Hold on to your sun hats … how to book a great British summer holiday

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This is the year of the “great British summer” – whether we like it or not. Anyone longing for a foreign getaway had their hopes dashed by health secretary, Matt Hancock, who has booked his break in Cornwall and has pointed towards holidays at home for all, while cautioning against trips abroad.

But a UK break can bring its own unknowns and potential problems. Here’s what to look out for.

Early rush

There are already signs that UK breaks will be more expensive. The largest holiday cottage operator, Awaze, has said there have been price increases in the double digits.

Meanwhile Guesty, which manages short-term rentals and independent hotels on sites such as Airbnb, Booking.com and Tripadvisor, says that while there are fewer people booking, hosts are raising their prices, anticipating pent-up demand. In June last year, the average price of a night was £112, but this has risen to £178.

Many are booking longer breaks this summer as “revenge travel”, says Guesty – that is, after suffering cabin fever from lockdowns, they will try and make up for several missed holidays in one go.

The British Holiday & Home Parks Association, which represents holiday park owners, says high-end options, such as glamping and cabins with hot tubs, are being booked up rapidly.

A large number of bookings have been transferred from last year, adds director general Ros Pritchard. Therefore she expects there to be little last-minute discounting. “This is not the year to go with last-minute deals,” she says.

This will be bad news for those who were planning to book in the few weeks before they go – which, Guesty says, will be most people.

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Many of the destinations that are already being booked are mainstays of British tourism. Dorset, Cornwall, Norfolk, the Lake District and Snowdonia are the most popular for cottage breaks, according to Travelsupermarket.

For families looking for alternatives to the main tourist hubs, the comparison site says Suffolk, Sussex, Shropshire, Derbyshire and the Scottish Borders all have good stocks of accommodation but are not proving as popular. Holiday rental site Vrbo says it has seen increased demand for North Yorkshire and the Scottish Highlands.

Protecting your booking

If you are booking a break in the UK, you get similar protections to when you book a package holiday overseas, according to the Association of British Travel Agents (Abta).

“Your rights when travelling in the UK are covered by a range of consumer laws. These would include the package travel regulations (PTRs) if you booked a package holiday,” says Abta.

“These require tour operators to offer financial protection should they fail financially … they are also legally responsible for all aspects of the package, so if the hotel is not up to scratch, you can pursue the tour operator, not the hotel, for compensation.”

If you just book your accommodation, you are subject to the terms and conditions of the company you have booked with, so be sure to read its cancellation policy.

Apply for a credit card

Using a credit card to pay for at least part of your bill – maybe just the deposit, or the full cost – will give you protection under section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act. If the company you are due to travel with goes into administration, you can claim your money back from the credit card company.

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Many people don’t buy travel insurance for trips in the UK – mainly because they don’t think they need it because of the NHS and their proximity to home.

However, it does offer cover against cancellation due to illness, redundancy, or for lost and stolen goods. A single-trip one-week policy can cost as little as £7. If you are planning on travelling two or more times, it is often cheaper to get an annual multi-trip policy, which can start at £18.

For people who have policies already, Martyn James of complaints site Resolver advises checking with both their holiday company and their insurer to see if they are covered if they or a member of the family catches Covid.

“Check your policy to see if you are covered if you are unable to travel due to lockdown restrictions, either where you live, or where you are going,” he says. “This will have the greatest impact on holiday bookings. Last year, holiday firms in the UK were among the most difficult when it came to legitimate requests for refunds – so you can’t be too careful.”

It is worth looking out for “We’re Good to Go”, an industry standard and consumer mark run by Visit Britain. This shows that a business has put in place all the necessary procedures for social distancing and cleanliness. SH

And if it’s time to rebook…

Holidaymakers who accepted vouchers after their 2020 trips were postponed face tricky rebooking decisions.

Eurostar’s e-vouchers, for example, are valid for one year from the day of the original trip. Passengers can rebook up to six months in advance, so if an Easter 2020 trip to Paris was cancelled you must take its replacement before September this year.

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Both P&O and DFDS vouchers have to be used for travel before the end of 2021.

It’s a similar story at easyJet. Its vouchers are valid for 12 months from the date of issue, but, again, you can only book so far in advance – currently up to March 2022. As the Observer reported last week, those who accepted vouchers after their 2020 flight was cancelled, have the right to ask for a refund. The same with Eurostar.

However, both easyJet and British Airways have been refusing such requests, so you may have to go to court. At least in BA’s case, vouchers can used until April 2023.

Package tour regulations still protect holidays rescheduled from last year, so a refund should be offered if the tour operator cancels a second time.

Those with “refund credits” can also ask for a full refund. But people who accepted a replacement holiday, and now can’t travel, have been denied refunds on the basis they have a “new booking”. MB

This article was amended on 16 February 2021. An earlier version said using a credit card to pay “at least £100 of your bill” would provide legal protection, when it meant to say paying “part of your bill” that way would give protection.