When the coronavirus outbreak first spread, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office began gradually warning against travel to certain countries, and between March and July it advised against all but essential travel to all overseas destinations. Over the summer, some travel restrictions were lifted, but many have been gradually reimposed as the pandemic’s second wave struck.
Right now though, the bigger issue is that national and local lockdowns across much of the UK mean you are either banned or advised against travelling anywhere – whether that’s elsewhere in the UK or overseas.
Holidays from England – banned
In England, holidays are banned during the national lockdown from Thursday 5 November to Wednesday 2 December. This includes travel within the UK and overseas. If you’re abroad on Thursday 5 November, you do not need to return home immediately, but should check with your airline or travel operator on arrangements for returning.
In Wales, international travel is not allowed, but travel within Wales is. There are no restrictions on travel within Wales, but people are told not to travel to other parts of the UK if they can avoid it. The Welsh Government website also says travel abroad should not be undertaken.
In Scotland, non-essential travel between Scotland and the rest of the UK isn’t allowed – and overseas holidays are banned for many. All non-essential travel into or out of ‘level 3’ or above areas is banned, so you can’t leave one of these areas for a holiday either overseas or within the UK. If you live in a ‘level 2’ or below area, you can generally still go on holiday overseas. But travel between Scotland and England, Wales, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland is banned – which applies both to people who live in Scotland and those who live elsewhere and are planning to visit Scotland.
Northern Ireland, most non-essential travel is advised against – but it’s not against the law. If you can’t travel due to new lockdown restrictions then, as a general rule, your rights depend on whether your trip is still running. If your flight or package holiday is cancelled, you’re due a full refund. If it’s still on, then legally they don’t need to refund you.
Going abroad or planning a future trip?
It’s important to check Foreign Office warnings and quarantine restrictions. Given the strict lockdown rules outlined above, for many the question of what other travel restrictions are in place will be academic in the short term. But if you are going away or planning a future trip, it’s important to check what the latest situation is (though as it changes frequently, bear in mind any future trip may be subject to different rules). Here are the three key questions to ask:
- Is the Foreign Office advising against travel? The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) issues advice to UK nationals on where it’s safe to travel abroad. As well as being a useful safety guide, this can sometimes determine whether or not you’re able to get a refund or insurance payout if you’re due to travel to specific locations. So always check the latest FCO travel advice.
- Will you have to quarantine on return? Quarantine requirements for those returning to the UK are an important consideration – those arriving from many destinations must still self-isolate for two weeks, which may make travelling impractical, although from Tuesday 15 December you may be able to cut the isolation period – see below for more on this. See the latest advice for those returning to England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
- Will the country you’re going to let you in (or require you to quarantine)? For example, the FCO has no warning in place for Australia, yet Brits are still not allowed to enter the country. For this, you’ll need to check with the country in question – its UK embassy website is often a good starting point.
Travellers returning to England are able to cut quarantine
Passengers arriving in England will be able to reduce mandatory quarantine from mid-December if they pay for and take a coronavirus test at least five days after coming into the country. At the moment, passengers arriving into England from countries not on the Government’s travel corridor list have to self-isolate for 14 days. But under a new ‘test to release’ scheme that will come into force on Tuesday 15 December, people will have the option to take a test after five days of self-isolation, with a negative result releasing them from the need to isolate.
Flight or holiday cancelled – can we get a refund?
In this situation, your first step should be to try and get a full refund from the travel firm – though that is proving tough for some in practice. If you’re struggling, you can also try to get money back from your card firm, if you booked with a debit or credit card, or your travel insurer.
Travel firms SHOULD refund you for cancelled trips – though many are dragging their feet
As a general rule, if you’ve paid for a trip and then the travel firm cancels, you should be due a refund. Yet that hasn’t always proved easy with cancellations due to the pandemic. While coronavirus has been devastating across the travel industry, firms have been treating customers in very different ways – as shown by a major MoneySavingExpert.com survey
Even if some firms are being slow to refund customers though, your right to a refund is clear:
- With most cancelled flights, you’re due a full refund within seven days. Most cancelled flights will fall under EU flight delay rules (which still apply this year despite Brexit, and cover all flights leaving the UK or EU as well as flights to the UK/EU on a UK/EU airline). These state you’re entitled to choose between:
- EITHER a refund for the flight that was cancelled.
- OR an alternative flight (airlines call this re-routing) to your destination.
- With cancelled package holidays, you’re due a full refund with 14 days. Package holidaymakers whose trips are cancelled are also entitled to all their money back under the Package Travel Regulations.
Technically you’re due this refund within two weeks, but in practice at the moment it’s likely to take longer – and the Chartered Trading Standards Institute has told us insisting on a 14-day turnaround may be tricky at the moment, given the volume of refunds travel firms are grappling with at the moment. So it may be advisable to show forbearance and not push the law as far as it can technically go on the timescale. But the important thing is that you are due a refund.
- With other travel bookings (hotels, car hire etc), the rules are less specific but you SHOULD still get a refund. While flight refunds are covered by EU rules and package holidays by the Package Travel Regulations, there aren’t such specific rules with such clear timescales for other travel bookings, such as car hire or hotels.
Generally speaking, if the service you have booked isn’t provided, you should be refunded – and that’s a principle the competition watchdog has clearly supported. Enforcing it may be tricky though, especially if the firm is abroad where local laws may be different to those in the UK – so there are no guarantees.
What if the country I’m going to says I can’t come in or I have to quarantine?
Some travellers are now facing another dilemma – the UK Government says they can travel, yet the country they’re going to won’t let them in or insists they must quarantine for a certain amount of time on arrival.
If you do need to quarantine when you get to your holiday destination, it’s unlikely airlines or hotels will offer a refund if they’re open and running services. You also won’t be able to use credit or debit card protection, because the service is still available.
Some travel firms now cancelling November bookings
Many major airlines and package holiday firms are now cancelling trips due to the England-wide lockdown. Here’s a snapshot of what different firms are saying:
Airline and package holiday firm November plans
|Travel firm||Policy on November bookings|
|British Airways||Will contact customers about bookings. If you wish, you can cancel any booking made after 3 Mar 2020 and due to take place before 31 Aug 2021 and get voucher valid for 2yrs. No late notice fees apply – see BA update below|
|Easyjet||Not operating many flights – offering cash refunds|
|Jet2||Working with Govt to “obtain much-needed clarity” and will contact customers if bookings are cancelled. Customers who don’t wish to travel from 5 Nov 2020 can amend their booking to a later date at no cost|
|Ryanair||Not cancelling Nov bookings, but says customers can move them to Dec or Jan free of charge|
|Tui||Cancelling all trips in Nov (and offering the option of a cash refund)|
|Virgin Atlantic||Will be in touch with affected customers. Customers who make bookings before 31 Dec 2020, for travel all the way up to 31 Aug 2021, will face no change fees (for up to two changes or one name change) if they choose to amend the booking. Can rebook to travel anytime before 31 Dec 2022|
I’m affected by the English lockdown – will my insurer pay?
An England-wide lockdown is running until Wednesday 2 December. Travelling out of England will be banned for the duration of the English lockdown. If your travel provider won’t refund you and you don’t want to rebook, your next best option may be your travel insurer – though whether you’ll get your money back depends on your policy, when you booked and your specific insurer.
What if I have to quarantine on return to the UK?
Since 8 June 2020, travellers arriving in the UK from some overseas destinations have needed to self-isolate for 14 days.
Some airlines, hotels and other firms will let you cancel or rebook
It’s worth checking directly with your airline or hotel even if your original booking was on a non-refundable basis, as some have introduced special cancellation or rebooking policies to help those affected by coronavirus. And even where firms haven’t introduced special policies, it’s worth asking anyway if there’s any flexibility, as in some cases they’ll be willing to let you cancel or rebook.
Beware though – even where there’s flexibility, you may have to give notice to cancel or rebook, as some firms charge fees for last-minute changes.
Here’s what firms have told us they’re doing (although this changes regularly, so you’ll need to check with companies directly for the most up-to-date information).
Airline cancellation and rebooking rights
|Airline (and link to full info)||Cancellation and rebooking policy|
|British Airways||Can cancel any booking made after 3 Mar 2020 and due to take place before 31 Aug 2021 and get voucher valid for 2yrs. No late notice fees apply – see BA update below|
|Easyjet||Has temporarily waived flight change fees for bookings 14+ days away – so anyone with an existing booking can move it to another date if they give notice. A £5 fee applies if making the change over the phone|
|Jet2||No refund if you cancel. £35 fee to change date|
|Norwegian||Costs may be involved in changing your booking, unless it’s a Flex or Premium Flex booking|
|Ryanair||From 10 Jun 2020, no change fee if you move Jul and Aug bookings up until 31 Dec 2020, so long as you give at least seven days’ notice. From 17 Jul 2020, no change fee if you move Sep bookings up until 31 Dec 2020 – same notice applies|
|Virgin Atlantic||Customers who make bookings before 31 Dec 2020, for travel all the way up to 31 Aug 2021, will face no change fees (for up to two changes or one name change) if they choose to amend the booking. Can rebook to travel anytime before 31 Dec 2022|
Hotel and package holiday cancellation and rebooking rights
|Company (and link to full info)||Cancellation and rebooking policy|
|Accor||Guests who booked a non-flex rate direct for travel until 31 Dec 2020 can change booking without fees|
|Airbnb||Reservations for stays and Airbnb Experiences made on or before 14 Mar 2020, with a check-in date between 14 Mar and 15 Oct 2020, can be cancelled before check-in|
|Best Western||No specific details – says its hotels, which are independently owned, have been encouraged to show “empathy and flexibility”|
|Jet2 Holidays||Costs involved if you cancel|
|Marriott International||Existing reservations for future arrival dates will have the same reservation policies as when the booking was made. For new reservations made from 6 Jul 2020 with an arrival date on or before 30 Dec 2020, bookings can be changed or cancelled with no charge up to 24 hours before the scheduled arrival date|
|Tui||Customers can amend hols for free if they contract Covid-19 beforehand, and will be covered for an extended stay and new flight home if asked to quarantine at their destination. Tui will contact you if there’s a “significant change” to your holiday|
British Airways is letting many cancel flights in exchange for a voucher – but think carefully before accepting
British Airways is now allowing anyone who has a flight booked which is due to depart up until the end of January 2021 to cancel it for free and claim a voucher for its value to be used on future bookings. (If you’ve booked since 3 March 2020, you can do this for flights due to depart up until 30 August 2021.)
You’ll be able to use the voucher on flights which depart up until 30 April 2022. (For full info, see the BA website).
It’s important to be aware that if BA cancels a flight, you’re legally due a full refund. Yet if you voluntarily agree to a voucher for a non-cancelled flight, BA has confirmed you lose your right to a refund. So if your flight is still currently set to go ahead, you’ll need to weigh up whether you want to ask for a voucher now or wait to see if it’s cancelled later on, meaning you could ask for a cash refund.
While BA says it tries to give customers as much notice as possible if their flight’s cancelled, at the moment its schedules are constantly under review and whether your flight goes ahead will depend on a range of factors, including different countries’ travelling restrictions – so there’s no definite timeframe for when you’ll find out if your flight’s been cancelled.
However, BA says you can request a voucher right up until check-in for your scheduled flight closes. So if you don’t want to travel and would prefer a cash refund, you could wait to see what happens to your flight – if it isn’t cancelled and you’re not owed cash, you can still request a voucher.
For BA loyalists who can afford to, taking a voucher is a decent thing to do. Plus if you may choose not to travel anyway, even if the flight’s on and your destination’s not covered by Foreign Office warnings, this offers extra flexibility. And as these are price-based vouchers, not vouchers for identical flights, if you’d booked expensive peak-season flights and now want to rebook to a cheaper time or destination, there could be a real advantage in going for the vouchers.
But it cuts both ways. There’s no guarantee you’ll get a decent deal if you rebook, and you could be better off flying with another airline – so for many, taking cash may make more financial sense.
Passport at or nearing expiry?
Renew it as soon as possible. The Passport Office is warning, understandably, that renewing is taking longer than the usual three weeks. But the Government’s now introduced a new five-day fast-tracked service to help those due to travel in the next fortnight whose passports have been delayed – so if you’re set to go abroad imminently, you can ring the Passport Office on 0300 222 0000 to discuss the situation and ask for your application to be fast-tracked.
What if a family member or I get coronavirus before/during our trip?
Some travel insurance policies will cover you in this scenario – though it depends what policy you have and when you took it out/booked your trip. If you bought insurance and booked the trip before mid-March, it’s likely you’ll be covered for cancellation, though check. Equally, many newer insurance policies offer coronavirus medical cover – so you’re protected if you catch coronavirus while travelling, or if you or a family member get coronavirus before travelling and can’t go on your trip. However, don’t assume you’re covered – you’ll need to check.
Am I covered if I miss my holiday because the area where I live has entered into a localised lockdown?
If you live in an area which has been ordered into a local lockdown (as has now happened across several areas), then you may be required to stay at home if the Government advises against all but essential travel to, from and within the area. That means if you had an overseas trip booked during this period, you wouldn’t be able to go.
Unfortunately, in this situation you’ve no special refund rights with your travel firm, so if the flight’s still running and your accommodation’s open, you won’t be automatically due a refund – but your travel provider may offer you some flexibility if you explain the situation.
Your first step in this case would be to speak to your airline, hotel or package provider and ask if you could postpone the trip to a later date, or cancel it and get a refund. However, if your trip’s still running, ultimately your rights depend on what terms you booked the trip on, and the cancellation and refund policies of the travel firm.
You MAY be able to claim on travel insurance if there’s a local lockdown
If you don’t have success with your travel provider(s), you may be able to claim on travel insurance.
If you took out your travel insurance or booked the trip after the pandemic was officially declared, it’s likely you won’t be covered as coronavirus will be considered a ‘known event’.
But if you booked and bought travel insurance before this, then whether you’re covered will likely depend on the details of your policy, including whether it excludes coronavirus cancellations and whether it includes travel disruption cover. We’re speaking to a number of insurers to find out what cover they’re offering in this scenario, and will update this guide when we hear back.
Note that if you travel anyway despite the local lockdown, you may risk invalidating your policy cover as your policy may insist that you abide by Government advice.
UK holiday booked?
With overseas travel significantly disrupted, many will have chosen to book a holiday within the UK this autumn. But in recent few weeks we’ve seen lockdown rules across much of the UK rapidly tightened – leaving many wondering if they can still travel and, if not, what their rights to a refund are.
How ‘tiers’ and new lockdown rules affect UK travel
Whether you’re allowed to travel depends on the rules where you are and where you’re going, plus how many of you are going (see multiple household restrictions below), so this can get complicated. To find out what restrictions apply in a given area, check the Gov.uk website – here are the key need-to-knows:
- Travel within Wales is allowed if you live there, but travel outside is not. This includes travel abroad or within the UK.
- Overseas travel is banned from ‘tier three’ or above areas in Scotland, but not lower tiers. All non-essential travel into or out of ‘level three’ or above areas is banned, so you can’t leave one of these areas for a holiday, either overseas or within the UK. If you live in a ‘tier two’ or below area though, you are allowed to leave for a holiday overseas.
- But ALL travel between Scotland and other parts of the UK is now banned. Travel between Scotland and England, Wales, Northern Ireland or the Republic of Ireland is banned – which applies both to people who live in Scotland and those who live elsewhere and are planning to visit Scotland.
- Holidays from England are banned from Thursday 5 November to Wednesday 2 December. This is part of the lockdown announced by Prime Minister Boris Johnson on 31 October 2020.
- If you live in a tier one area of England from Wednesday 2 December and travel to an area in a higher tier, you should follow the rules for that area while you are there. Avoid travel to or overnight stays in tier three areas other than where necessary, such as for work or education. You can travel through a tier three area as part of a longer journey.
- If you live in a tier two area of England from Wednesday 2 December, you must continue to follow tier two rules when you travel to a tier one area. Avoid travel to or overnight stays in tier three areas other than where necessary, such as for work or education. You can travel through a tier three area as a part of a longer journey.
- Avoid travelling to other parts of the UK if you’re in a tier three area of England from Wednesday 2 December. This includes travel for overnight stays other than where necessary, such as for work or education.
- Travel for those in Northern Ireland is advised against, but isn’t in law. The NI Executive told us: “Everyone is asked to be very mindful of the risks of spreading the virus by travel.
“If you feel you need to travel outside your area for any other reason, satisfy yourself that it can be done in a safe and socially-distanced fashion. Don’t put yourself or others at risk. The regulations do not set limits for the distance that you may travel for any purpose. You should act responsibly and reasonably.”
Holiday firm cancelled your trip?
You’re likely due a full refund. As with overseas holidays, a key factor in whether you’re owed a refund for a UK trip is whether your holiday firm has cancelled your booking. If yours does, then in simple terms you’re likely due a full refund – and if you don’t get one, you should fight for it. If you’ve booked a package holiday then under the Package Travel Regulations you are entitled to get all your money back within two weeks of any cancellation. But even if it’s not a package, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) says as a general rule firms MUST offer cash refunds for cancellations due to coronavirus. So if your holiday or accommodation booking is cancelled, you’re likely due a full refund and should ask for one if it’s not offered.
Do check the small print of your contract for any specific exclusions though, and you may also want to consider showing forbearance if you can – if you’re offered a rebooking instead of a refund and are happy to take it, it helps at a time when the travel industry is struggling as never before.
Holiday not cancelled? Your refund rights depend on what lockdown rules are in place
In some cases, your holiday may still be running or your accommodation open, but you may be unable to go due to lockdown restrictions either at your holiday destination or in your local area. The key to your rights here is the legal status of the restrictions which are stopping you travelling:
If travel’s illegal under coronavirus rules, you’re likely due a full refund
The good news is in this situation the CMA says you should expect a full refund. Its guidance states that consumers should get their money back if they’re not provided with a service due to lockdown laws, or can’t access what they paid for “because, for example, lockdown laws in the UK or abroad have made it illegal to receive or use the goods or service”.
It’s important to note however that CMA guidance isn’t a definitive interpretation of the law, and this is a new scenario which hasn’t been tested – so while you can direct your holiday accommodation provider to the guidance, complain to the CMA or even pursue legal action, there are no guarantees.
If travel’s advised against but not illegal, your refund rights are less clear
If your trip is to or from a part of the UK where travel is advised against but not illegal, such as part of England under tier three restrictions, things could be more complicated.
Unfortunately, in this situation you may find it more difficult to get your money back if you decide not to travel. The CMA’s guidance says if the restrictions which prevent a service being used aren’t legal restrictions, it’s not clear whether a consumer would be entitled to a full refund.
This doesn’t mean you’re definitely not entitled to a refund. The CMA says if a consumer would be at serious risk if they went ahead with a contract (such as a holiday booking) against Government guidance, the contract could be deemed to have been “frustrated” – in which case you could be owed a full refund. But it’s much murkier – and again, you need to remember these are untested situations and ultimately only a court can decide how the law applies in different scenarios.
The best bet is to speak to your holiday or accommodation provider and ask what it’ll offer. You may be able to cancel under your usual terms and conditions, or ask for more flexibility such as a date change. If you can’t come to an agreement you’re both happy with, you’ll need to weigh up how hard to push for a refund. You can try the steps we outline above, but there are no guarantees and you may be less likely to have success if your trip isn’t technically forbidden by law.
If you’re still allowed to travel, you’ve no automatic right to a refund
If you are still permitted to go on your holiday under official restrictions and guidance – for example, you’re from a tier one area and are holidaying in an area that’s also under tier one or tier two restrictions – it’s important to understand you don’t have any automatic right to a refund if you choose not to go.
If your holiday’s still on or the hotel’s still open, your refund rights will simply depend on the terms and conditions you agreed to when you booked. Of course, these may still let you cancel for free or move your trip, and some firms are also offering extra flexibility to all their customers at the moment due to coronavirus, so it’s still worth checking what your options are.
What if I’ve booked a trip for multiple households?
Travellers who’ve booked trips where multiple households are due to stay together have faced increasing restrictions in recent months. For example, in England the Government initially said a maximum of two households could go on holiday together, then introduced the “rule of six”, which means if guests are from multiple households, only six can stay together in total.
Here are the rules on multiple household holidays as they now stand:
- If you live in an area of England with ‘tier one’ restrictions, you can go on holiday in a group of up to six (after Wednesday 2 December), though if you’re going to an area with tighter rules you’ll need to obey these while you’re there.
- If you live in or are planning to visit an area of England with ‘tier two’ restrictions, or Scotland, you can only go with your own household or support bubble. Again, you can’t do this during the national lockdown in England, which runs until Wednesday 2 December.
- In other areas of the UK, holidays are either advised against or banned (or will soon be banned), regardless of how many households were due to go.
If your holiday is to and from a permitted area, but would break the rules because the travellers are from multiple households, CMA guidance suggests you’d be owed a refund (though it’s not completely clear-cut and there are no guarantees).
I’ve already bought insurance and booked a holiday – am I covered?
Right now, the situation with travel insurance is complex – different policies offer different levels of cover, and there are lots of different scenarios under consideration. Here are the key need-to-knows if you’ve already got travel insurance and booked your holiday:
- Cancellation due to coronavirus travel restrictions MAY be covered – but it’s likely this will only be the case if your insurance was taken out and holiday booked before mid-March. If you took out your policy and booked your holiday before the FCO warned against all non-essential travel in March, most (though not all) insurers should cover you for cancellation due to coronavirus travel restrictions or disruption as long as an FCO warning remains in place for your destination. (You’ll be expected to try for a refund from your airline or travel firm first though.)
The same should apply if the FCO lifts its travel warning but then reimposes it before you’re due to travel.
If you either took out your policy or booked your holiday after the FCO warning was put in place in mid-March, you’re much less likely to be covered for any kind of coronavirus travel restrictions or disruption. It’s worth noting though that Nationwide’s FlexPlus packaged bank account does now offer coronavirus cancellation cover on new trips in some circumstances, so if you’ve recently taken that cover and have since booked a new trip, you may also have protection for future cancellation – see more in our Cheap Travel Insurance guide.
- Some policies MAY cover cancellation even if there’s no FCO warning when you’re due to travel. It’s not just about the FCO travel advice – even if the FCO warning has been lifted when you travel, your trip could still be disrupted, leaving you needing to claim. So it’s also worth checking whether your policy covers cancellation if there’s no FCO advisory but either your flight or hotel is cancelled, and you can’t travel as a result. Some policies do cover this, other’s don’t – for a rough idea, see our insurer-by-insurer info below.
- Some polices MAY cover cancellation due to coronavirus illness. Some policies may also cover you for cancellation if you – or, in some cases, a family member – get coronavirus before you’re due to travel. This is more likely to be the case if you took out your policy and booked your holiday before mid-March, but in some cases newer policies and more recent bookings may also be covered, depending on your insurer.
- Non-coronavirus cancellation will LIKELY be covered by your policy. In most cases, regardless of when you got your policy or booked your holiday, travel insurance will cover you for cancellation of a holiday which isn’t related to coronavirus – for instance if you were to break your arm, be made redundant or suffer a bereavement before travel.
One exception to this though can be if you book a holiday while an FCO travel warning is in place for your destination. If you do that, some insurers won’t cover non-coronavirus cancellation until the FCO warning is lifted. Others, such as Nationwide, say they will, so it depends on your policy.
- If an FCO warning is in place at the time of your trip, you’re UNLIKELY to be covered by your insurance if you decide to travel anyway. Many insurers warn that travelling when the FCO advises against it can invalidate your cover – so it’s usually a bad idea, as you won’t be protected while you’re away.
There are a few exceptions though, and your insurance may also remain valid if your trip’s deemed ‘essential’ – the FCO warning is only against non-essential travel. So if in doubt, check with your insurer.
Will the travel insurance cover me if I move my holiday?
If you are one of the many who had to postpone your 2020 holiday and rearrange it for later this year or 2021, you might find that you can still use your current travel insurance policy. To move the insurance dates, or extend your annual travel insurance policy, you will need get in touch with your insurer. But in short:
- If you have a single trip policy, you may still be covered if you take the holiday within a year of the original travel date. For single-trip policies, the re-arranged holiday would need to be within 365 days of the original departure date to do this.
- Got an annual policy? You might be able to extend it by up to three months. There is some flexibility for annual travel insurance policies, with many insurers giving the option to suspend the policy for three months, or get an extra three months of cover. For example, if you moved your holiday to February next year, and your travel insurance policy ends December 2020, you might be able to extend it to March next year.
- It won’t cost you anything as long as your holiday is like-for-like, just at a different date. If your rearranged holiday is to a new destination seen as ‘riskier’, or for a longer trip, it is likely you will be asked to pay extra, eg, if you decide to swap your week in Spain for 10 days in South Africa.
- Your cover stays the same except for the coronavirus cover. While your original travel insurance policy might have included cancellation cover if the FCO advice was not to travel due to coronavirus, it is likely you will lose this cover for any extension period of an annual policy or a rearranged single-trip policy. But you should still be covered if you need to cancel because you or a family member is diagnosed with coronavirus before you go (many give this, but not all). Plus when you are on holiday, you will still have medical cover, including repatriation, if you need medical help abroad due to coronavirus.
Everything else will stay the same – so, for instance, if you were to break your arm, be made redundant or suffer a bereavement before travel, your usual cover will remain in place.
- You can ONLY move your policy if it’s due to FCO advice or travel disruptions (eg, local lockdown). If your holiday has been rearranged because you no longer want to go this year, it may not be possible to change the insurance dates (as it will be viewed as disinclination to travel) but it is always worth asking.
- If you can’t extend it, you might be able to get a refund instead. Many travel insurers are now offering pro-rata refunds to customers who’ve ruled out travelling due to coronavirus and want to cancel their policy. But you’ll need to request a refund to get one – and should only do this if you’re certain you no longer need the cover. Importantly, you can only do this if you haven’t already made a claim on your policy. For more, see our Can I get a refund? section.
No travel insurance?
Most of the new policies won’t cover coronavirus cancellation now. The best option is to get your travel insurance as soon as you book. Normally that’s because if you leave getting insurance until just before you travel, you’re not covered for anything that happens before the point you get it which stops you going – thus you’ve waved off half the value of the cover. Until recently, the only travel insurance policies which would cover your holiday being cancelled if the Foreign Office were again to warn against travel were those taken out pre-pandemic for holidays booked pre-pandemic.
From 1 January 2021, Nationwide’s travel insurance cover will change. While its insurance cover remains top-of-the-range, if you book a holiday after 1 January you won’t then be covered if you need to cancel for a Covid-related reason, including:
- If you or a travelling companion have been told to self-isolate but don’t actually have Covid-19.
- If the Foreign Office is advising against all travel or all but essential travel to your destination.
- If your pre-booked accommodation goes into local lockdown.
- If you, or a close relative, were suffering from coronavirus when you booked the trip.
Even if you’re struggling to get a policy that’ll cover coronavirus cancellation, it’s still worth getting insurance as soon as you book if planning a trip – or as soon as possible if you’ve already booked one. There are a whole host of reasons you might need to claim which are nothing to do with coronavirus – other illness or a bereavement that stops you from travelling, or you have something stolen while abroad.