What the latest news on overseas holidays means for your half term break

Nick Trend
·3-min read
symi harbour, greece - Getty
symi harbour, greece - Getty

It looks as though there is now a good chance that relatively trouble-free holidays to the Med could be back on the agenda for this summer.

But what does this mean for the Whitsun half-term week, when schools are on their half-term break from May 29 to June 6? There was a surge of bookings for that week at the beginning of the year, when it looked as though the vaccination programme was starting to take effect.

However, although foreign travel will almost certainly be legal again from May 17, it now looks equally certain that, under the Government’s new traffic light system, all the key destinations – including France, Spain, Italy, Portugal and Greece – will still be rated amber for those dates. Only a tiny handful – probably including Malta and Gibraltar – will be given a green light which allows you to return home to the UK with only a negative test in hand.

If you want to travel to any of these amber countries you will be legally required to self-isolate at home for 10 days on your return to the UK, as well as having to fork out for the costs of testing on days two and eight of your quarantine period – a hefty bill for a family. True, you can shorten that a little by paying yet more for an extra test on day five, but you probably won’t get the results for 48 hours, so it doesn’t make that much difference.

Despite this serious restriction, if you have a holiday or flight booked to an amber destination which is open to British tourists after May 17, it will almost certainly go ahead. As long, of course, as that country is open to UK tourists – which most likely will be the case for Greece and Portugal (the situation for Spain, Italy and France is more uncertain). Both Tui and Loveholidays, for example, have confirmed that they will be operating to amber zones which are open to UK tourists, despite the requirement for self-isolation on return.

However, for almost everyone whose children will have to go back to school after half-term, that is a non-starter. So what can you do? It probably won’t be feasible to switch to Malta as an alternative, even if you wanted to. So can you opt for a cash refund? Almost certainly not. The legal position is not completely clear, but a tour operator probably doesn’t have to offer this option and, in that case, most won’t. It is also highly unlikely that you would be able to claim the cost of cancelling – which is usually the whole cost of the holiday – from your travel insurer. All policies that I know of which have been issued in the last year have excluded such claims.

Your only option is likely to be postponement. The good news is that most operators and airlines are remaining flexible about this. With Tui, all customers booked to travel before the end of August can change to a later date for free, up to 14 days before departure. Customers travelling in May can change up to seven days before. Loveholidays is also offering free amendments.

And since the prospects for most of Europe being moved onto the green list by the end of June are now looking much more optimistic, postponing your holiday until later in July or August (or alternatively until 2022) is almost certainly the best option.