FAQ Friday: What do I need to know before booking a holiday?

May 28, 2021

CCPC research published earlier this week shows that almost three quarters (73%) of Irish consumers are making travel plans at home and abroad in 2021. So, for this week’s FAQ Friday feature, we are taking a look at the consumer rights information you need to know before booking a holiday.

1. Package travel -v- DIY holidays offer different protections

Given the uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s important that you consider your holiday booking options carefully. Your consumer rights and protections are different when it comes to the type of holiday you book. Therefore, your first step should be to make sure you fully understand your rights and entitlements if something were to go wrong, or if circumstances were to change meaning you could no longer travel.

2. Package Holidays offer stronger rights

If you choose to book a package holiday, you have strong rights and protections. A package holiday is considered a pre-arranged or customised holiday or trip that is sold at an inclusive price through a travel agent or tour operator, which must last at least 24 hours, or include an overnight stay. It must also include at least two of the following: transport, accommodation, car or other vehicle hire, or other tourist service or activity – for instance, golf or hill-walking.

Some of the important protections provided are:

  • Before booking: Travel companies selling package holidays must provide you with detailed information before you book, including all the details of the holiday, such as cost, destination, length of the holiday, vaccination or visa requirements and how to complain if something goes wrong.
  • Changes after booking: If the company makes a significant change to the holiday, for example to the price, dates or accommodation, or if they cancel the trip, they must offer you a replacement holiday of equivalent or superior quality, or a lower grade holiday with a refund of the difference in price if they can provide this, or a full refund.
  • Cancellations: The travel company has the right to cancel a package holiday because of factors beyond their control. If this happens, you are still entitled to a refund, or a replacement package (you will need to negotiate with the company on which option you prefer). You can also cancel your package holiday as a result of unavoidable and extraordinary circumstances at or near their destination, which would affect your holiday or travel to the destination. In these circumstances, you are entitled to a full refund without paying any cancellation fee.
  • Insolvency protection: All travel companies selling package holidays must take out insolvency protection. This guarantee covers refunds and returns if the travel company goes out of business.
3. DIY Holidays do not offer the same level of protection

If you are planning a ‘DIY holiday’ – that is, where you book various elements of your holiday separately (eg flights, accommodation, activities etc.) it’s essential to be aware that you do not have the same level of protection as with a package holiday. You have flight rights if your flight is cancelled or delayed, but in most cases, what you are entitled to if something goes wrong, will depend on what is set out in the T&Cs that apply when you make each booking.

Therefore, before booking a ‘DIY holiday’ make sure to:

  • Take time to read the terms and conditions (T&Cs) and make sure you understand them before you pay a deposit, or pay in full. Look for the cancellation policy and any references to public health measures, or Government advice that may affect your booking. Only book when you are happy with what you are agreeing to.
  • If anything is unclear – contact the business to make sure you fully understand your rights and obligations before you book. If any important information is given over the phone, follow up with an email confirming the details for your records.
  • Ask the ‘what if…?’ questions: Many standard T&Cs may not cover alternative arrangements, or deposit refunds where public health measures prevent a booking from going ahead. You can contact the business and ask them for additional information before you make a payment. Scenarios to consider include:
    • What are my options if my booking is cancelled due to public health measures, or other COVID-19 related circumstances at the time?
    • If I feel uncomfortable travelling due to circumstances at the time and wish to cancel my booking, will I be offered a refund?
    • If I am unable to travel due to mandatory quarantine, am I entitled to a refund? If not, what are my options?
  • Keep a copy of the T&Cs: Keep a copy of the T&Cs at the time of booking as proof of your entitlements if there is a change of plans or something goes wrong. For example, if the original T&Cs give you the right to a refund, the business is not allowed to change that term without your agreement.
4. Always ask about payment options

Regardless of whether you are planning a package holiday or a ‘DIY holiday’, find out what payment options are available to you. For example, ask if it’s possible to pay in instalments rather than paying up front. You may wish to consider looking for businesses that allow payment closer to departure, to ensure a greater degree of certainty about your travel plans proceeding.

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