In this period of global uncertainty, the timeline for the resumption of international travel remains unclear. But the appetite for overseas adventure continues to be strong, and is increasing as the months pass. After protracted time spent at home, many families are longing for something different, for a different view out of the window.

But is now the right time to book a holiday? There is lots of conflicting advice depending on who you listen to and many people have had their fingers burned over the last 12 months with holidays cancelled at the last minute and money not being refunded for months, if at all.

We are hoping that the situation will become clearer when the government travel review publish their findings on the 12th April 2021. It is expected that this review will address, amongst other things, vaccine passports, quarantine restrictions and travel corridors.

In the meantime, we are delighted to be able to continue to offer our:

All new bookings now being taken are fully refundable, no questions asked.

Specific details will be discussed at booking but for now, some FAQs.

Why book now, isn’t it better to wait?

Ironically, many of the smaller boutique hotels that we use are already full or nearly full for key school holiday dates in 2021. This is because so many people have deferred their bookings from 2020.

Although there is disagreement on when travel will resume, there is no doubt that there is a huge pent up demand that will at some point be ‘unleashed’. Small hotels will book up incredibly quickly and services may become unavailable.

The advantage of booking now is that you can secure the best available hotels and services and have a wonderful holiday to look forward to. However, you can book safe in the knowledge that you can cancel your holiday and get a full refund quickly, for any reason, if you want or need to.

How can you offer such flexible booking terms?

In normal times, whenever we take a booking, we immediately send a deposit to our suppliers overseas to secure accommodation bookings and other services.

In this current time of uncertainty, we have worked hard with our local suppliers to allow us to take bookings but without having to send a deposit. Normally this would not be possible, but at the moment, hotels, transport suppliers and guides are very eager to do whatever is needed to facilitate the return of international travel.

This means that although we will take a deposit from you to confirm your booking, we will retain the full value of this in our trust account in the UK. We will not send a penny of it overseas. Therefore if you want to cancel for any reason, you can do so and we will quickly refund you.

Can we cancel for any reason or does it have to be COVID specific?

At the moment, you can cancel for any reason. It doesn’t have to be because of government advice, or new COVID protocols. You can just get cold feet and decide you don’t want to go after all. We are being as flexible as we possibly can.

Does this apply to all new bookings?

It applies almost without exception. However there are a very small number of hotels and services that, even now, we cannot book without paying a deposit. If this may apply to your chosen destination (or hotels) we will discuss this with you so that you can consider your options and make an informed decision. It may be, for example, that you would not be able to cancel your trip, only defer it. But we will make this very clear before you book.

To reiterate, this only applies for a very small number of services.

Is the booking fully refundable up until the day of departure?

We are trying very hard to be as flexible as we possibly can but there does come a time at which we have to pay our suppliers for your impending holiday. The payment date varies from one destination to another, but is usually between 2 and 4 weeks of the start of your holiday. This is the point at which it is more difficult for us to give you a no-questions-asked full refund.

Therefore prior to this time, we will discuss the latest situation with you. If it looks almost certain that your trip can go ahead (barring anyone in the party testing positive (see below)) then at this point we would need to get everything firmed up and agree that cancellation penalties would apply. If you were not happy to agree to this then you would be able to cancel and get a full refund straight away.

However, if the situation remained uncertain and it was not clear whether the trip could go ahead, we would discuss this with you and with our partners in your destination. Possibly we might be able to delay payment until very shortly before departure, to allow flexibility until the last minute. Or possibly we might feel that the uncertainty is untenable and we would suggest that you cancel and get a full refund. Or we might suggest that you switch to another destination that was more certain. There are plenty of options and we would work out what would best suit your family. At this point you would always still have the option to cancel and get a full refund.

What happens if one of the family test positive just before travel? And what about travel insurance?

Our flexible booking conditions are designed to ensure that you don’t end up out of pocket by booking a holiday that you decide you don’t want to take, or perhaps more likely, you are unable to take due to government restrictions either in the UK or in your chosen destination.

Although we have seen over the last year that restrictions can come in to place very suddenly, this is the exception rather than the rule. We will usually have a pretty good idea of whether travel to any given destination is likely several weeks in advance. This is why we are able to offer such flexibility and the option of a full refund – because if it looks unlikely that you will be able to travel, we just won’t send payment to our suppliers and can therefore refund you.

However, what we do not have any control over is a situation in which you, or any of your family, test positive for COVID just before (or during) travel. The protocols surrounding international travel are still being worked out, and it may be that vaccine passports will preclude the need for PCR tests before or after travel, but we don’t know this yet. It is still possible that some destinations may require you (or the children) to present negative PCR tests in order to be admitted.

Of course where this is required, there will be a chance (however slim) that one of your party test positive and are unable to travel. If you have to cancel as a result, we will have already paid our suppliers in full for your services and will not be able to recoup these funds. In this specific situation, we will therefore not be able to refund you.

However, there are now many travel insurance policies available which cover this specific situation and we strongly advise you to ensure that your policy has this specific COVID cover. This means that you will have seamless protection for your holiday investment; our refund guarantee will apply up until the point that we have to pay our suppliers; your travel insurance policy will provide cover after this point.

So just to be completely clear; our no-quibble refund policy currently allows you to cancel for any reason, up to the point at which we have to pay our suppliers for your trip. From this point on, you should have travel insurance in place that has cancellation cover in the event that you have to cancel due to someone in the party testing positive.

Are flights refundable?

A number of airlines (but not all) are offering flexible booking terms for tour operators, which are not available to the public. This means that we may be able to hold flights on your behalf without any payment, for a period of several months. They can often be held until 1-2 months before departure. At this point they either need to be confirmed (and paid for) or cancelled.

Your travel consultant will be able to explain the process in more detail. From the point at which they are confirmed and paid for, the airline’s booking conditions will apply. Again we can outline these in full.

How quickly will I get my refund?

Your money is stored in a trust account so there are procedures that we have follow to release the funds back to you. These include getting a sign off from an independent trustee. These procedures take 5 working days. So if you ask for a refund today, the money will be back in your bank account within a week.

Does this affect my financial protection?

No, it doesn’t. All your payments to Stubborn Mule are held in a trust account that is independently managed by the Travel Trust Association (TTA) and which provides 100% financial protection. Further details can be found here.

I booked before the pandemic, does this policy apply to me?

This policy only applies to new bookings. Before the pandemic, whenever we took a booking we sent a deposit to our overseas suppliers to secure accommodation and services. These funds are not being returned to us, so different rules apply for pre-pandemic bookings. However, we are working hard to find the best solution for each family that have been affected.