Travel tips, destination advice, and insurance requirements – check out my top tips for booking holidays during Covid-19.
Despite the current rise in Covid cases in many countries, including Ireland, the promise of a vaccine has got people starting to believe that they will be able to travel abroad this summer. With this in mind I thought I would give you my top tips for booking holidays during Covid-19.
Loosing large amounts of our hard earned money because we had to cancel holidays only added to our woes during 2020. My social media channels were buzzing with messages and comments from people asking me how to get a refund from Ryanair, how to change their flights, and how to get through to their booking agent or airline. Luckily most airlines and accommodation providers have introduced flexible booking options for 2021, and hopefully my top tips on booking holidays during Covid-19 should ensure we don’t make the same mistakes again.
1. Book with a reputable travel company
As a former travel agent I have always seen the benefits of booking with an agent, but it surprises me that many people still don’t. As well as getting their expertise for free, you are also able to pick up the phone and speak to someone if you need help. You also don’t need to worry if you find yourself in an unfortunate situation where a travel agency is forced to close – they are licensed and bonded by the Commission for Aviation in Ireland, so you money is always secure.
If you are booking with an online travel agency, it is important you check if they are reputable, and or if they are licensed and bonded in your home country. Many household names like On the Beach, eDreams and Lastminute.com are registered overseas and may not covered by the same regulations, or as easily reached by phone as local travel agencies. Ryanair have publicly announced that they have no agreements in place with many online travel companies and securing refunds proved very difficult for many this summer.
So my advice is book with a local travel agency or book accommodation and flights separately via reputable sources. If you wish to book directly with an airline and accommodation provider, these top tips for booking holidays during Covid-19 should help.
2. Book flights with unlimited free changes or free cancellation
It is great to see many airlines now offering free changes but there are a few things you should be aware of. While the flight change fee may be waived, if the fare associated with your new flight dates is more expensive than the one you paid, you will have to pay the difference in airfare. If the airfare is lower, it is unlikely you will be refunded the difference.
I have highlighted some issues and tips for booking flights during Covid-19 with our two major airlines below, but similar terms and conditions apply to many airlines. Make sure to check the flight change, cancellation and refund policy of the fare type you are booking.
Aer Lingus are allowing unlimited free changes across all fares – so you can change your flights as often as you like right up to two hours before departure. Changes are allowed on all flights departing up to 30th December 2021 and changes can be made up to 30th September.
Aer Lingus are also giving the option of applying for a refund voucher (valid for 5 years), if you decide not to travel, but this is only available to you if you have booked a Plus, Smart, Advantage or Flex fare – not the cheaper Saver fare.
Top tip for booking Aer Lingus flights during Covid-19:
If you are booking an Aer Lingus flight, it is worth comparing prices to your chosen route between a Saver fare and the more expensive Plus fare. The Plus fare includes 20kg checked baggage, seat selection and priority boarding, as well as the option of going standby for an earlier flight if required.
If you know you need to check-in a bag and wish to pre-book seats, it might be a better option to opt for a Plus fare, as this also gives you the option of applying for a voucher, if you wish to cancel your booking.
Ryanair are allowing free changes on flights booked before 31st January 2021, and you can change your flight up to the 30th of September 2021. This may appear generous, however there are a few things to note.
You must change the flight at least seven days before the original scheduled departure date.
Only one free change is permitted to either outbound, return or both sector dates in the original booking.
3. Check the cancellation policy on accommodation, and book hotels with free cancellation if possible.
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Most hotels and accommodation booking sites offer rooms with free cancellation policies, and I recommend availing of these if possible. In some cases they may be more expensive but they do provide peace of mind, should you need to cancel at the last minute.
However, don’t rule out booking your dream apartment because there is a small deposit payable. Some holidaymakers are booking multiple hotels with free cancellation ‘in case they are able to travel’. This is proving to be very difficult for hotels and accommodation owners to manage, so in some cases they have introduced a nominal deposit to stop people from ‘holding’ rooms. I think this is completely understandable and necessary in these uncertain times. Remember if the cancellation fee is nominal, it might a good idea to pay it, especially if it is to secure the property you want during peak times.
As previously mentioned it is important to choose a reputable accommodation provider. Airbnb, Booking,com and Hotels.com ranked well in this recent survey on travel firms offering refunds.
4. Book peak summer holiday dates now
Covid has not only determined how we travel, but it has also changed our minds on the type of holiday or accommodation we desire. Large busy all-inclusive resorts may not be as popular as they once were, as people opt for spacious hotels and beach front apartments instead. While I believe there should be no issue with holiday availability during off-peak times, it is important to remember that if travelling as a family, you have a limited dates available to you and certain accommodation types will be at a premium.
July and August is always a busy time for holidays, but with travel at Easter still uncertain, and the pent-up demand for summer holidays, July and August will be a busy time for travel, both at home, and abroad. Remember how difficult it was to secure a holiday home on the Wild Atlantic Way this summer? If you need to holiday during this peak time, I suggest you book now.
5. Consider your destination wisely
I can’t wait to travel the world again, and if 2020 has thought me anything it is to grab all opportunities available, and see as many places as possible. However, with overseas travel still somewhat uncertain, if you are travelling overseas, I advise choosing EU destinations, or countries with excellent covid policies in place, over far flung destinations where tourism is not a primary focus. Many destinations in Europe and beyond have excellent covid measures in tourist resorts.
It is also worth pointing out that if you do wish to travel to long haul destinations, certain airlines are providing free covid cover at your destination to entice you to travel with them.
However, travelling within Europe does have its benefits:
There are many direct flights available, which negates the need to through multiple airports, and offers shorter journey times.
Ireland has adopted the EU traffic light system for travel so you can easily see regions as well as countries that have low incidence rates on a combined indicator map. The latest government travel advice is ‘against non essential travel’ to countries outside the EU traffic light system, but only to ‘exercise a high degree of caution’ to counties within this system – this has implications for travel insurance – see more on this below.
You can also avail of the European Health Insurance Card which will give you medical treatment for free, or at a reduced rate, in all European countries – see more here. Note, this will only cover you for medical treatment, and not for cancellation or curtailment, or for expenses occurred should you have to remain in a country due to a Covid-19 outbreak.
6. Go to Spain without the plane!
For some, busy airports and packed flights are a concern – but there is an alternative way to travel to France and Spain. Brittany Ferries, Irish Ferries and Stenaline offer sailings to France from Ireland, while Brittany Ferries also have twice weekly sailings from Rosslare to Bilbao.
Instead of a beach holiday in the Côte d’Azur or the Costa del Sol, why not choose a farmhouse in the Bordeaux or Rioja instead? You can check-in from the comfort of your own car, and sea air and a private cabins make social distancing very easy. Some ferries even allow you to bring your pet along with you.
7. Take out travel insurance at the time of booking
It is important to check with your travel insurance provider what covid cover is included in your policy. Some insurance companies will only provide cover for medical expenses if you contract covid abroad, while others will allow you to cancel and provide a refund if you contract Covid-19 before you are due to travel. Multitrip travel insurance includes covid cover, but with some exclusions.
In most cases insurance will not cover you if you simply do not wish to travel, if quarantine measures are introduced, or if you travel to a country against government advice. If government advice is against all ‘non-essential travel’ at the time of travel and you decide to travel anyway, your travel insurance will insurance will be invalidated. This could have serious financial repercussions if you travel outside of the EU.
Note: The above tips for booking holidays during Covid-19 is researched from reputable websites, however, travel advice and updates are changing on a daily basis. It is important to check with the country and travel provider you are booking with before taking any steps to to travel abroad.
Some of the links in this post contain affiliate links where I receive a small commission if a booking is made, but at no additional cost to you. This helps me run The Travel Expert website and provide free travel tips and destination guides to you.
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