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Can’t quarantine, can’t travel, can you get a holiday refund?

Just when you thought your holiday dilemmas couldn’t get any worse, the Government only goes and announces an obligatory 14-day quarantine period for almost everyone returning from abroad.


We don’t know how long the quarantine will last or even when it will start, we don’t know if the Government knows, some say it will start at the end of May and be reviewed every three weeks, but that has yet to be confirmed.


It seems that people entering from Northern Ireland won’t have to quarantine, but it isn’t clear if cruise passengers whose cruises finish in the UK will be exempt. However, the Government has clarified that you will be obliged to quarantine if coming from France, despite earlier reports that this isn’t the case.


There’s a slight possibility that holidays in late June, July and August might still go ahead, but if people have to quarantine for two weeks when they get back, it’s likely that many of those who’ve already booked won’t want to go – in fact, many won’t be able to go because they won’t be able to get the extra time off work, but if they cancel they won’t get their money back.


The best hope for people who’ve already booked a holiday is that the Foreign Office continues to advise against overseas travel for as long as the obligatory quarantine remains in place, which would mean that tour operators would forced to cancel the holidays, triggering an automatic refund.


However, this isn’t guaranteed.  The Foreign Office advice against overseas travel might be lifted, and tour operators might resume their holiday programmes even though customers might no longer be able to travel because of the quarantine period, so anyone who’s paid for their holiday will lose their cash.


Of course, there is also the added problem that many countries aren’t allowing visitors from the UK at the moment, or they also have their own quarantine requirements which would prevent tour operators from re-starting programmes, but no-one knows when these rules might be changed.


Faced with all these unknown entities, should you pay the balance of your summer holiday and gamble on either the quarantine being lifted so you can go away or the other travel restrictions remaining in place so you get a full refund, or should you play it safe and cancel, so you lose only the deposit?


No-one can tell you the answer, but I’m going to stick my neck out and say that I think it’s highly unlikely that countries such as Spain and Italy will allow us to visit for the rest of this summer, and I think it’s even less likely that the UK Government will lift the advice against overseas travel while keeping the 14-day quarantine in place. That said, it’s actions so far have been so contradictory (ie go out but not out out, go to work but don’t go on public transport) that anything is possible.


With no certainty about the future, anyone who has to pay for their holiday in the next few weeks has to take a bit of a gamble but if it were me I think I’d weigh up the size of the deposit versus the size of the balance payment and decide how much I’d be prepared to lose.


Obviously, wait as long as you can, right up till the day the balance is due, before making any further payments as the situation is so fluid and could change within hours.


Remember that if you don’t pay the balance, you’ll automatically lose your holiday and any right to a refund if the holiday is cancelled later by the tour operator. Also, if the holiday company goes bust, you won’t have any financial protection.


If you decide you can’t risk travelling and decide against making any further payments, speak to your travel agent or tour operator first and see if they will allow you to delay your holiday until next year – or even give you some form of credit if you can’t travel in 2021. Some will, some won’t, but you’ve nothing to lose by asking.





Linsey McNeill

A journalist and travel writer of 35 years' standing, a once-a-week yogi, terrible skier and out-of-order mum to 2 teens. Previously Editor of TravelMole.com, bylines also include The Telegraph, The Times, The Observer, the London Evening Standard, Which? and The South China Morning Post.

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