The majority of holidays in Spain are packages to the popular Costas of the mainland and to the Balearic and Canary Islands. Uncertainty in the tourism sector as a result of travel restrictions imposed due to the Coronavirus pandemic means that summer 2020 has largely been written off by tour operators. As a result they’ve already started to market holidays for the summer of 2021.
Before the emergence of the internet package holidays were traditionally sold by high street travel agents or over the phone in response to adverts seen on television, in newspapers and on Teletext. Today the internet takes the search for holidays to a whole new level where well known tour operators and online travel agents offer an enormous selection of packages.
Millions of customers looking for the best holiday deals inevitable attracts scammers to the online world with unscrupulous individuals only too willing to portray themselves as bona fide travel companies and rip-off unsuspecting shoppers of their hard earned cash. As such it’s crucial that you are extremely diligent when booking your holidays online.
In this article we provide some commonsense tips to help you find a great summer holiday deal and avoid the misery of falling prey to a fraudster.
Book With Major Tour Operators
For some time in the UK travel market it’s been common practice for the biggest tour operators to take over rival companies, airlines and travel agencies. This has resulted in a marketplace for the consumer which is far from transparent when it comes to buying holidays.
Today’s travel industry is made up of many branded tour operators who are owned by a parent company. With the occasional collapse of particular holiday companies it’s a good idea to know who you’re booking with otherwise you might find yourself stranded abroad without having realised that the company you booked through is connected with the one that’s just gone bust.
To avoid any such problems it’s a good idea to book holidays with the peace of mind of knowing that one of the main tour operators is behind your booking. Here are the main powerhouses of online holiday companies serving the UK market:
Tui Travel Group:
There are over 200 brands in the German owned TUI Travel Group including Thomson Holidays and First Choice Holidays.
A couple of other tour operators that deserve a particular mention which aren’t backed by any of the above three travel groups but which do provide good value holidays and consumer protection are Easyjet Holidays and Jet2 Holidays.
All these tour operators provide full consumer protection from ABTA and ATOL. Take a look at their websites and you’ll find an enormous supply of holidays with frequent special offers. Strangely, however, you’ll often find the very same holidays for cheaper on the websites of some of the internet’s top online travel agents.
Check the ABTA and ATOL Credentials of Travel Agents
Online travel agents would better be titled “Dynamically Packaged Travel Agents” as the technology of their websites allows you to define your holiday requirements which then searches the websites of major tour operators and smaller travel agencies. You are then presented with the results of your search and can book a package holiday which has been created from different suppliers.
The best known of these online travel agents include the likes of Expedia, Teletext Holidays, Travel Republic, On The Beach and Icelolly. When booking with lesser known agencies be sure to check that the company offers full ABTA and ATOL customer protection so that you’re fully protected if anything goes wrong with the agency.
Should You Book Summer Holidays Early or Last Minute?
Once Christmas is over the travel industry goes full steam ahead with loads of special offers for summer holidays. If you know more or less what you want then you can pick up a good deal at the start of the year. Leave it any later and new rules apply.
In theory, package holidays get cheaper as the departure date approaches because tour operators want to fill empty seats on planes and empty rooms in hotels even if that means almost giving them away at bargain basement prices. Having said that, I was surprised to find on a recent trip to Gran Canaria that we had to pay a ‘Late Booking Fee’!
Most families choose their summer holiday dates months in advance, select these weeks off work then book their holidays accordingly. These people pay the top price for package holidays. If your travel dates aren’t constrained by school holidays or national holidays then you’re in a much stronger bargaining position because in spite of add-on fees you should still be able to find some excellent last minute deals.
Tour operators make commitments to airlines and hotels for the forthcoming holiday season then proceed to fill all the flights and hotel rooms that they’ve booked. People booking months in advance pay the highest rates then a couple of months before departure some special offers tend to go on sale. If you leave it until a few weeks or even a few days before departure then you might get some great prices.
Obviously there’s no hard and fast rule about when to book, it’s very much a game of chance and the ability to play depends on each individual’s circumstances. If you want a particular hotel in Mallorca for the first two weeks of August which has ‘Kids Club’ then you need to book early to ensure availability. However, if you don’t mind where you go or when and can leave at short notice then you might find some good deals.