Travel & Holidays > Guides

Cancelling a holiday - when should you do it? And what are your rights?

Robin Bowman

Robin Bowman
Jan 12, 2017

For many of us, booking a holiday is a major commitment and one we make months ahead of the date of travel.

It’s usually about a heck of a lot of money, too.

So, there can be times when we need to cancel.

The reasons can be many. So, it’s worth knowing something of your rights when it comes to cancellation, a little about what you can and cannot do. 

For a start, whether it’s a flight, hotel booking or a whole package holiday booked with a tour operator, your rights to cancel will largely depend on the small print in your contract matched with the reason you have for cancelling.

It might also come down to how the company decides it will deal with customers and how flexible it wants to be. Some will be a lot better than others.

So, make yourself familiar with terms and conditions before confirm your booking and pay.

Keep in mind, too, that if you have travel insurance, this may cover you for any loss resulting from you cancelling, but this will depend very much on your reason.

If the company changes the terms of the deal

This one is pretty easy and is covered by law.

You have a contract with the company that says you’ll pay them a certain amount and they’ll provide a specified service. If they try to change this once you’ve paid, you can cancel without penalty.

Of course, you can also choose not to.

All the law says is that the change or changes have to be ‘major’. It doesn’t do anything helpful like define what that means, but most of the time it will be fairly clear if a central element of your booking is changed.

Your first action, if you don’t like the change, is to contact the company and explain why the changes are important to you and why you consider it a major change, and you’d like to cancel for a refund or to change the holiday.


If the price increases

You’ll need to check terms and conditions on this one because some will allow the company room to increase the price you agreed by a small percentage.

Otherwise, you have a legal right to cancel if the price rise is “major” – there’s that word again.

And again we can’t define what major is. Most big travel companies should recognise that a price rise after booking should mean you are able to cancel without penalty, but it’s not certain.

The Association of British Travel Agents says 10% and up is a ‘major increase’.

We’d say over 5% and we’d want to argue that is a major rise, if it’s on a contract of several hundred pounds.


If you change your mind or can no longer travel

Most major tour companies will have penalties for cancellations that fall into this category and these will rise the nearer you get to travel (because it means they have less chance of reselling the holiday).

But, matters will probably depend on your reason for cancelling.

If it’s a medical reason, for example, you should explain, provide proof and hope the company has a humane policy.

It will all depend on what’s in the terms and conditions.

Unfortunately, in our experience, many people who find themselves unable to travel on medical grounds are simply told they’ll have to pay a cancellation fee and claim on their insurance. Very near departure day, this can be the cost of the whole holiday.

If you find you’re treated unfairly, get in touch with us here at A Spokesman Said and let us highlight your case.

As ever, we recommend you find the right insurance deal before you travel to guard against things going wrong. 


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