✉ We have e-vouchers totalling nearly £ 5,000 with British Airways. In October we’re due to finally stay in the Florida villa we booked way back in 2019 for £ 8,200 and this is the final time the owners will allow us to defer the month-long booking. But we’re very concerned about BA’s habit of canceling flights at very short notice and how this would affect any Covid tests we may have to take prior to departure. Can we get a refund instead? We are unable to get through to BA to discuss this.
Many readers will share your concern about bookings with BA this summer. Unfortunately the airline won’t let you swap vouchers for cash but it’s not all bad news: you’re unlikely to have your Florida flight canceled at the last minute. BA says the cancellations represent 10 per cent of the overall number of flights that were due to operate between March and end of October and 75 per cent of cancellations have been for short-haul flights. Passengers have generally been informed well in advance. “The past few weeks have been challenging for the entire industry and at British Airways we’re completely focused on three priorities: our customers; supporting the biggest recruitment drive in our history; and increasing our operational resilience. We’ve taken action to reduce our schedule to help provide certainty for our customers and are giving them maximum flexibility to either rebook with us or another airline as close to their original departure time as possible, or to receive a full refund, “a spokesman said.
But if this doesn’t reassure you, your vouchers are valid until September 2023, so if you can afford it, you might want to save them for another trip next summer, when there’s not so much at stake.
✉ We’re four families (eight adults and seven children) who live near Nottingham and want to get together in September for a weekend of walking and outdoor activities. Several of our group are big mountain bikers, so somewhere with access to trails would be wonderful. We’re happy to self-cater and would rather have one large place than several small units. We’re hoping to spend about £ 500 per family. What would you suggest?
Great Hagley in Craven Arms in south Shropshire ticks all your boxes. It’s a family-owned-and-operated small country estate of 120 acres, perfect for walkers. Hopton Woods trails – which will challenge the keen mountain bikers in your party – can be reached straight from the grounds. The estate offers lots of outdoor activities and Black Hawk Zip Line, one of the longest in England, is bound to appeal (£ 25pp for one ride, £ 40 for two), while the kids can tackle the Tiger Challenge Course, a low ropes adventure trail under the forest canopy (£ 10pp). Survival skills sessions can be arranged too. You’d all stay in the comfortable Bunkhouse, which sleeps 20 in four bedrooms. As the name suggests, it’s all bunks and you’ll need to bring your own bedding or pay extra to hire it. It also has three shower rooms and a huge and well-equipped kitchen, plus storage for bikes. A three-night stay in September will cost £ 1,800 (greathagleyestate.com). Although you’re planning to self-cater, don’t miss fish and chips from the award-winning Fiddlers Elbow in nearby Leintwardine which can be eaten in the beer garden of the Sun pub next door.
See Mount Stuart House, on the Isle of Bute, on a Majestic Line cruise
✉ My husband’s passport has expired and because we don’t plan to go abroad again he hasn’t renewed it. We thought a cruise round the British Isles would be ideal for us, especially as we live near Southampton, but most of the ones we’ve seen advertised include a stop at Honfleur. Presumably he would need a valid passport for sailing into France? It does seem a misnomer to be calling these “British Isles” cruises.
You won’t be happy to hear that many cruise lines insist that their passengers have passports valid for six months on the day of sailing, whether you stay in British waters or not. But if you can face the trek from Southampton, a Scottish cruise is an option: Hebridean Island Cruises will accept photo ID in the form of a driving license or bus pass and the Majestic Line, which cruises round the west coast of Scotland and the Hebrides , doesn’t require any ID at all. Its three-night taster cruise around south Argyll departs from Holy Loch on the Clyde in October and costs £ 1,330pp (themajesticline.co.uk).
✉ My husband and I are looking for a week’s break in Europe at the end of June. I’ll be in my second trimester of pregnancy and am keen to travel somewhere with a robust healthcare system. I also have a milk allergy and am concerned that I will struggle to find food I can eat. Our budget for hotel and flights is £ 1,500 for the week and we’d prefer somewhere surrounded by countryside, a pool we can relax by and a flight no longer than two and a half hours. Can you suggest somewhere suitable?
Harriet Roberts, via email
I’d recommend a relaxing break in the pure air of Austria’s Kitzbühel Alps. Austria consistently ranks as one of the top ten countries in the world for healthcare and there are plenty of hotels in the pretty lakeside town of Zell am See that can cater for your allergy. Try the immaculate, chalet-style Gartenhotel Daxer. Family-run, it has indoor and outdoor pools, excellent food and hiking trails on the doorstep. A week’s half-board, plus flights and transfers, costs £ 657pp at the end of June with Tui, including a £ 100 discount for bookings costing more than £ 750 for departures before July 16 (tui.co.uk). The flight time is about two hours.
✉ I booked a long weekend in a Cottages.com house in Kielder in Northumberland through Airbnb and accidentally chose four nights instead of three. I paid half the amount but within a couple of hours I realized my mistake. I emailed Cottages.com straight away, thinking there would be no problem and they would amend my booking but they won’t. Apparently I can change the date but not the length of stay. They said I don’t have to stay four nights but I have to pay for four. Surely there is a short get-out period for genuine mistakes? Even insurance companies give you that. Can you help?
It’s so easy to mess up online bookings that a 24-hour cooling-off period would be entirely sensible – but unfortunately it’s not required for travel-related sales in the UK and very few companies offer it. In this case, the mistake you made was to book a Cottages.com property through Airbnb so that you were then bound by the latter’s stricter cancellation policy. But after my intervention you can now have the three-night break you thought you booked. “Had the guest booked directly with Cottages.com our standard policy would have allowed this change. Having reviewed this customer’s particular circumstances, we have applied our terms and allowed the change as a gesture of goodwill, ”said a spokesman for Cottages.com.