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COVID-19 ruined travel plans in 2020, so how can you book with confidence this year?

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In 2020, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission received a total of 126,412 complaints. Of those, there were more than 26,000 about travel companies and airlines as Australians were forced to abandon itineraries they had already paid for.

Words to look for

Deals are popping up, enticing consumers back into booking flights, accommodation and more but, before you commit, you really need to read the terms and conditions.

There are a few shortcuts to finding the important stuff, according to consumer group Choice.

“When you’re reading terms and conditions, look for words like cancel, refund, credit, force majeure, frustrated contract,” Choice director of campaigns Erin Turner told the ABC.

“If you have a digital copy of the terms and conditions, use the search function as a shortcut.”

The problem with upfront payments

During the pandemic, plenty of travellers told the ABC they had paid for their trips well in advance.

In some cases, people had paid in full for flights or tours months, or even a year, before they were due to depart.

If you’re paying this far in advance, you will need to have all your documents in order to apply for a refund.

Choice’s top tip for booking travel in 2021 is, “document everything”.

Consider booking options that do not require you to pay upfront and providers that offer a cooling-off period.

Deep dive on the company first

In our digital world, it’s easier than ever to check the reviews of an airline, hotel or travel provider.

Looking specifically at reviews from customers who’ve had their travel cancelled can help you decide who to book with.

Choice also recommends getting the COVID-19 policies in writing – whether you’re booking with a large international hotel chain or a small caravan park.

Think twice before using third parties

Using a third party could mean a second set of T&Cs.

Is travel insurance valid during COVID-19?

There are a handful of policies out there available to cover travel during the pandemic, but again, you really need to read the T&Cs very closely. The advice from the Insurance Council of Australia is to check the policy’s product disclosure statement to ensure it will cover you for the specific kind of travel you’re booking.

“There are domestic and international policies available, but you need to match it to your needs and make sure it suits the trip that you’re booking,” a spokeswoman from the council told the ABC.

Reporting by Amy Bainbridge and Emily Clark

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