they couldn’t take due to lockdowns or travel restrictions, according to Which? That’s one reason to book a package holiday right there.
If you book a package, your tour operator will refund your trip if you can’t travel because the Foreign Office says it’s not safe. If local lockdowns mean you can’t go, they’ll usually refund or allow you to re-book free of charge.
Generally speaking airlines will only refund you if they cancel the flight. If a flight goes ahead, they might refuse to refund you even if it’s illegal for you to travel.
Some airlines will allow you to re-book if you can’t travel due to lockdowns and some will give you a voucher for future travel, but you might have to pay more if your new flight is more expensive. And if you don’t manage to use the vouchers before they expire you’ll lose your money.
If this isn’t enough of an incentive to book a package then I’ve got 4 more compelling reasons for you.
Reason #2 to book a package holiday
After the chaos of last summer, I think most of us want the reassurance of knowing that if something goes wrong while we’re on holiday the travel company will take care of us.
When you book a package, your tour operator is responsible for keeping you safe and making sure everything is as it should be.
If there’s a sudden change in Foreign Office advice and you need to return home, your tour operator is legally obliged to repatriate you asap.
You won’t need to rearrange your flights or work out how to get to the airport, they should do this for you. You won’t have to spend anything extra and if your holiday is cut short you should receive a pro-rata refund.
Holidaymakers turned up to hotels last summer to find the doors padlocked
Reason #3 to book a package holiday
Last summer when I was writing for Which? I spoke with many holidaymakers who arrived at hotels they’d booked through online travel agents like loveholidays to find they were closed due to the pandemic. Families with young children had to find new hotels and pay again, some spent thousands of pounds.
If you book a package with a reputable tour operator that won’t happen because they’re responsible for every element of your holiday.
What’s more, if you don’t receive everything you’ve paid for or if it’s not as described, your tour operator will have to refund you.
Obviously when hotels and resorts reopen they might no longer offer some of the products or services you were expecting. A reputable tour operator will let you know of any changes and if the holiday is very different to what you were expecting they’ll allow you to cancel with a refund.
Reason #4 to book a package holiday
Financial protection. If your travel company goes bust before your holiday (and let’s be honest, it could happen) you’re guaranteed to get a refund as long as you book an ATOL-protected package.
If the company collapses while you’re on holiday, you’ll usually be allowed to continue with your holiday and the CAA (which runs the ATOL scheme) will arrange for you to be flown home at the end.
Almost all package holidays with flights bought from UK-based tour operators are ATOL protected but you should check before you book.
If your package doesn’t include flights, your tour operator might offer protection through another industry scheme. You can check this before you book.
When you book a flight direct with an airline, your money isn’t protected through the ATOL scheme. You will have some protection if you pay with a credit or debit card, but this won’t cover the cost of new flights home if the airline collapses while you’re away.
Reason #5 to book a package holiday
Packages can sometimes work out cheaper than if you book the flights and accommodation separately. Here’s an article I wrote for Which? that shows you can make big savings booking a package.
I know this isn’t always the case and very often packages are a lot more expensive, especially if you’re travelling in the school summer holidays when tour operators increase prices and there are lots of low-cost flights to choose from. Full disclosure: I’ve never booked a package in the summer for this reason, I usually book budget flights and accommodation direct or with Booking.com BUT I do think that right now it’s a good idea to consider the extra protection you get from a package.