With news of three viable vaccines spreading hope for an end to the pandemic, holidaymakers starved of overseas travel will be eyeing up trips in 2021.
In fact, a third of people are planning to treat themselves to a better foreign holiday in 2021 after missing out on their annual break this year, according to research from travel money firm Caxton.
Some travel experts are advising tourists to book now as flight prices could soar as demand grows as restrictions are expected to ease once a vaccination programme is rolled out.
Meanwhile, the amount of cut-price deals currently available is huge. However, travellers will no doubt be asking: is it safe to book flights now?
Holidaymakers will be hoping they can get away next year if the vaccine has been rolled out
They will also want to know what sort of protection they can expect if their holidays are cancelled, especially if they have already been burnt in 2020, either by slow refunds or failure to obtain one.
This is Money spoke to several industry experts about whether holidaymakers should go ahead and book and if they do, what sort of protection they should ensure they have.
Should I book now – will prices rise in 2021?
At the moment, flights and accommodation costs are relatively low as firms try and persuade consumers to buy cut-price trips to keep them going while coronavirus restrictions are still in place.
We’re seeing Black Friday deals and coupled with January sales, it is likely some people will be tempted to press the big book button.
However, these prices are likely to rise in 2021 if the vaccine roll out is successful and overseas restrictions ease.
Some experts are advising holidaymakers to book now whilst they can at low prices, before they inevitably soar.
The shortfall in seats will give rise to a sharp hike in future airfares. We can hardly blame the airlines taking the opportunity to repair their massive losses.
Mike Gooley – Trailfinders founder
Mike Gooley, founder of Trailfinders, said: ‘As restrictions lift, as they surely will through 2021, the pent-up demand will result in a lack of capacity.
‘Airlines have mothballed whole fleets of aircraft and crew and will take months to swing back into full operation.
‘The shortfall in seats will give rise to a sharp hike in future airfares. We can hardly blame the airlines taking the opportunity to repair their massive losses.
‘Those booking now can take advantage of the current bargain prices, safe in the knowledge that so long as they book with a reputable travel organiser, who has refunded in full and promptly throughout, then their only risk is missing out.’
Emma Coulthurst of holiday price comparison site, TravelSupermarket, added: ‘There are some really good prices at the moment due to the continued uncertainty which the virus creates. Whilst travel is depressed, prices will remain low.
‘However, once travel gets back to normal and quarantines are cut dramatically or completely and there is cheap and widely available testing and an extensive roll-out of Covid vaccines, there are unlikely to be the rock bottom prices which you can currently snap up.
‘It is all about supply and demand and it is currently a buyers’ market for winter 2020/21 and 2021 Easter and summer holidays.’
A third of people are planning to treat themselves to a better foreign holiday in 2021, data says
Trends for 2021: Extra cash to splash?
After many resorted to staycation trips this year, overseas destinations are likely to be back on the cards for many next year.
Although some people will be the financial hit from coronavirus, and others may be too nervous to holiday abroad as soon as next year, others may have saved money from cancelled 2020 trips or by not spending on the commute.
This mean they could be looking to splurge more than usual when they can take a long-haul holiday again.
Dubai is looking like a popular destination for 2021, according to Travelsupermarket, with searches and bookings sky-rocketing on the back of the announcement recently that there is no need to quarantine after a holiday there.
The Caribbean will also continue to be popular for this winter into early next year as the Islands have seen low levels of the virus.
Travelsupermarket believes Australia, New Zealand, the Maldives, the US, South Africa and other African safari countries are all likely to be high on people’s planning lists.
Coulthurst said: ‘For those booking a holiday in the next couple of months, the most popular 2021 months to book for will be April and May – Easter for families and May for those without school-age children. Usually, you’d see most bookings for July and August.’
There are currently three star seven-night package holiday prices from the UK to the Med during the Easter holidays from as little as £165 per person.
Rebecca Murphy of Expedia added: ‘We’ve seen a handful of emerging destinations which have had increased interest as a result of changing travel behaviours.
The Maldives, French Polynesia and Barbados are now more popular as travellers are dreaming about visiting far-flung places when the time is right.
Rebecca Murphy – Expedia
‘For example, the Maldives, French Polynesia and Barbados are now more popular as travellers are dreaming about visiting far-flung places when the time is right.’
Skyscanner said the top ten spots searched by UK customers between October and November for travel between March and June next year include Dubai, Tenerife, Bangkok and Alicante.
However, many UK cities were also included such as London, Edinburgh and Manchester.
Package and all-inclusive holidays are also expected to remain popular next year.
Coulthurst said: ‘People have realised the benefits more than ever this year of booking a package holiday and we expect the trend towards package holidays, rather than going DIY and booking a flight and package holiday separately, to continue into 2021.’
‘Much of the travel industry has already released a large amount of its summer 2021 and winter 2021/2022 holiday stock with many people already rebooking their holidays for next year which they were unable to take this year.
‘Expect there to be 2021 offers available in the coming weeks. The industry wants and needs bookings as soon as possible and will continue to release good prices to stimulate bookings.’
Getting travel insurance, if you book a holiday, is essential as Covid-19 may still be an issue
How can you save on your booking?
Some experts suggest holidaymakers looking to book now can save money by being flexible about where you travel.
Skyscanner’s consumer travel expert, Jon Thorne, said: ‘In the past being flexible with travel might have meant flying at anti-social times to get a good price.
‘But if you can afford to be flexible with your destination or dates, you could bag an even better deal.’
Mixing and matching the airlines you choose to fly with can also seriously cut costs.
Fares don’t have to be booked as returns – look at flying out with one airline and back with another to save money for holiday spending when you’re there.
Thorne added: ‘It might be worth signing up to airline newsletters for airlines you fly with regularly. Also, if you can consider travelling a day before or a day after your original departure dates, flying on less popular days of the week is always cheaper.’
Signing up for price alerts is another effective way to get more bang for your buck.
You can mark a flight you are interested in and get an email every time the price goes up or down.
You can narrow your search to only show airlines with flexible tickets, filter for specific airlines or opt for greener choices.
Will quarantine timings affect bookings?
Despite the increase in holiday activity expected in 2021, some experts believe that even if quarantine times can be reduced through testing, people are going to prefer to visit countries where they hope they won’t have to quarantine.
Until there is wider availability of cheap and effective tests and a broad roll out of the vaccine, quarantines, albeit of a shorter length than before, are likely to continue.
Coulthurst added: ‘With the danger of countries being put on a quarantine list at short notice, many people this winter and into the first part of next year are likely to wait until the last minute to book to go to a destination.’
‘Travel is likely to only truly pick up once there is a wide availability of cheap and effective and rapid turn-around tests which are mandated for pre-travel requirements.’
Travellers going on a cruise ship holiday must ensure they get the correct travel insurance
Will you be protected?
One of the main concerns of those booking a holiday for the future is whether they will be able to get a refund should it be cancelled.
There is also concern whether if it is delayed, if they will be charged extra for the new date.
However, there still should be ample protection available for those looking to travel.
In any travel insurance purchase, customers are protecting the cost of cancelling a holiday because something prevents them from going or cutting it short because they fall ill when abroad.
It also covers their medical costs if they get sick or have an accident abroad and the cost of replacing any lost or stolen belongings while away.
When purchasing insurance, buy from a reputable provider. It is worth pointing out there that no insurer is likely to refund you for Covid-19 related cancellations – but some are offering cover if you get it abroad for example, or if you get it before you travel.
If you’re booking independent travel, only buy flights and accommodation that you can get refunds on if you have to cancel at short notice.
Make sure you read the cancellation terms and conditions before booking carefully – will the company give you a cash refund if the trip needs to be canceled for example?
Also, see how a travel company has handled refunds in 2020 and whether they have treated customers fairly. It might be worth paying a slight premium for using a firm that has good customer service.
It is recommended to always pay by credit card if you can, by debit card if you can’t, and never pay by cash or bank transfer as these are incredibly difficult to get refunds from.
Paying by debit card might give some protection as you can often do a charge-back if a service isn’t provided, but it’s not guaranteed so a credit card is safer.
However, if the current pandemic is still happening, then insurers won’t pay out for cancellation claims if your travel or accommodation provider fails or cancels your holiday travel because of Covid. This is because the pandemic was a known event.
Brian Brown of Defaqto said: ‘If you believe Covid might still be an issue next summer – and it’s unclear as yet if it still will be – you need to look for a policy which at the least covers you for cancellation if you or someone travelling with you contracts Covid-19 and can’t travel.
Many policies will not cover you for cancellation if you have not caught Covid but are advised to isolate by the NHS Test and Trace app.
‘Be warned though that many policies will not cover you for cancellation if you have not caught Covid but are advised to isolate by the NHS Test and Trace app.’
You should also ensure the policy covers claims for medical treatment abroad if you contract Covid while on holiday.
This will be particularly important if the EHIC scheme for reciprocal healthcare in the EU isn’t extended after the end of 2020, which might happen if the UK fails to get a trade deal with the EU.
Travellers might find themselves with massive medical bills abroad if their policy doesn’t cover claims for Covid-19 medical treatment.
Customers also need to make sure their policy covers the type of holiday they are going on. For instance, many insurers have separate policies, or charge extra, if you are going on a cruise holiday.
Some policies do not cover cruise travel at all – so always check if you are unsure if your policy covers you.
As with all insurance, customers must check to make sure that the policy they are buying provides the cover they need – under no circumstances should they just buy the ‘cheapest’ policy.
Will people need to prove they’ve had a vaccine?
Every holiday destination will have different rules about who they are letting in the country, so it if vitally important to check the Foreign and Commonwealth Office website.
Some will demand passengers get tested on arrival whilst others will have to show a recent negative test.
It is relatively easy to get a private Covid-19 test now with costs generally ranging between £120 and £150 each, which will need to potentially be factored into your holiday cost.
When – and if – a vaccine is rolled out, while we do not yet know details, it may be the case that holidaymakers will have to provide proof they’ve been vaccinated.
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