With the uncertainty around travelling abroad, you might be considering packing that umbrella and booking a break closer to home. We’re perhaps a little guilty of being somewhat dismissive of all the UK genuinely does have to offer for a true ‘holiday’ experience.
But while a rainy day or two will be almost a given for an escape ‘in the country’, we may understandably still be nervous about what remains unclear before committing to a staycation. If our own circumstances change, or the current easing restrictions u-turn, will our plans, and our cash, be put on hold? Here’s our checklist on your staycation rights – and how you can secure that much needed time away from the confines of your house.
The cancellation rules
Starting off simply, if you have booked, or are about to book, a package holiday within the UK (a deal that includes transport, accommodation and any trips or excursions) then your rights if it is cancelled are identical to package breaks booked overseas. If your operator or provider cancels your package deal, you are entitled to a refund within 14 days. If you’re offered a voucher, or an alternative date, and you want to accept that so you can still have something to look forward to, then by all means feel free, but be aware that you don’t have to if you’d prefer your cash back instead.
If you book, but simply change your mind, then you have no rights to request a refund from your provider, nor will you be able to effectively claim from your travel insurer, if you have a policy. There may be circumstances however, where you can negotiate to ensure you’re not completely left out of pocket.
The ‘rules’ are more complicated if, for example, you’ve only booked accommodation. Perhaps your staycation venue is open – but the facilities you hope to use aren’t or may close at a moment’s notice. Or nearby tourist attractions are closed or at best restricted.
In this situation, your rights to a refund or a discount will depend on the terms and conditions of your booking – so while it’s perhaps the most obvious, but most boring element of booking that break, it’s more important than ever that you check these carefully.
If the terms state that you are entitled to a refund if your accommodation’s services aren’t fully operational, such as pools, theme areas or spa facilities that were sold to you at the time, then that is a contract and you can therefore claim the money back. Some UK travel providers are already offering refunds in these circumstances, or a voucher or option to change the date.
It’s worth considering if you would be happy to accept this. The travel industry has taken a knock during the pandemic and many firms are struggling, so while it’s not an excuse to be denied your rights, you could be helping them stay afloat by accepting an alternative if you still want to go ahead with the holiday at some point.
If however, you want your refund and the provider won’t play ball, you can always look to claim from your bank through ‘chargeback’ or, if your booking was more than £100, through your credit card provider under section 75. By advising this route, we are not advocating it as the ‘default’ way to get your cash back – you should always challenge your provider or insurer first. As these types of claims increase credit card providers may well question, if not challenge them if they are getting bombarded.
Can you get your VAT back?
VAT (value added tax) is a sum added to good and services by businesses – usually passed on to customers – so they can pay the taxman. Previously the majority of businesses had to add 20% on their prices to account for VAT, but the Government is allowing the UK’s hospitality businesses to reduce this to 5%.
You may be wondering if you could get a cheaper UK break – or a refund on some money you’ve already paid. The simple answer is if you haven’t booked yet, chances are your holiday will be cheaper. But if you have, you have no immediate right to that money back.
You can of course always ask, but perhaps be prepared to negotiate. For example, you could ask for the difference in vouchers to use the money for onsite costs during your break such as delivered meals or excursions. Then the money stays with the firm, and possibly generates them more profit.
Insuring your UK stay
It perhaps doesn’t come to mind to get travel insurance for a staycation – after all, you’re not flying and if you’re injured it can get sorted at home or nearby and the NHS will cover it, right? However, it can pay not to overlook travel insurance for a UK break.
This is because, while most new policies will exclude cover for things such as Covid-19 related cancellations, or if you catch the virus, you may still be covered if for example, you’re not able to travel because of imposed local lockdowns where you live or if you’ve been told you need to self isolate. There’s also the fact that you are likely to be covered for non-Covid related illness or injury, or if you can’t afford to pay the balance for the break due to financial circumstances beyond your control, which is important given the current economic climate. Before you take out a policy, or even if you have one, check with your insurer before you book and once again, run a watchful eye over all those Ts and Cs.
If you have a complaint to raise about a UK holiday you have booked – or you’re getting no joy from your provider – use Resolver for free to raise your issue.