Beware, independent travel is currently a minefield. There are a number of pitfalls you need to avoid when you book a holiday during the pandemic. Ignore these at your peril, as to do so could cost you dearly.
1. Don’t forget to check the latest travel guidance
First, you need to be sure that:
1. You have selected a country with no quarantine on arrival.
2. It is a country that doesn’t require quarantine in the UK on your return.
3. The country is no longer on the list of countries designated as ‘essential travel only.’ Sadly if your country is not exempt then it is unlikely that your travel insurance will cover you.
2. Don’t forget to check your travel insurance
Even if you have selected a country exempt from essential travel only, you still need to check your travel policy. Will it cover you for cancellation if you contract COVID before or after departure?
Some policies will not offer cover for foreseeable events. It is possible to argue that issues to do with Covid are foreseeable given the daily news reports of ongoing lockdowns and outbreaks.
This does not mean you should not travel, but it does mean you could find yourself covering huge medical expenses personally if your policy will not cover you.
But that’s not all you need to be aware of. Here is my experience of booking a holiday during the pandemic.
What I have learned
Here is what I have learned in the last week. This should give you a flavour for the risk of travel currently.
I work for an investment company and have been working throughout lockdown. The pace has been intense with little downtime and a relentless diary (largely of my own making). After four months of constant grind, last week I hit breaking point.
I had anxiety, was struggling to sleep and drinking more than normal. My body was sluggish and lethargic and I felt run down. I knew I needed to hit reset or my body might do it for me. I had a chat with the doctor to sort some short term support but knew it was time to face facts. I desperately needed a holiday!! To take a week off in August and play Russian roulette with the British weather simply isn’t going to cut it for me. Which brings me to the next pitfall to watch out for.
3. Don’t ignore local lockdowns
Spain is the most popular destination for Brits abroad with over 15.6 million tourists visiting the country in 2018 (Source: ONS). Before you rush to book a flight however, consider this.
I took my own advice to check the guidance and booked a reward flight (business class flights paid for by Avios and £2 to Madrid). We planned to hire a car and drive to the coast. I booked no accommodation as I didn’t want to lose money should we not be able to travel. See more on that shortly.
Just a few days later, coronavirus cases in Spain started to spike and Malaga, closely followed by Barcelona returned to lockdown. If you happen to own a property in Spain, maybe you don’t mind incurring the costs of a trip to be imprisoned in your villa. However, I have no desire to visit a country only to spend it locked in a hotel room. I took the decision to cancel.
4. Do not book non-refundable flights
The first moral of this story is to check your flight cancellation policy before you book. I booked with reward points as I knew I could cancel with a full refund (albeit in voucher form).
British Airways book with confidence policy
The British Airways ‘book with confidence’ policy allows you to cancel and request a voucher refund. The voucher is for the same amount to be used for a future booking. There are a few key conditions:
- This policy applies to bookings made between 3 March and 31 August 2020
- Applies only to bookings due to complete by 30 April 2021. This option will not be available if you travel after that date.
- The new trip you book with the voucher must complete by 30 April 2022 (departure and return)
You can also change the dates and destination of your booking without a change fee. Full details can be found on the ‘book with confidence‘ page.
I requested my cancellation and voucher and was delighted to see it pop into my email inbox in just a few hours.
5. Do not forget to check the outbreak stats
Now, I do not wish to scaremonger at this point. As you can see from the following table the United Kingdom has a far higher death rate than other popular destinations (Source: Euronews).
|Country||Number of cases||Number of deaths||Deaths per million|
However, as evidence shows this past week, the higher the number the cases, the greater the chance of local lockdowns. Which leads me back to point 3.
I decided to book flights to Greece using AVIOS due to the lack of lockdowns and lower incidences of coronavirus.
Mykonos here we come!!
6. Do not forget to check the cancellation terms for hotels
In normal circumstances, hotels.com give you the option of a cheaper non refundable rate or a more expensive refundable rate. The latter usually allows you to cancel up to 24 hours before with no penalty. Even the so called refundable rates however appear to be refundable only up to 7 days in advance. Make sure you check the small print to ensure you do not make an expensive mistake.
What do you think?
What do you think? Would you consider a holiday currently? If so what precautions would you take to avoid disaster? Feel free to share in the comments below.