You may have had to put this year’s travel plans on hold — but that doesn’t mean you can’t start planning a dream holiday for next year
Changing Government restrictions and turmoil for the airline industry in 2020 is leaving many of us confused over when, or if, to book future trips away.
However, you can use the time in lockdown to make plans and save money so that when you are ready to book that special holiday, you wll have all your plans in place.
Here, we hear from three couples who have been planning where to go and how to budget for their next big travel adventure.
The family reunion
Jacs, 44, and Ed Goldswain, 45, from Saint Albans, Hertfordshire, often take their children, Ernie, seven, and George, five, on adventurous trips.
“In recent years we’ve been to Wadi Rum desert in Jordan and the Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon in Iceland,” says Jacs.
However, they were forced to postpone their next trip, to South Africa, until 2021. This was for a family reunion, which was originally due to take place in March.
“It’s to mark 200 years since one of my husband’s ancestors travelled to South Africa from England in the first wave of the 1820 British settlers,” says Jacs, creator of family travel resource Flashpackingfamily.com. They will meet extended family and go on safari near Port Elizabeth.
“After lockdown, we will never take travel for granted again,” says Jacs. In the meantime, the family has been travelling the world from home.
“We incorporated travel into home-schooling, learning a few words from the country we are ‘visiting’, making food from that country, watching a documentary, and drawing the flag,” she says.
Travelling in reality can be expensive, especially as your family grows. However the Goldswains have found various ways to bring costs down over the years.
“Both Ed and I collect air miles with British Airways, using our BA Premium Plus Amex cards,” says Jacs.
“The £195 annual fee for the card is worth paying for. If we spend a certain amount each year, we qualify for a companion voucher so we get an extra flight free, although taxes are still payable. Children go free with the companion voucher.
“Flights to South Africa over the Easter holidays would have amounted to more than £3,000 for the four of us, but with a companion voucher and using air miles they cost just £900. However, this has been refunded since we cancelled.”
They plan far in advance if they are booking using air miles.
“Seats that can be booked this way are usually released around 12 months prior to the day of travel – and they can go quickly,” she says.
The family has yet to book their next trip, but they now have time to plan ahead.
Five holidays to inspire you
The world may have been in lockdown, but there are plenty of niche holidays to consider when the time is right to travel again. Below are five ideas to suit a range of budgets.
1 Antarctica Expedition: Plan an expedition to the frozen South with Explore.co.uk, from £3,984 for 10 nights.
2 UK Glamping: Discover rolling green fields and luxury camping facilities just outside London at Homefarmglamping.co.uk, from £80 per night for a two-person tent.
3 Namibian Fitness Holiday: Combine safari with getting fit in a unique adventure with personal trainer Dannygroves.com, from £2,850 for eight to 10 nights, excluding flights.
4 National Trust Holidays: NationalTrust.org.uk offers a selection of unusual properties around the UK for all budgets, such as The Water Tower, Trelissick, Truro, Cornwall, which sleeps two, at £313 for two nights.
5 Galapagos Cruise: Set sail in natural paradise with Journeylatinamerica.co.uk, from £7,784 for seven nights, excluding flights.
The delayed honeymoon
Kiran Hayre, a marketing manager, and her fiancé, Michael Bird, both 25, from Ruislip, West London, are hoping to get married in October.
“We’re crossing our fingers this will still go ahead,” she says. “But it depends if it’s safe to hold gatherings then – there will be about 80 guests.”
In the meantime, they are planning a two-week honeymoon for 2021. As wrestling fans, they are heading to Los Angeles for WrestleMania in March 2021.
“It’s like Super Bowl but for wrestling – we’ll book this part as a package. It is about a week or so of events, and if we need to cancel for any reason we should get our money back,” she says.
“We’ll then do our own tour of California, hopefully San Diego and Disneyland – but so far we have not booked anything. We have just made plans on where we want to go, listing restaurant recommendations.”
She adds: “For us this is a trip of a lifetime – I’ve been wanting to go to LA since I was young.”
At present, they are doing research and saving up for their big trip.
“We’re happy to book flights on a random day for the best deal. I will also compare currency rates online to get this before travel, as the pound has fallen in value again. Usually, I find that supermarkets, such as Sainsbury’s, offer the best deals,” says Kiran.
She uses cashback sites such as TopCashback for holiday planning for everything from car hire to hotels.
“I’ve just started doing this and so far I’ve got about £250 in cashback to put towards the trip.”
What can you plan now?
No one can be sure when will be the right time to travel again or whether to wait. But if you are determined to book now, make sure arrangements are flexible and cancellation policies are in place.
Jon Thorne, diector of user satisfaction at Skyscanner, says: “Guidance could change very quickly, so having flexible cover for your future plans is advisable right now.
“Many airlines are adopting flexible booking policies to enable customers to plan a trip but also have the peace of mind that if restrictions are still in place, they will not lose out.
“Even if you choose to book travel covered by flexible booking policies, we would strongly advise taking out travel insurance prior to booking, and to thoroughly check the level of cover included.”
However, some insurers have temporarily suspended the sale of travel insurance.
So you may need to work harder than usual to find cover — unless you already have an annual policy. If you buy a policy now, underwriting terms will most likely have been updated to exclude claims relating to coronavirus. Book your travel insurance as soon as you book your holiday.
Booking scheduled flights far in advance may secure you the best deal. If you pay by credit card, you should be able to claim your money back if the flight operator goes bust under section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act for purchases above £100 and up to £30,000.
If you are using an agent or tour operator for a holiday, make sure you are protected by Air Travel Organisers’ Licencing (ATOL), in the event the airline or holiday company goes bust.
Holidays that do not include flights, such as cruise or coach holidays, should be protected by ABTA, the trade body for UK tour operators and travel agents.
Check your travel insurance carefully to make sure it includes repatriation, missed departure and medical expenses. And remember, if you travel abroad against government advice your insurance will be invalidated.
The extended holiday
The lockdown has enabled John Clegg, 39, and his partner, Andy Wales, 52, from Bloxham, Oxfordshire, to plan a longer trip. They had planned to go on an 18-day holiday through Turkey this May to celebrate John’s 40th, but hadn’t got around to booking.
“While we are locked down, travel shows have been a great way to see the world and consider travel from a different perspective,” says John, who works in corporate communications.
“We’ve been inspired by the BBC’s Race Around the World, where pairs of travellers participate in a race through different countries.”
The couple are now considering a trip from Shanghai to Singapore next year.
“Though given the uncertainties of the health crisis, a week in Cuba might be a better option, as they have a great healthcare service and haven’t been as hard hit,” he says.
Andy, a financial management accountant, adds: “We’ll be prepared and ready for when the time comes to book. If you are doing things yourself, it can be time-intensive. We are doing the legwork now, while there isn’t anything else to do.”
They will book flights using Avios points collected over the years – for example, by shopping with British Airways’ online retail partners.
“This also means there is flexibility as flights booked this way may be cancelled for a small fee,” says Andy. They plan to use hotel points with Hilton Group and Starwood as well.
“Points bookings often gives you a fifth night free if you book four nights in the same place,” says Andy. “But we only book good hotels with points. Otherwise, we’ll book a cheaper place to stay.”
Cruise deals and last-minute cancellations
Cruise operators have suspended operations amid the coronavirus travel restrictions and, at present, there is little clarity over when cruises will set sail again.
However, if you had a cruise booked, you should be able to postpone or reschedule this to a future cruise. Or you may go ahead and book with a last-minute cancellation policy.
For example, Royal Carribean is enabling people to book future cruises with a 48-hour cancellation policy until the end of 2021.
Michael Wilson, managing director of Bolsover Cruise Club, says: “Many people have future cruise credits to use as a result of cancelled sailings in 2020 and with the expiry dates of these stretching right through next year, you can afford to do your research before booking that dream trip. There are plenty of good deals to be had.”