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Book your 2014 holidays safely and securely
What with all the travel ads on the TV at the moment, many of us have already turned our attention to booking that all-important holiday or maybe even a series of breaks for 2014.
Will it be the Med or somewhere far flung? A beach break or a city trip? A cruise or a self-drive adventure?
Whatever you choose, make sure you book your holiday safely and securely to avoid any travel-related disasters later in the year.
How should you pay for your trip?
These days many of us look out for charges being added to our bookings when we pay by card, which can hike the cost of our travel plans by up to 2.5%.
However there are benefits to paying by credit card – namely that you are covered by Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act and the Consumer Credit Directive when paying for anything by this method, as long as the amount being paid is £100 or more.
And that means you are protected should your holiday company, airline or other travel arranger go out of business. Well worth the small cost of an extra card charge.
What’s more, this is the case even if you only pay for part of your holiday by credit card and the remainder by another payment type, so long as the total payment comes to £100 or more.
If you don’t have a credit card, or the transaction is under £100 in value, then the best option is to pay the whole amount by debit card.
MasterCard and VISA operate a chargeback scheme that will generally pay out should your travel plans disintegrate before you set off.
And that’s a lot better than paying by cash, cheque, pre-paid card or bank transfer, with which you receive no protection at all.
Should you look for ATOL, ABTA or other cover?
There is a lot of confusion around the financial protection offered by organisations such as ATOL and ABTA, with many holidaymakers failing to understand what is on offer and getting mixed up regarding the benefits offered by the various schemes.
That’s hardly surprising when you consider that ATOL holders can also be ABTA members, and ABTA members can sell trips that are not ATOL covered.
Where possible, we would therefore advise looking out for companies that can book your trip with what is known as ATOL cover, which ensures that you will be looked after if either all or part of the travel you have booked goes wrong.
Should something happen before you travel, for example, you would receive a full refund, replacement travel or new dates of travel, dependent on the situation.
And should problems arise while you are away then you would get the help you need to continue your holiday as planned.
For more information about what ATOL means, or if you wish to check an ATOL licence, head to the CAA website.
Not everyone can get ATOL cover, though, which only applies to package holidays in the main.
Fortunately, however, the Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA) provides cover that protects you if you pay money to one of its members which then goes out of business before they have paid any airlines, tour operator or other travel company.
Similar schemes are offered by the Global Travel Group and the Travel Trade Association, so remember to ask if a travel agent is a member of one of them (and check their answer is accurate with the relevant organisation) before confirming a booking, be it online, in a shop or by phone.
If you are independently booking a flight, ferry crossing or hire car, on the other hand, remember that such travel arrangements are NOT covered by ATOL or any agency protection scheme when booked direct.
Consequently, it is best to protect yourself by paying by credit or debit card as described above.
What if my booking is not covered by ATOL?
DIY travel arrangements such as a flight, a hotel or a day trip are unlikely to be covered by ATOL.
So if your travel plans fall into this category, it is sensible to take steps to protect yourself.
Firstly, ensure you have a travel insurance policy that includes End Supplier Failure. This covers you for unexpected losses if any part of your travel plans collapse due to company failure.
Our travel insurance search tool will help you to find companies that offer it – simply filter your results to find cover.
Secondly, pay by credit or debit card to get the protection described in the first section of this blog.
Seen an offer that looks too good to be true? An amazing price when everyone else seems to be fully booked?
If in any doubt at all, put the company name into a search engine and check the reviews and comments made by other travellers.
Then double-check the memberships and licences they trade under, and remember to only pay by credit or debit card.
That way, you should avoid becoming a victim of any form of travel fraud and having your dream break turning into a holiday from hell.
Now you know how to book your holiday securely, it’s time to get looking and get away for less in 2014.