How to untangle your travel plans if you get Covid between now and Christmas

Advice

It’s 10 days to Christmas Eve. If you – or any of your immediate family – get a positive PCR test from this point on, your festive plans and any travel which you have organised are almost certainly scuppered. And the way things are going with omicron, it is looking almost certain that many people will be caught out by this unfortunate truth. 

So how should you untangle your travel plans in such a scenario to make the best of a bad job? Here is our guide.

Holidays in the UK

Your rights will depend on what you agreed to when you booked the hotel or cottage you’re staying in – and also whether Government advice changes between now and the time you have to cancel. If you booked a hotel directly then you may be dependent on their goodwill as to whether they will let you postpone your booking or offer you a refund. You will be in a similar situation if you booked a cottage or self-catering accommodation directly with the owner. 

Many agencies and websites do offer some protection, however, as long as you can supply evidence that you, or one of your party, has had a positive PCR test shortly before departure. For example, holidaycottages.co.uk says that if you contact customer services in this situation, it will offer you a choice of: a postponement of the holiday, a voucher or cash refund for the full amount, or a free transfer to one of your friends. Meanwhile, Airbnb (airbnb.co.uk) booking conditions say that you should be entitled to cancel and receive a refund under its extenuating circumstance policy if you booked after March 2020, you or someone in your party has Covid, your check-in date is within the next 14 days. and you haven’t already checked in. Alternatively, the host’s refund policy will apply. 

By contrast, if the Government decides to further tighten restrictions in the days before Christmas and requires hotels and or holiday accommodation to close, then your booking will have to be cancelled and you will be legally entitled to a cash refund.

Holidays abroad

The good news is that many travel insurance policies do now cover cancellation costs if you can prove that you have fallen ill with Covid and are unable to travel as a result. But do check this point before you buy one. Some of the most comprehensive policies, which also cover you if you have to isolate abroad because you have failed a pre-departure test, include PJ Hayman (pjhayman.com), AllClear (allcleartravel.co.uk) and Staysure (staysure.co.uk). 

For those who aren’t insured, most airlines and tour operators also now offer a good deal of flexibility. You probably won’t be able to cancel for a refund, but can normally postpone your trip to a later date. It’s worth checking the terms now, just in case. Those who have booked accommodation privately, however, will probably be dependent on the good will of the hotelier, villa or apartment owner. If they won’t budge, you will probably lose your money.

And if you are nervous of leaving home

The omicron variant has already changed many people’s behaviour patterns, with parties cancelled and numbers going out to restaurants and bars already dipping. It’s likely that some people will now also feel nervous about travelling. It is highly unlikely that you will be able to get a refund in these circumstances, though you can still take advantage of the flexibility offered by travel companies which I have just mentioned. In any event, if you do decide to change holiday plans, always contact your holiday company or airline before taking any action. If you cancel unilaterally, you will almost certainly not be entitled to receive a refund.

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