We’re delighted that international travel is starting up again. Yes, there is still some red tape, and yes there are some testing requirements, but now we are seeing more families starting to travel internationally.

This is of course wonderful news for Stubborn Mule and the wider industry.

In this environment, we continue to be as flexible as we possibly can. Our mantra has always been, and will always be, that we strive to do the right thing by our clients.

We are therefore delighted to be able to continue to offer our NO QUIBBLE, FULL REFUND GUARANTEE. Under this guarantee, new bookings are fully refundable, no questions asked.

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

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. Therefore if you want to cancel for any reason, you can do so and we will quickly refund you.

Are there any exceptions?

There are a very limited number of exceptions, usually applying to deposits payable to hotels (or cruise boats) for travel during peak periods at Christmas and Easter. This is particularly the case in South and Central America where travellers from the US are already booking in good numbers. Here, some hotels will only accept bookings at Christmas or over the Easter weekend on payment of a deposit.

In the event that travel is not permitted due to covid, they will usually agree to defer the deposit to a later date but not refund it. This is because if we don’t book the rooms, they are confident that they will be able to sell the rooms to people travelling from other countries, with less onerous travel restrictions who will be able to travel.

If this applies to your trip, we will always discuss this with you in advance to ensure that you are happy with the booking conditions that will be applied.

To reiterate, this only applies in a very small number of cases.

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

At the moment (and mindful of the very limited exceptions outlined above), you can cancel for any reason and get a full refund. 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.

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

Whilst we are trying very hard to be as flexible as we possibly can, 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 is more certain. There are plenty of options and we would work out what would best suit your family. Don’t forget that 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 your holiday starts, therefore precluding travel. In this situation, given that you are just about to set off on your holiday, we will have pre-paid for your trip and would not be in a position to refund you.

This is therefore something that we suggest you take out a travel insurance policy to cover. There are now plenty of insurance policies on the market that specifically cover cancellation as a result of someone in the party testing positive. It is a risk (albeit small) and one that we strongly recommend you covering with insurance.

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 which applies in almost every instance, 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 (and therefore entirely risk free), for a period of several months. The flights 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 flights are confirmed and paid for, the airline’s booking conditions will apply.

What about the Package Travel Regulations?

The Package Travel Regulations (PTR) are the regulations that govern our responsibilities as a tour operator to you, as a client. These are wide ranging but the key part of the regulations that applies here is that if we are unable to run your trip as planned, we have an obligation to give you a full refund. So, if a lockdown was announced in your destination, or if the UK government made it illegal to travel, we would be obliged to give you a full refund.

Whilst these regulations protect your rights, and have ensured that millions of customers have received refunds since the start of the pandemic, there are some circumstances that the regulations do not cover.

It is because of this that we have gone further, and offered additional more generous booking terms than those dictated by the PTR, allowing you to cancel and get a full refund for any reason, not just because we can’t run the trip.

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.