Whether you’re dreaming of a short and sweet city break, an extended sun holiday or a long-distance trip to reunite with family, it’s important to know your consumer rights before you book.

The Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC) offers some holiday essential information when it comes to your travel rights and entitlements:

What to know before you go

Different consumer rights and protections apply, depending on the type of holiday you choose. Although international travel looks set to be more accessible this summer, varying levels of restrictions may still be in place, and will vary depending on your holiday destination.

Due to the unpredictability of the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s important you understand your rights and entitlements before you book a holiday, in case circumstances change.

Package holidays

If you book a package holiday, you have strong rights and protections. A package holiday is a pre-arranged or customised holiday or trip that is sold at an inclusive price through a travel agent or tour operator, which must last at least 24 hours or include an overnight stay. It must also include at least two of the following: transport, accommodation, car hire, or another tourist service or activity – for instance, golf or hill-walking.

Some of the important protections provided are:

1 Before booking: travel companies selling package holidays must provide you with detailed information before you book, including details of the holiday, cost, destination, length of the holiday, vaccination or visa requirements and how to complain if something goes wrong.

2 Changes after booking: if the company makes a significant change to the holiday, for example to the price, dates or accommodation, or if they cancel the trip, they must offer you either; a replacement holiday of equivalent or superior quality, a lower grade holiday with a refund of the difference in price, or a full refund.

3 Cancellations: the travel company has the right to cancel a package holiday because of factors beyond their control. If this happens, you are still entitled to a refund or a replacement package (you will need to negotiate with the company on which option you prefer). You can also cancel your package holiday as a result of unavoidable and extraordinary circumstances at or near your destination, which would affect your holiday or travel. In these circumstances, you are entitled to a full refund without paying any cancellation fee.

4 Insolvency protection: all travel companies selling package holidays must take out insolvency protection. This guarantee covers refunds and returns if the travel company goes out of business.

If you’re planning a “DIY holiday” – ie where you book various elements of your holiday separately such as flights, accommodation, activities, car hire, etc. - be aware that you do not have the same level of protection as with a package holiday. You have flight rights if your flight is cancelled or delayed but, in most cases, what you are entitled to if something goes wrong will depend on the T&Cs when booking.

Therefore, before booking a DIY holiday, make sure you understand the following:

Terms and conditions

Make sure you understand them before you pay a deposit, or pay in full. Look for the cancellation policy and any references to public health measures or Government advice that may affect your booking. Only book when you are happy with what you are agreeing to.

Know your rights

If anything is unclear – contact the business to make sure you fully understand your rights and obligations before you book. If any important information is given over the phone, follow up with an email confirming the details for your records. Ask the “what if…?” questions: Many standard T&Cs may not cover alternative arrangements or deposit refunds in all potential circumstances. Ask for additional information before you make a payment. E.g.

  • What are my options if the travel advice changes for the country I am visiting before I leave?/bu>

  • If I decide not to travel, will I be offered a refund or be given the option to re-schedule my travel dates? If so, will a change of mind fee apply?If I am unable to travel due to health reasons, am I entitled to a refund? If not, what are my options?
  • Keep a copy of the T&Cs at the time of booking as proof of your entitlements if there is a change of plans or something goes wrong. For example, if the original T&Cs give you the right to a refund, the business is not allowed to change that term without your agreement. CL
  • Travel insurance

    If you are holidaying abroad, you should also consider taking out travel insurance for added peace of mind. You should buy it as soon as you book your trip. Don’t wait until your travel date in case something goes wrong before you go. Depending on the type you choose, travel insurance can cover delayed or cancelled flights, lost luggage, and lost or stolen money or valuables. You should always pay attention to the T&Cs of your travel insurance, research the most appropriate type of insurance for your trip and find the best value for money, which might not always mean choosing the cheapest option.

    CCPC top tip

    If you’re booking additional activities or amenities while on holiday, be sure to research your options before you go. Shop around for the best value, prices can vary considerably, depending on your destination. As with DIY bookings, in most cases what you’re entitled to, if circumstances change, will depend on the T&Cs of each individual booking, so read them carefully before you pay a deposit or in full.

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