What are your holiday cancellation rights?

Fact Checked

If you need to cancel your holiday it is important to know where you stand before you speak to your travel agent or insurer. Here are your rights when you have to cancel your holiday.

Share this guide
Woman on phone at airport

No one wants to have to cancel their holiday but if this happens to you, you need to know what your rights are when it comes to getting your money back. Our guide explains it all.

When can you cancel your package holiday?

If your travel operator changes the terms and conditions of your package holiday, you’re entitled to cancel your trip and get a full refund.

To get a refund, your operator must have made a change to your:

  • Travel dates

  • Accommodation

  • Flights

Your travel operator must let you know about the change in writing and give you a reasonable time to tell them if you want to cancel. 

If the price of your holiday goes up after you have booked and you are asked to pay more, you can also cancel your booking and get a full refund, providing the increase is significant according to the law. A significant increase is usually 10% or more.  

Price increases are only permitted as a result of higher fuel prices, changes to taxes or fees by third parties, or exchange rates that affect the holiday price.

Even if there have been no changes to your booking, there are certain situations in which you might be able to get a refund, but this depends on the terms and conditions of your booking.

This guide explains your rights if your flights are cancelled due to strike action.

Most travel agents let you cancel within a set period but you will usually have to pay a cancellation fee.

How much is a cancellation fee?

This depends on when your holiday is due to take place. The earlier you cancel, the higher the chance you will get a refund. For example:

  • 90 days before your holiday: lose the money you put down as a deposit

  • 60 days before your holiday: lose 50% of the cost of your holiday

  • 30 days before your holiday: lose 70% of the cost of your holiday

  • 10 days before your holiday: lose 100% of the cost of your holiday

Cancelling your flights and accommodation

If your hotel or airline makes significant changes to your booking you should be able to cancel your trip without paying a fee.

Beyond this, however, you do not have any legal rights to cancel and you will be bound by your booking terms and conditions.

Some airlines will either:

  • Give you a partial refund

  • Allow you to transfer your flight

  • Let you reclaim any airport tax paid

Others (particularly budget airlines) may refuse to offer any of these options, although you will still be able to use a return flight if you are unable to make the outward journey.

Your accommodation provider may give you some flexibility, but this is down to their in-house policy, so it is still worth contacting the airline or hotel to discuss your options.

Transfer your holiday to someone else

This is a good way to get some of your money back if the person you are transferring your holiday to is willing to pay.

Contact your holiday company to request the transfer. Most providers will only let you transfer your holiday if you give plenty of notice, usually at least 28 days before your departure date.

You will be charged a fee for transferring your booking into someone else's name, usually between £50 and £100 per passenger.

What if your provider goes bust?

If you have booked a package holiday and your tour operator goes bust you will usually be covered.

If your package includes flights

You should be protected under the Civil Aviation Authority's (CCA) Air Travel Organisers' Licensing (ATOL) scheme.

You can apply for compensation through the ATOL website.

If you are unsure if the travel operator you are using is covered by ATOL, you can use this tool to search the ATOL database.

Civil Aviation Authority website — ATOL protection

If your package does not include flights

You should still be protected. You will be protected by the trade association your travel operator is a member of, which will normally be the Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA).

You will need to arrange your refund through your travel agent.

Can you claim through your travel insurance?

Yes, but only if your travel insurance policy includes cancellation cover.

Here is when you can claim on your travel insurance for cancellation, including what you are covered for.

If you have a pre-existing condition, you can still get a quote through Money.co.uk. These conditions could include cancer, stroke, serious heart, respiratory and terminal conditions.
Some insurers might not cover you if you already have a serious medical condition, or if you have a number of conditions. Others might only offer insurance at a much higher price. If you're unable to find suitable cover, the Money and Pension Service (MaPS) has also set up a directory of insurers willing to cover customers with pre-existing medical conditions.
You can contact the Money and Pensions Service (MaPS) or you can telephone 0800 138 7777.

Make sure you get the best possible cover when you go away by comparing travel insurance deals. You can find the cover you need at the right price whatever your travel plans.

About Matt Fernell

View Matt Fernell's full biography here or visit the money.co.uk press centre for our latest news.