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Life, Travel

How to book a cheap holiday in a post-pandemic world

A row of caravans in a caravan park. Being used in an article explaining how to book a cheap holiday.

I’m an expert when it comes to booking a cheap holiday. Not only do I love to snag myself a bargain, but I also worked as a travel deals expert for eight years. This meant that I was paid to find and write about the best holiday deals in the market. I was sadly made redundant due to the coronavirus pandemic. However, my experience within the industry means that I’m pretty well placed to tell you how to book a bargain.

The travel industry and COVID-19

It goes without saying that the travel industry has been severely impacted by coronavirus. At the time of writing, we are in lockdown (again) and the travel corridors (which allowed people to travel freely, between certain countries) have all been scrapped. But there is light. The vaccine is being rolled out, there’s hope that normality will resume soon and EasyJet has reported a 250% surge in Summer 2021 bookings. 

We all love to travel and that urge to explore hasn’t gone away. If anything, being locked inside for months means that it’s more prevalent than ever. So here are my tips for those that are looking to book a cheap holiday. 

Book an ATOL-protected break

I’m all for a bit of DIY girl when it comes to travel and I have lost count of the number of trips I’ve taken where I’ve booked each element separately. The flights, the hotels, the connections. But this is something I’d avoid right now, because you don’t get ATOL protection if you do this. 

ATOL is a UK financial protection scheme which protects most air-package holidays that are sold by travel companies in the UK. And for the foreseeable, I won’t be booking a trip without protection. 

Sadly, I imagine that some big companies will go bust over the following months and I don’t think any company is guaranteed to come through this. STA Travel and Fleetway Travel have already ceased trading, whilst Flight Centre and British Airways have made major job cuts. The world is an uncertain place and nothing can be taken for granted. So make sure that you have ATOL protection, in case the company you book through goes under.

Use your credit card for extra protection

There’s a time and a place to use your credit card and if you’re in the market for a cheap holiday, then now is the time to use the plastic. If you book your holiday or your flight on your credit card, then you may be able to make a claim if the airline or the holiday company goes bust. Money Saving Expert Martin Lewis is a big advocate of this. 

Dig deep for cheap holidays

Airlines have haemorrhaged money over the past year, as flying half empty planes just isn’t sustainable. As a result, I think that a few airlines could cease trading over the coming months and the number of scheduled flights will reduce. Travel is a supply-and-demand industry and if there are less planes in the sky, then I expect that prices will creep up. I think that £9.99 flights and £99 package-holiday deals may be a thing of the past. However, there will still be holiday deals out there. You’ll just have to work a bit harder to sniff out the bargains. 

Consider a travel deals site

There are plenty of travel deals available, but sometime you need to purchase them through a deals website. You can find some really attractive offers by going through a third-party provider, as that company has effectively done the negotiation for you. But make sure you check the terms and conditions before you part with your cash.

Think twice about an all inclusive

All-inclusive holidays have been very popular over the past decade. They offer holidaymakers the chance to pay for all of their meals and drinks upfront. Many hotels and resorts can only make this type of holiday cost effective by offering buffets. However, this is going to be difficult to manage whilst COVID-19 is in our midst. TUI has already announced that they will be “reinventing” all-inclusive holidays and I expect other operators to follow suit. So if you’re looking for a cheap holiday, self catering may be the way to go. 

Staycation is the new vacation

I expect that staycations will increase in popularity. Not only are people apprehensive about foreign travel, but the country is edging towards a double-dip recession and many are concerned about unemployment. As a result, people will see staycations as a way of having a break, without breaking the bank, just like they did in the wake of the 2008 recession. 

You might see a general rise in price of UK breaks, but there will be plenty of providers offering discounts. Just ensure that your break is fully refundable before booking, in case circumstances change.

Visit a UK city

Any hotel manager will tell you, if there are rooms, they’d rather have them filled. If a hotel is open, it may as well be full as empty. As a result, many city hotels are coming up with outstanding offers, that we just didn’t see before the pandemic. Major cities, such as London and Edinburgh, have always been seen as pricey destinations. But many major hotels have had no business visitors through the pandemic, or international tourists and this has resulted in a major drop on revenue. It is also possible to find free (or cheap) things to do in London if you get creative, so you don’t have to spend loads of cash when you’re there. 

If you have always want to see the London sites, then now might be the time.

Consider camping and caravanning

If you’re looking for a cheap holiday, then camping or caravanning may be the way to go. It might not be the all-inclusive week in Majorca that you’re used to, but there are loads of fun outdoor activities that you can try. Even if you end up on a rainy caravan holiday, you can still have fun. 

Butlins, Haven and Center Parcs are still offering activities and entertainment. But there restrictions in place and you may have to book activities in advance.

It won’t last forever

Humans are inquisitive, social animals and we want to explore. Yes, COVID-19 has stopped us all in our tracks, but it hasn’t taken away our desire to travel. 

Once the world starts to get a grip of this infection, I expect to see an upturn. So hold on tight. It might be a bumpy ride, but we will come through the other side. In the meantime, make sure you enjoy plenty of armchair travel and check out my travel section for more hints and tips.