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Claim compensation for a holiday

This advice applies to Wales

If something went wrong with your holiday you might be able to get compensation from the company you booked with.

If you’re still on holiday, tell the company or travel agent about the problem as soon as possible. You might be able to get it sorted quicker - like if there’s a problem with the room. If you don’t say anything until you get home, you might get less compensation or none at all.

Read what to do if your flight was delayed.

Your legal rights depend on whether you:

  • went on a package holiday

  • went on a holiday with ‘linked travel arrangements’

  • were an independent traveller

Check what type of holiday you’ve booked

The type of holiday depends on how you booked the different parts of your holiday. If you’re not sure, check the information you received before you booked, or call the company. It should tell you what type of holiday you’ve booked.

Check if it’s a package holiday

It’s likely to be a package holiday if you’ve booked 2 or more types of travel service at the same time for the same holiday from a travel organiser. For example if you booked a flight and a hotel through a travel agent. The trip has to last more than 24 hours or include an overnight stay.

Travel services are:

  • transport - like flights, train or coach journeys
  • accommodation
  • vehicle rental - including cars, motorcycles and motorhomes
  • any other tourist service that’s a significant part of the holiday (around 25%) and is advertised as an essential feature - like entrance to an amusement park, concert or sports event

It’s also likely to be a package if the travel agent organises the different parts of your holiday and calls it a package or charges you a total price.

It’s also a package holiday if all of the following apply:

  • you booked part of your holiday by clicking on a link from a company you’ve already booked with - like on its website or in the email confirmation it sent you
  • you didn’t need to give your details again because the first company passed them on
  • you made the second booking within 24 hours of the first

For example, you book a flight and then click on a link on the airline’s website and book a hotel without filling in your details again.

Check if you’ve made ‘linked travel arrangements’

It’s a linked travel arrangement if you book 2 or more travel services for the same trip but they’re with different companies and you pay for them separately. For example if you use an online or high street travel agent to book a flight and a hotel with different companies.

It’s also a linked travel arrangement if all the following apply:

  • you book a travel service with one company and then another service with a different company by clicking on a link from the first company
  • you’re asked to give some or all of your details to the second company - like if it has your name but you need to enter your card details
  • you made the second booking within 24 hours of the first
  • the trip is more than 24 hours or includes an overnight stay

For example, you book a flight and then click on a link for car hire - you have to give your details to each company.

Check if you’re an independent traveller

If you organised the holiday yourself, you’ll be an independent traveller. You’re likely to have different contracts with different companies, not necessarily all booked at the same time.

You’ll also be an independent traveller if your holiday isn’t a package holiday or a linked travel arrangement.

If the company cancels your package holiday

You’re entitled to a refund if the company cancels your holiday before you go. You might also get compensation unless:

  • there are unavoidable and extraordinary circumstances - like a natural disaster
  • not enough people have booked on the trip

The company must have told you beforehand that the trip wouldn’t go ahead if they didn’t get as many bookings as they needed. They must also give you the right amount of notice before cancelling.

If the company cancels your package holiday on or after 1 July 2018, you should get your money within 14 days of the trip being cancelled.

If you went on a package holiday

If something goes wrong with your holiday, you should report it as soon as you can.

You’re entitled to compensation if:

  • the holiday you went on was lower in value than the one you booked, for example you paid for a deluxe room but only got a standard room - this is called ‘loss of value’ and you can claim back the difference in value if it wasn't sorted out at the time
  • you had to spend extra money because of a problem with the holiday, for example, the hotel was a bus ride away from the beach and not across the road as advertised - this is called claiming for ‘out-of-pocket expenses’ and you’ll need receipts like bus tickets
  • a large part of the services you booked weren’t provided - for example your holiday included a 2-day excursion that was cancelled and the company's local representative didn’t organise another 
  • something goes wrong that causes you distress or disappointment, for example if the pool was closed for the whole trip - this is called ‘loss of enjoyment’

There’s no strict guidance on how much you can claim for loss of enjoyment. You’ll need to think of an amount that reflects the portion of the holiday that was affected.

Your claim must be reasonable - if your hotel was 3 miles from the beach instead of across the road, you’d be expected to take the bus rather than a taxi.

You should accept any reasonable alternatives that you’re offered.

You’ll only be able to get the full cost of the holiday back if it was completely ruined - this rarely happens.

You can’t get compensation if:

  • you simply didn’t enjoy the holiday, even though it matched what you booked
  • the problem was out of the holiday company’s control - like bad weather
  • you’ve already been compensated, for example if the hotel compensated you while you were staying there

If your flight was cancelled

Your package holiday organiser should arrange an alternative flight or give you a refund if the flight you were booked on is delayed or cancelled.

Check the information you received when you made the booking to see what you’re supposed to get. If you don’t get the service you’ve been promised, you may be entitled to compensation for breach of contract.

If the airline you’re flying with goes bust

If you book a holiday that’s covered by the Air Travel Organisers’ Licensing (ATOL) scheme and the airline you’re supposed to fly with goes out of business, you’ll get:

  • a refund if you haven’t travelled yet
  • to finish your holiday and a flight home without paying extra, if the airline goes bust during your holiday

Read the information on how to claim on the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) website.

If the package holiday company goes bust

Check if the company is covered by the Air Travel Organisers’ Licensing (ATOL), the Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA), the Association of Bonded Travel Organisers Trust (ABTOT) or Bonded Coach Holidays (BCH). If it is, you’ll get:

  • a refund if you haven’t travelled yet

  • to finish your holiday and transport home if you’re already on holiday

Check the information you got before you booked. It should tell you who to contact for refunds if the company goes bust, and who’s responsible for getting you home - if the company’s based in the UK, contact the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) to find out. You can email: uk-ptd-ccp@caa.co.uk.

If you made a ‘linked travel arrangement’

It’s harder to get compensation as you’ll have different contracts with different companies - like hotels and airlines. If they’re based abroad, you might not have the same rights as in the UK.

You should report any problem as soon as you can. You should accept reasonable alternatives, and keep receipts for expenses. If the company is based in an EU country, you can ask the UK European Consumer Centre for help.

Check the information you got before you booked. It should tell you if anyone is responsible if the company goes bust and who to contact.

If you're an independent traveller

It’s harder to get compensation if you organised the holiday yourself, because it’s likely that you’ll have different contracts with different companies - for example, hotels, airlines and travel agents. If those companies were based abroad, you won’t be protected by UK law and your rights could be completely different.

However this doesn’t mean you can’t try. You should raise the issue as soon as you can and keep evidence - like receipts for expenses. Most companies will have a complaints procedure that you can go through, so you might get some compensation.

If the company is based in an EU country, you can ask the UK European Consumer Centre for help.

Write to the company and ask for compensation

Who you write to will depend on who you booked the holiday through. If you booked a package holiday, write to the customer services department of the tour operator you used. If you booked it yourself or made a linked travel arrangement, write directly to the accommodation or service provider concerned (like the hotel or excursion provider).

Make sure you include:

  • your booking reference
  • clear details of what went wrong
  • copies any evidence you have - like photos
  • copies of receipts
  • how much compensation you want

It’s a good idea to send the letter by registered post and keep a copy, so you have proof that the holiday company received it. You can also email them - some of them have online forms. Keep a copy of what you send.

If the company makes you an offer that you think is too low, you can ask for more. They might come back to you with a higher offer.

If you’re still unhappy

If you booked with a company which is a member of a trade association, such as the Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA), you might be able to complain to them.

Check if the company you booked with is a member of ABTA. You won’t be able to complain to ABTA if they’re not a member.

  1. Register a complaint on the ABTA website.
  2. The company should get back to you.

If this doesn’t work you can get ABTA to mediate between you and the company. This means that ABTA will work with both you and the company to reach an agreement. There’s a fee for this service.

Alternatively, you could choose an EU-approved ADR scheme on the European Commission website yourself to try and solve the problem more informally.

As a last resort you can take the company to the small claims court - but this can be expensive and take a long time.

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