The high expectation of consumers for their breaks, coupled with the temptation for the tour operating companies to describe their inclusive tour product in as favourable terms as possible, can lead to disappointments. In addition, because British travel agencies and tour operators have to rely on providers situated abroad, they are not always able to control all that happens on the holiday. Complaints made at the time to the hotel, might not be treated seriously. It is therefore important that once something has gone wrong on holiday, consumers are able to obtain redress on their return.
The options available to resolve your holiday problem will depend on whether the holiday you booked is a holiday package or one booked directly with the providers of your transport and accommodation. If you have booked a package holiday, you will have extra rights. A package holiday is one that consists of two or more elements, such as transport and accommodation, that are sold to you as a package at an inclusive price.
Your holiday is likely to be a package holiday if it:
Your holiday is not likely to be a package holiday if you booked all the elements of your holiday separately, for example you booked the flight directly from the airline, and you booked your accommodation during a telephone conversation with the hotel.
A holiday booked on the internet may still be a package holiday, particularly if you booked and paid for everything at the same time.
The tour operator should provide a holiday which is of the type and quality described in its brochure. Unfortunately, every year a number of people come back dissatisfied, with stories of their vacation's poor service and poor accommodation. Unfortunately, any claim solely based on the brochure or promotional materials might be unsuccessful. This is because people have different standards; it is important that any complaints are not exaggerated. This could prevent an early resolution of any claim, and in any event, if the matter does end up in front of a judge, he or she will consider the matter on what was a reasonable expectation. It is advisable for holidaymakers to take a copy of their insurance policy on their holiday.
If the tour operator cancels your package holiday, you will have several options. You can choose to:
If you cancel your holiday, for example, because of ill health or because you can no longer afford to go, you will usually lose your deposit or pay a cancellation charge. The contract will usually say whether a cancellation fee has to be paid, and give the amount or a way of working it out. If the contract does not allow cancellation, you will be liable for any losses which the holiday trader might have. Check to see whether your holiday insurance covers the cost of cancellation.
Be careful if you are considering stopping your cheque, as the holiday trader may take you to court for compensation.
When you book a package holiday, you are entering into a contract with the holiday trader which must contain details of the price of the holiday and the circumstances under which the price can be increased. There are special rules about when the price of a package holiday can be changed. After you have bought a package holiday, the price can only be changed if:
There are special rules about when changes to package holidays can be made. A package holiday can only be changed from its description in the brochure when:
If the tour operator has to significantly change your package holiday before you go away, for example, change the departure date, you must be told as soon as possible. You will then have several options. You can choose to:
Any holiday which includes air travel will be regulated by a special set of rules. We discuss these in detail in our '' section.
If you booked a package holiday which does not include flights, the organiser must be able to:
If you have difficulty getting your money back after a holiday trader goes out of business, and you paid for your holiday by credit card, you can also make a claim against your credit card company. You should check whether you are covered under your travel insurance policy. For more information, see our '' section.
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) can advise you about the safety of foreign travel. You can get advice from the FCO travel advice unit on 020 7008 0232, or by looking at the.
There is no legislation or laws dealing specifically with luggage problems in the context of package tours.
However, there are special rules that apply to problems with luggage during air travel which will very often impact on package tours.
For more information about problems with luggage, see our '' section.
If something is wrong once you have arrived at the destination, you should proceed as follows:
There are several organisations which can give you advice about finding a holiday if you have special needs or requirements.
For more information on these and others, see ''.
It is becoming increasingly popular for holidaymakers to put together their own arrangements, à la Lonely Planet. Often they combine flights and accommodation that they have found on websites, e.g. Lastminute.com or Expedia.com. This can be a good way to organise a holiday exactly suited to your needs, but independent travellers should be aware that you do not benefit from the same protection as those who book package holidays. If the airline or hotel goes out of business, alternative arrangements will not be made for you, and you are unlikely to receive compensation. Any problems with part of the holiday have to be sorted out directly with the supplier of the service. Independent travellers should check their own insurance cover.
For more information, see our '' section.
If your property was lost, stolen or damaged while on holiday, your rights will depend on the law of the country where you are staying. Claiming compensation can be difficult and expensive, and you should consider claiming on your travel insurance instead.
If you have lost, damaged or had luggage stolen during your journey, you should consider making a claim against the travel company, for example the coach or train company. It is important that you report the problem to the travel company as soon as possible. Alternatively, you could consider claiming on your travel insurance.
For more information about claiming on your holiday insurance policy, see our '' section.
Special rules apply to luggage claims connected with air travel. For more information, see our '' section.
If you have complained to the agent or operator in question and are not satisfied with their response, find out if the company is a member of a travel industry consumer body, as these have arbitration procedures for customer complaints.
The Air Transport Users Council (AUC) cannot help with a complaint against a tour operator or travel agent.
For more information on travel industry consumer bodies, see our '' section.