How to avoid scams and other costly pitfalls when booking a holiday in 2024

Don’t let holiday fraudsters turn your 2024 holiday dreams into a nightmare.

Do your research to stay safe when booking your holiday for 2024
A happy family booking a holiday Do your research to stay safe when booking your holiday for 2024 (Alamy Stock Photo)

The weather outside may be chilly but it’s a busy time of year for holiday bookings, as people start putting their travel plans for the year ahead into action.

With cost-of-living concerns still putting a strain on households’ budgets, offers of cheap travel deals may seem particularly tempting.

But fraud experts are warning that some “special offers” may turn your holiday dream into a holiday nightmare.

Chris Ainsley, head of fraud risk management at Santander says: “Many people are already daydreaming about their next holiday, but unfortunately fraudsters are ready to make some holiday dreams turn into a nightmare.

“As you plan your trips for 2024, stay safe by always booking directly with an airline, hotel or through a well-known agent and check whether they are a member of ABTA (a trade association for UK travel agents, tour operators and the wider travel industry).

A couple planning a holiday (Alamy Stock Photo)

“Don’t reply to unsolicited emails, texts or cold calls about holidays.”

Holidaymakers should also check the small print for ATOL protection before they book their next trip abroad.

People can check the ATOL website before booking and use its check for ATOL tool to see if their holiday provider holds an ATOL licence.

The UK Civil Aviation Authority runs the ATOL financial protection scheme.

Recent research for ATOL suggests that one in 12 (8%) of people would research and book their next big holiday on the same day.

But beware of making hasty bookings without doing some research first. Holiday fraudsters will use fake online adverts that may look very similar to the real thing.

A laptop, glasses and notepad (Alamy Stock Photo)

Don’t be dazzled by images of luxurious rooms and stunning views, which are intended to to lure people into handing over their cash.

Ainsley warns that fraudsters will use genuine images of locations stolen from legitimate websites to trick people, so make sure you know who you are dealing with. You could try doing an image search online to see if the pictures have actually been taken from elsewhere.

Also, check the website address, to make sure it has not been altered by slight changes to the domain name. Criminals may clone websites to imitate trusted companies, so that it appears you are dealing with someone legitimate.

Fraudsters may ask people to pay by bank transfer. Those making payments may never receive a confirmation.

Or, they may receive what appears to be a booking confirmation and only find out at the airport or hotel that they have been scammed.

Ainsley adds: “Remember that using a credit or debit card when booking gives you extra protection if things do go wrong.”

Under Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act 1974, people can raise a claim against their bank or lender for a breach of contract or misrepresentation by the supplier of goods or services.

People who have used a debit or credit card to pay could also try raising a chargeback claim, which allows people to dispute transactions and claw back payments. Banks and lenders can give more information on this.

Keep any documents or receipts from your holiday booking handy.

Also keep an eye out for any “hidden” charges that could ramp up the overall cost of the trip, such as charges for amending the booking or for extra baggage.

A couple on holiday (Alamy Stock Photo)

Travel insurance is also vital if the holiday doesn’t quite go to plan. Make sure you shop around for a travel insurance policy that will fit your needs.

Lucie Hart, policy adviser, general insurance at the Association of British Insurers (ABI) says: “Travel insurance should be an essential part of planning your holiday, not least to cover you against the potential jaw-droppingly expensive cost of needing any emergency medical treatment while abroad.

“You should always make sure that you buy the right policy for your needs, which may not be the cheapest. For example, if you have a pre-existing medical condition, then you may need to arrange cover with a specialist travel insurer.”