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How To Protect Your Holiday

SOS in Sand

As the financial crisis deepens you could be forgiven for thinking that now, more than ever, you deserve a holiday. And although there's no reason to stop travelling, it's only sensible - when companies like XL and Zoom go bust - to make sure you know which are the most secure booking options; what are your rights when things go wrong and what do you do when holiday plans go awry leaving you in the lurch?

These are Essential's top Protect Your Holiday tips - our guide to booking with confidence - and keeping you and your holiday safe in these unpredictable economic times. For more information about travelling abroad, please check our FCO widget for up-to-date travel information on over 200 countries.

  • Do

    1. Book a package holiday - currently the safest option. Under the Package Travel, Package Holidays and Package Tours Regulations (PTR) 1992, all package holidays must be ATOL (Air Travel Organiser's Licence) bonded. What that means for you is, should an airline or travel company go bust:

      • If you have yet to leave, the cost of your holiday will be refunded.
      • If you are already away on holiday, the Civil Aviation Authority will make sure you get back home.
    2. Check there is an ATOL number on your invoice. You will need it when claiming. If there is no ATOL number included, you may not be protected.

    3. Book with travel companies which are ABTA (The Association of British Travel Agents) or AITO (the Association of Independent Tour Operators) members. ABTA's Code of Conduct is designed to ensure all customers receive the best possible service: this includes financial backing should individual agencies get into difficulties. Book with AITO, the Association of Independent Tour Operators, and you will also be protected, as long as you are resident in the UK at the time of booking. In theory this offers you double the protection, but always double check when booking and ask what protection is included.

    4. Take Out Travel Insurance. The top three travel insurance claims are medical, lost luggage - and holiday cancellation. Now, more than ever, it pays to make sure you're insured - it's cheap, and if anything goes wrong it could save you hundreds of pounds - as well as untold anxiety. is the first travel insurance company in the UK to offer FREE failure of carrier cover to all Superior Policy Holders as standard. For more information click here.

    5. Book through a reputable travel agent, even if you're only buying a flight. Booking through an agent affords you more protection than booking directly with the airline - both in the case of scheduled (run directly by the airline) and charter (usually charted by a travel company) flights. Again, ask what protection they offer when you are making your booking..

    6. Book by Credit Card. If you want to travel independently (or component book as we now call booking your own flight, hotel, car hire etc... separately), then you fall outside most legislated government and industry protection. But thanks to the Consumer Credit Act 1974, if your holiday costs over £100 and under £30,000 and you've paid for it by credit card, then you will be able to claim a full refund from the credit card company.

    7. Remember you are not protected when you buy a scheduled flight directly with the airline, rather than going through an agency. If that airline goes under, it is under no obligation to refund you the cost of your ticket. A scheduled flight is one that is run by the airline itself, whereas a chartered flight has usually been rented by a third party, such as Thomas Cook or Thomson.

    8. Check your liability on all components of your holiday. Independent travellers are more vulnerable than package tourists because if your flight is cancelled, you may still be liable to pay for your car hire, hotel etc. Check the terms and conditions on each element of your booking.

    9. Assume you are covered. It's shocking and awful when your holiday company or airline suddenly goes belly up; and after the shock wears off, you assume you are going to get your money back or get home safely. But as XL and Zoom has demonstrated all too clearly - this is not the case. So check and double check with everybody you come in to contact with during the booking process, from the travel agent to your travel insurer what you get if they go broke.

  • Don't

    1. Debit Cards are not the same as Credit Cards. Sounds obvious, but check yours: cards such as Switch, Maestro or Delta often only cover the first £100 of a purchase and some not even that much. And in the case of cheques and cash, you have no comeback at all if the company goes into administration.

Last Updated: October 2008