A last minute holiday is an ideal way to book a trip post lockdown. Last minute holidays allow you to escape somewhere new whenever you feel comfortable, or when you and all your party have been fully vaccinated.
When booking a last minute holiday you can usually find one for value for money. Plus they’re great for spontaneous travellers young and old!
In this blog we wanted to provide some advice when booking a last minute holiday to ensure you have all the right information, to give you the confidence to travel.
How to Book a Last-Minute Holiday
First, make sure you find an airline or tour operator that will give you as much flexibility as possible within their booking terms. This should allow you to alter the dates or defer travel if you need to.
When to book a last-minute holiday and flights
When the time comes to book consider who you’re travelling with. If it’s just you and your partner, you could book the last remaining seats, on opposite sides of the plane. On the other hand, if you’re with family, it’s best to book further in advance to secure hotel rooms/seats closer together.
If you’re looking for cheap, last-minute holidays and deals on flights, prices will usually come down closer to the departure date. To find the best jaw-dropping prices sign up to travel company newsletters.
Where to go?
When considering where to book, you can find a last-minute holiday destination with no quarantine by referring to the UK Government’s green countries list. Also, remember that you don’t need to quarantine in amber list countries either.
Shall I book a last-minute flight?
As more of the UK population are vaccinated countries may be added to the UK Government’s green countries list quickly and without warning. So, if you’re feeling spontaneous but still want to travel safely to a new green list destination it might be very tempting to book a flight at the last minute. Don’t be fooled into thinking this will save money.
During the pandemic in 2020, many people who’d booked a flight and hotel separately found it even harder to get a refund from the airline when their holiday was cancelled. This was because the flight itself was still running.
Is a Last-Minute Holiday ATOL Protected?
What it means if your holiday is ATOL-protected…
ATOL is short for ‘Air Travel Organiser’s Licence’. It’s a UK financial protection scheme that ensures you’re safe if your travel company or airline goes out of business.
It protects the money you’ve paid for flights to and from the UK, as well as the majority of air package holidays which are sold by travel agents/tour operators. Package holidays can include flights and accommodation, flights and car hire, or anything you booked together.
Under Package Travel Regulations, if your trip is cancelled you’re entitled to all your money back too. Plus, UK law states that your holiday must be protected if it’s a package holiday.
Therefore, we strongly recommend that you book a package trip because legal protection will be included and your last-minute holiday will be protected.
In contrast, if you purchased a flight only either directly from an airline or travel provider, you wouldn’t be protected by ATOL before receiving a valid ticket in exchange for payment.
Are all my trips ATOL protected?
Many of the holidays and travel services you book will be financially protected by both the ATOL or ABTA schemes should they go out of business.
Whether you decide to book a last-minute break via a website or not, it’s always wise to ask for confirmation about what protection will apply throughout your trip when you book.
Always look for the ATOL logo before booking too. Then after you’ve made your purchase, you should receive an ATOL Certificate. Please be aware, if your travel firm is based outside of the UK they’re under no obligation to provide ATOL protection or ABTA insurance.
For more protection, look to Free Spirit Travel Insurance, who can also provide you with End Supplier cover* and enhanced COVID-19 Cover.
*Super Duper cover only.
Is ATOL protection included in a Refund Credit Note?
A Refund Credit Note (RCN) is a way for you to be repaid if you have to cancel your holiday. In the future, you can get money off a holiday.
The trustees of the Air Travel Trust (ATT) will protect you. However, your RCN must have been issued for an ATOL-protected booking and your holiday must have been cancelled solely because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
You should be aware that you’re also entitled to a cash refund if you don’t wish to accept an RCN. Plus, you should have the opportunity to amend the booking as an alternative to a refund.
The date for you to redeem and/or secure the protection of an RCN does have an expiry date: Thursday 30th September 2022
If my holiday is ATOL protected, why do I need travel insurance as well?
ATOL may cover you if your holiday company goes out of business. However, it can’t cover you for other unexpected events.
ATOL will not cover you for:
- Loss of luggage between leaving home and arriving at your hotel
- If you’re injured while out and about or fall ill abroad
- Medical costs that relate to a pre-existing medical condition
- Or, if you have to cancel your plans due to a family emergency or unforeseen circumstances.
Luckily, Free Spirit Travel Insurance can cover you for a number of things that won’t cross your mind in the lead-up to your trip. This is why you should purchase it the same day you book a break. You’ll receive all the features and benefits too, such as cover for most medical conditions and disabilities.
Last Minute Holidays during the COVID Pandemic
Many operators have been introducing flexible booking options due to the uncertainty of the pandemic. There will also be more competition for the best deals and prices as holidays grow in demand.
However, when booking your break always check you’re happy with the T&Cs of your chosen holiday operator, as well as adding the cost for pre-travel COVID-19 tests too.
If you really want to get away, booking a last minute holiday during the pandemic should offer you that extra degree of confidence that your holiday will go ahead.
Still, want to wait? Winter might provide some last minute deals too, if you travel outside of the school holidays.
What happens to my money if my last minute holiday is cancelled because of COVID-19?
Due to the on-going uncertainty, it’s still possible that your flight or holiday could be cancelled at the last minute.
If your travel firm cancels and you’ve paid for a trip you should get a refund. Even if firms have been slow to deliver refunds in the past.
- Flights and package holidays. You should have a refund within seven days if your flight is cancelled. If your package holiday has been cancelled, this refund should be given to you in full within 14 days. Bear in mind, this may be longer if there are a higher number of refunds being processed than normal.
- Other travel bookings, such as hotels and car hire. You still should get a refund. Especially if the service you booked will not be provided. While it may be harder if the business is abroad, stick to your guns.
- Refunds for COVID Tests. If you took a PCR test for travel then your plans are cancelled before leaving the UK, you might be able to get a refund for the test. Just contact the provider you ordered the test from. If you bought the test but did not take it, it’s likely that you’ll be able to return it.
What should I do if my last minute holiday is cancelled due to COVID-19?
- First, check the website and any emails from the business/service you bought your holiday from. Their rules may have changed since your booking.
- Read the terms and conditions to see if you’re entitled to a refund.
- You should automatically be given the right to a refund if you booked a package holiday or a flight from/to the UK or Europe. However, check if your booking counts as a UK or European flight by visiting the citizen’s advice website.
- The majority of cancelled flights fall under flight delay rules (now written into UK law). These entitle you to a refund for the cancelled flight or an alternative flight to your destination. Decide which option you prefer and act quickly to receive it.
- Remember that you’re legally entitled to a full cash refund. Don’t let a firm force you to take an alternative form of refund if it is not your preference.
What is Coronavirus Travel Insurance?
Despite the pandemic, Free Spirit has continued to innovate. We can offer extended COVID-19 cover that will protect you if you have to cancel your trip due to being taken ill with or testing positive for COVID-19.
Free Spirit Coronavirus Cover includes:
- Emergency Medical & Associated Expenses
- Repatriation and cancellation cover if you’re denied boarding after a positive test.
- State hospital benefit
Whenever you book and wherever you go on your last-minute holiday, remember to take out Coronavirus Travel Insurance the same day. This will ensure that you’ll have cancellation cover in place from day one.