Coronavirus lockdowns mean non-essential travel is currently banned.
How could things change later on in the year, and what are your rights if you book a UK holiday now?
What are the rules for travel?
Under the coronavirus lockdowns, holiday travel is not allowed in the UK.
Journeys are only allowed for limited reasons, such as exercise, essential shopping and work that cannot be done from home.
You cannot stay overnight anywhere outside your main residence unless you have a “reasonable excuse” for doing so, such as visiting your support bubble.
This includes a second home, caravan or boat, if it isn’t where you normally live.
- What are the UK’s lockdown rules and when will they end?
When can I start booking a UK holiday?
The rollout of the coronavirus vaccine combined with international travel restrictions mean many people have started thinking about booking holidays in the UK.
But there have been mixed messages from ministers:
- On 26 January, Vaccines Minister Nadhim Zahawi told BBC Breakfast it was “too early to begin to speculate on summer holidays”
- On 31 January, Health Secretary Matt Hancock spoke of his hopes for “a happy and free Great British summer.” He has booked a summer break in Cornwall
- On the same day, International Trade Secretary Liz Truss said it was “very dangerous” for ministers to be making promises about summer holidays
- On 1 February, Prime Minister Boris Johnson had said he was “optimistic” people will be able to have summer holidays and would set out more details on 22 February
- On 10 February, Grant Shapps said “people shouldn’t be booking holidays right now – not domestically or internationally”
- The same day, Prime Minister Boris Johnson told a press conference it was “too early for people to be certain about what we’ll be able to do this summer”
- On 11 February, when Mr Hancock was asked on BBC Breakfast whether the situation was that people should book a holiday or not book one, he said “it’s neither”.
“My feeling is that we will be able to take staycations from 1 April onwards,” Paul Charles, head of the travel consultancy the PC agency, predicts.
“There are likely to be social distancing restrictions but I think it will be very possible to stay in a cottage over the Easter weekend.”
He thinks Scotland may adopt a more cautious approach.
What are your rights if you book a holiday now?
Most accommodation and holiday providers are offering flexible booking policies for future trips, to try to boost confidence. This should be laid out in the terms and conditions of any company you book with.
The UK watchdog, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), suggests you should usually get your money back if coronavirus restrictions scupper your holiday plans.
It says this would be the case if a business cancels your booking, or can’t provide the service due to lockdown laws, or you can’t go on a booked holiday because the rules would make it illegal. The CMA says you should receive a full refund under most circumstances, with non-refundable deposits “likely to be unfair, and therefore unenforceable”.
If you decide to cancel a holiday due to government guidance the CMA suggests you should not face “disproportionately high” charges for doing so. These should only cover the amount of money the business can expect to lose.
Vouchers or postponement can be offered, but you are not obliged to accept this over a cash refund.
A few insurance policies will cover you if you miss a holiday because you have been diagnosed with coronavirus, or because you are required to self-isolate, as long as you already held the policy.
If the holiday provider refuses to pay or goes bust and you paid by credit card you can claim from your card company for services not rendered under section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act. You must have spent between £100 and £30,000 to be eligible.
If you paid on debit card, you may be able to secure a refund under the chargeback scheme.