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Cancelling a package holiday

This advice applies to Scotland

Your rights to cancel a package holiday (or a particular part of a holiday like a flight or a hotel booking) usually depend on the terms and conditions of your booking, and your reason for wanting to cancel.

Your rights to cancel also depend on when you booked your holiday. It doesn’t matter when the holiday actually happens.

If you booked your holiday before 1 July 2018

If you booked at least 2 different parts of your holiday with the same company at the same time for a single price, it’s probably a package holiday. For example, it’s probably a package holiday if you booked a flight and a hotel through a travel agent. The trip must last more than 24 hours or include an overnight stay.

The different parts of the holiday are:

  • transport - like flights, train or coach journeys

  • accommodation

  • any other tourist service that’s a significant part of the holiday - like entrance to an amusement park, concert or sports event

You might be entitled to cancel your package holiday without a cancellation fee if the holiday company significantly changes the holiday or puts the price up after you book.

Check your travel insurance

You might be covered for cancelling a trip if you have travel insurance - check your policy or contact the insurance company if you’re not sure.

If you’ve changed your mind or can’t go

If you’ve changed your mind about a holiday or you can’t go anymore (eg because of an emergency), you should check the terms and conditions of your booking to see what your options are. It’s likely that you’ll either have to pay a cancellation fee or won’t be entitled to any refund at all. Contact the company if you can’t find your terms and conditions.

Transferring your holiday

Think about whether you can find someone to take the holiday, as this might be cheaper than cancelling it. The person you’re transferring to must meet any conditions - like age restrictions.

You only have the right to transfer your holiday if there’s a serious reason you can’t go. If there’s not a serious reason, it’s the company’s decision whether to let you transfer your holiday.

Write a letter or email to the company telling them you want to transfer the holiday and giving the other person’s details. You should do this at least 21 days before the holiday starts.

You or the person you’re transferring to will have to pay the cost of transferring the booking and any outstanding payments. If the person you’re transferring to doesn’t pay, you’ll have to.

If a holiday company changes the holiday after you book it

You have the legal right to cancel without charge if the company has made significant changes to the holiday after you booked it. The law doesn’t say exactly what a ‘significant change’ means.

Example

You booked a holiday including a large room at a resort. The company you booked with contacts you to say that your booking has changed to another resort with a smaller room. You can argue that this is a significant change.

Contact the company as soon as you can. Tell them why you think the changes are ‘significant’ - for example, it’s harder to get from the resort to the beach. Ask for a refund.

You should also check if you can get compensation.

If the price of your holiday increases after you book

Check the terms and conditions for the holiday to see if they allow the company to increase the price. Look for something like ‘price variation’ - this means the price can change. They can’t increase it if the terms and conditions don’t allow it.

Even if the terms and conditions allow price increases, the company can only increase the price because of:

  • fuel price rises which mean transport costs have gone up

  • changes to taxes or fees by third parties - like tourist taxes

  • exchange rates which affect the price of the holiday

The company must tell you about the price rise at least 30 days before the package starts and explain why they put the price up. You have the right to cancel the holiday without paying a fee if the increase is significant according to the law. An increase of 10% or more is usually significant, but less might be significant in some cases.

As well as giving you notice, the company has to pay the first 2% of any increase, whether significant or not. If you’ve got the right to cancel, you’ll get back any money you’ve already paid.

If the terms and conditions say the company can increase the price, the company also has to offer you a refund if the cost of your holiday goes down because of changes to fuel prices, taxes or exchange rates.

If you booked your holiday on or after 1 July 2018

If you booked at least 2 different parts of your holiday with the same company at the same time, it’s probably a package holiday. If you booked with different companies, it’s a good idea to check if your holiday is a package - it might be classed as a different type of holiday. Check what type of holiday you’ve booked.

You might be entitled to cancel the holiday without a fee if:

  • the holiday company makes significant changes to your holiday
  • it puts certain prices up after you book
  • you can’t get to your destination because of exceptional circumstances - like war or a natural disaster

The company should pay any money you’re owed within 14 days of cancellation.
If you change your mind about going, you can cancel but you’ll probably have to pay a fee.

You might be covered for cancelling a trip if you have travel insurance - check your policy or contact the insurance company if you’re not sure.

If you’ve changed your mind or can’t go

You can cancel any time before the holiday starts but you’ll probably have to pay a cancellation fee. The fees should be in the terms and conditions. They’re likely to be higher if it’s close to the departure date. Contact the company if you can’t find your terms and conditions.

The company should only charge you the amount they’ll lose - they should try to sell the holiday to someone else. If you think they’re charging too much, ask how they worked out the cancellation fee.

Transferring your holiday

Think about whether you can find someone to take the holiday, as this might be cheaper than cancelling it. The person you’re transferring to must meet any conditions - like age restrictions.

Write a letter or email to the company telling them you want to transfer the holiday and giving the other person’s details. You’ll need to do this at least 7 days before the holiday starts.

The company must tell you how much it will cost to transfer. That cost must be reasonable and can’t be more than it costs them to make the transfer. They must provide proof of the cost.

You or the person you’re transferring to will have to pay the cost of transferring the booking. If the person you’re transferring to doesn’t pay, you’ll have to.

If a holiday company changes the holiday after you've booked

If the company has made a ‘significant change’ to your package holiday, you don’t have to accept it. You have the right to either:

  • cancel the holiday without charge and get your money back
  • accept an alternative holiday, if there is one

There’s no legal definition of a ‘significant change’ but it includes:

  • a big change to the main features of your holiday - for example if the company says you’re going to a different resort to the one you booked
  • the company not meeting special requests you’ve agreed with them and which are in your contract - like if you asked for a ground floor room because of a wheelchair

You should also check if you can get compensation.

The company must let you know about the change in writing. They must:

  • tell you what the change is
  • tell you if the price is reduced because the change means lower quality or cost
  • give you a reasonable time to let them know if you want to cancel
  • tell you if they’re offering a different package instead and how much it costs
  • warn you that if you don’t reply after they’ve contacted you twice, they can cancel your holiday

You must let them know by their deadline if you accept the change or want to cancel the booking. You won’t have to pay a fee to cancel. If you don’t reply in time, the company has to notify you once more. If you still don’t reply, they can cancel your holiday.

If the price of your holiday increases after you book

Check the terms and conditions for the holiday to see if they allow the company to increase the price. Look for something like ‘price variation’ - this means the price can change. They can’t increase it if the terms and conditions don’t allow it.

Even if the terms and conditions allow price increases, the company can only increase the price because of:

  • fuel price rises which mean transport costs have gone up
  • changes to taxes or fees by third parties - like tourist taxes
  • exchange rates which affect the price of the holiday

The company has to let you know in writing about their plans to increase the price. They also have to give you a reasonable time to tell them if you accept it or want to cancel. If they’re offering another package instead, they must tell you how much it costs. If you don’t reply by their deadline, they might cancel the trip.

The company must tell you about the price rise at least 20 days before the package starts and explain why they put the price up. You have the right to cancel the holiday without paying a fee if the increase is more than 8% - you’ll get back any money you’ve already paid.

If the terms and conditions say the company can increase the price, the company also has to offer you a refund if the cost of your holiday goes down because of changes to fuel prices, taxes or exchange rates.

If there are exceptional circumstances before you leave

You can cancel your holiday without having to pay a fee. You’ll get a full refund but won’t be entitled to any compensation.

The exceptional circumstances must be at or near your destination. They must have a significant effect on your holiday or on getting there - like if planes can’t fly there because of volcanic ash.

Examples of exceptional circumstances include:

  • war
  • a serious disease
  • natural disasters - like floods, earthquakes or weather conditions

Further help 

Contact Advice Direct Scotland's consumer service or your local Citizens Advice bureau if you need more help. 

Advice Direct Scotland's Consumer Service 

Freephone: 0808 164 6000
Website: www.consumeradvice.scot

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