Over the next few weeks many of you will be bombarded by companies and tour operators offering student holidays where hundreds of students can get together and party on the shores of the Mediterranean at super low prices. Whilst these offers may sound like a fantastic deal to have a spring break type event or after exams blow-out, you must beware; some of these operators are no more than individuals with no experience of delivering a package tour and no protections in place should things go wrong.
We hear far too many stories from students of being left stranded, not receiving anywhere near the level of activity promised, having no transfers arranged and even ending up in sub standard accommodation. The worst part is that in many of these instances there has been little or no compensation for the victims.
There are many operators who are very reputable and have years of experience, but most importantly they must be ATOL (Air Travel Organisers Licence) protected or registered with ABTA (Association of British Travel Agents). These operators are usually able to guarantee what they say in the adverts, and if they can’t you will have a much better chance of getting money back, seeking compensation, or getting home should they go bust whilst you are on holiday.
Our advice is simple – If you are offered a holiday from a tour operator who is not ABTA registered or has not got an ATOL then WALK AWAY, you will be taking risks that you just don’t need to.
Don’t go into a decision unarmed, read our simple advice below or visit www.abta.com or www.atol.org.uk for information on reputable operators and the protections you can expect.
How to protect air holiday packages (a pre-arranged or tailor-made holiday package)
ATOL protects you from losing your money or being stranded abroad. Travel firms selling air holiday packages must have an ATOL and must issue a certificate to you to prove that protection is in place.
How to check you are covered
- Check brochures and websites for the ATOL logo and licence number; or
- Ask your travel agent whether your complete holiday is ATOL protected, for the ATOL number and for the ATOL certificate; or
- Check names of travel firms and ATOL numbers at the CAA’s website (www.atol.org.uk).
Paying by credit card
If you pay for a component by credit card and it costs more than £100 you will have some cover, but this will only apply to the service you’ve lost, not other services you have booked separately (for example covering your flights if your airline goes bust, not your accommodation).
Taking out travel insurance may give you some protection but check the small print, as many policies do not include cover for insolvency, while those that do will usually cover just the service you’ve lost, not the other services you have booked separately.
Complaining if your holidays have gone wrong
If you have used someone to organise your holidays, you can use Which? excellent guide to complaints. In case of DIY holidays, there are certain extra risks and you can read about them here
Most importantly, follow those 3 simple rules:
- Don’t lose your head just because its ‘only a little holiday’. You wouldn’t get a condom, a sandwich or a paracetamol without checking some information first, for example the expiration date. So be smart about your holidays too.
- Don't sign up for something without knowing what you're getting into, especially if that something is an expensive plane ride away. Do some research, read reviews and pick a reputable company (ABTA members or ATOL protected)
- Remember that the easiest way to ensure you get the protection you want is to simply ask your travel company if, and how, your travel arrangements are protected.