International travel for tourism has been given the green light by the UK government and the traffic light list setting out what testing and quarantine requirements apply to different destinations has been published. You can now book your next holiday with a little more certainty than before. However international holidays still come with some risks and a certain amount of hassle of the form filling nasal swabbing variety. But there are some steps you can take to reduce the risks when booking a holiday in 2021:
- Book with a tour operator who offers a flexible booking policy. Some tour operators are offering a good deal more flexibility than usual – allowing you to make amendment fee free changes until just days before you travel. Booking with one of these tour operators will give you some wriggle room should your chosen destination move from green to amber or amber to red before you are due to leave. Not all tour operators are as obliging so make sure you read the small print before you book.
- Book through a travel agent. Not only do we do all the research to find you the best holiday and ensure you book with a trustworthy supplier, but we are an additional point of contact for any concerns you may have before or during your holiday. In many cases you pay no more booking through a travel agent than direct. And we love talking about travel so are happy to come up with some interesting ideas for your trip.
- Book a package holiday so your trip is covered by the Packaged Travel Regulations (PTR). The simplest way is to book flight and accommodation with the same supplier. The PTR give consumers the right to a refund if the holiday cannot go ahead. Don’t book flights and accommodation separately or you will fall outside the PTR protection.
- Make sure your tour operator is ATOL registered and supplies you with an ATOL certificate when you book. This provides protection if your tour operator goes out of business: either a refund if you have yet to travel or continuation of your holiday and repatriation if you are abroad when they go out of business. All Shearwater Travel suppliers are ATOL registered.
- Book with a tour operator who acted responsibly towards its clients during the 2020 and early 2021 holiday season. Your travel agent should be able to help you with this. At Shearwater Travel we will only book you with operators who have shown good customer service during the pandemic.
- Pay by credit card so you can benefit from section 75 and chargeback protections if they apply
- Take out travel insurance that provides as much Covid coverage as you can find and pay attention to the cancellation provisions. At the very least you want to be covered if you contract Covid or have to isolate and cannot take your holiday (including failing any PCR tests which may be a condition of entry to your chosen destination). Many insurers are now offering some degree of Covid cover but consumer organisation Which has a list of insurers offering the best coverage for Covid.
Finally be prepared for things to be a little different this year. Every destination has its own restrictions and these can change over time as well we know. A good tour operator/travel agent should be able to inform you of these restrictions before you go so that you can be prepared.
Keep in touch with latest developments in international tourism with Shearwater Travel’s weekly travel bulletin covering changes to UK travel restrictions, destinations opening up to UK travellers, how to book safely and some inspiration for your next trip.