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Prospective summer holidaymakers warned 'think before you book'

Heavily discounted summer and Christmas 2021 holiday deals have people itching to book, but group warns of very real risk of disruptions due to ...

Irish people thinking of a summer holiday abroad or at home should exercise “common sense” above all, with thousands still waiting for refunds from last year, a consumer body has warned.

The European Consumer Centre Ireland, an advisory organisation that is part of the European network, said that if consumers are looking to make their travel bookings now or soon, it is essential to look for:

  • Flexible booking terms;
  • Package holiday contracts;
  • Trusted travel agents with a good record.

“These are key to enjoying their holiday, as well as peace of mind if anything goes wrong before, during, or after a holiday,” ECC Ireland said.

Tempting offers already have would-be holidaymakers itching to book, the group said, but it warned against doing so impulsively.

“Heavily discounted summer and Christmas 2021 holiday deals may make you want to book right now, come what may. 

Even though we are all optimistic that we will be vaccinated in time to make our holiday, a very real risk remains that your plans could be disrupted due to Covid-19 again, just like in 2020.

“Remember that thousands of holidaymakers are still struggling to obtain their overdue refunds from tour operators and airlines for trips cancelled during 2020."

Holidaymakers should essentially make sure that there are no restrictions either into or out of Ireland and at their country of destination, ECC Ireland said.

“If travel operators — airlines, for instance — are operating their services as normal, but you decide not to travel or cancel the reservations/tickets, you will not be entitled to a refund.” 

Many tourists were not entitled to refunds last year after cancelling their holidays even though the Government’s guidance at the time said people shouldn’t or couldn’t travel, it warned.

If going on longer-haul destinations, it is essential to know the restrictions in countries that were merely stopovers on the way to the holiday, according to ECC Ireland.

“Plan ahead, keep informed, and check what is required in terms of vaccination, testing, and quarantine at your destination, but also in all of the places you are transiting on your way there. 

"Remember that restrictions and lockdowns can happen overnight or at very short notice, so it is advised that you check and track these at all times before your travel.

“The one-stop-shop web address to check for the most up-to-date information is reopen.europa.eu for any destination in the EU/EEA, and reopen.europa.eu/en/map/IRL/7001, for an Irish staycation, along with the information on gov.ie,” it said.

If you book a holiday, make it a package one, the body advised.

“Even with ever-changing travel restrictions in Ireland and across many jurisdictions around Europe and the world, having to quarantine or self-isolate at the beginning of the holiday and when you get back home too, as well as the possibility of the travel company going out of business by the time your holiday comes up, there is a way to minimise losses and uncertainty,” it said.

A travel package offers the optimum form of consumer protection at present thanks to EU and national law consumer protections against travel company insolvency, travel cancellations, and travel restrictions imposed by authorities.

When a national lockdown is announced or travel advice for your destination changes, tour operators, unlike airlines, will cancel the holiday package contracts.

“Crucially, unlike all other forms of travel, the tourists can cancel the holiday themselves, with no financial consequences for extraordinary circumstances (such as Covid-19-related disruptions). 

"Additionally, the original traveller can transfer the package to another traveller who may be able to travel instead.” 

Travel insurance is still a must-have, according to ECC Ireland. “Note though that travel insurance that covers you for Covid-19-related illness and disruption is not standard, and there are no comprehensive covers for it in terms of medical or logistical expenses.

“When choosing the right policy, check what will be covered before, during, and after your holiday, namely if cancellations (flights and accommodation, for example) are covered.

“Some airlines, tour operators, and hotels are now offering free or paid-for Covid-19 insurance cover as an optional addition to your booking/ticket, but you should have some type of comprehensive travel insurance for all other claims if you want complete peace of mind.”

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