/ Travel & Leisure

Paying for holidays – too much, too soon

Holiday balance - time and money

Many travel companies ask for holidays to be paid in full months before your trip. Is it reasonable to pay for a holiday three months in advance? Where does your money go?

I don’t like paying for things in advance. Call me a miser, but I like to hold on to my money as long as I can.

I don’t like handing over money and then waiting weeks to see the results of my spending. Meanwhile, the money sits in someone else’s bank account collecting interest, rather than my own.

Take builders. I was once asked to pay nearly half the cost of the work as a deposit weeks before the project would have started – so I walked away and found someone who only wanted a 5% deposit with no more to pay until the builders arrived and started work.

Early payments go too far

So when I book a holiday, I don’t like the idea of paying the full cost of the trip months in advance. Yet this is what a lot of travel companies ask you to do.

Thomas Cook and the Co-operative Travel, which are now part of the same company, want the full balance of a holiday 14 weeks before departure, for example.

One of our Which? Travel readers disliked this idea so much he didn’t pay the balance for a trip to the Isle of Man on time, and lost his holiday and deposit as a result.

I wouldn’t go that far, but I don’t see why once you’ve paid the deposit, the full balance is needed so far in advance.

Paying months before you travel

However, such terms are common in the travel industry among big companies – Thomson and Virgin Holidays, for example, both want full payment 12 weeks before departure.

Full payment dates have been getting earlier over the years, and clearly it’s in travel companies’ interest to have all the money paid over earlier.

But what about the consumers’ interest? Shouldn’t we be able to hold on to our  money as long as possible?

What’s the earliest you’ve ever been asked to pay the full cost of a holiday? And do you think it’s reasonable for travel companies to ask for your cash months in advance?

Denise Dodd says:
21 June 2013

I paid a deposit for £250.00 with Ola Holidays which was a holiday due in August, 2012 but due to being deaf and aquired a new assistance dog to help me with my disability. Because of training and bonding involved of which means I cannot go anywhere without my assistance dog for at least 8 months and also financial changes to way benefits are paid like the delay in tax credit changes that I have had to ask that I can amend the booking to May 2014 as for one that I don’t lose my deposit and secondly it will give me time to be able to pay for the holiday nearer the time. But Ola Holidays are putting me under immense pressure and demanding that I pay the remaining 50 per cent balance immediately. I have explained all the circumstances as above but to no avail and still demanding 50 per cent balance now and they have threatened me debt collectors if I cancel the holiday. Surely they can’t do this???? Can someone please advise. I am very distressed about all of this and have enough stress to cope with being disabled in my life and the current changes going on, plus making me feel extremely ill.

chrissie 53 says:
11 July 2014

What is really annoying is that I have paid on time for the last two years, and each time just days before the holiday they have changed the venue and dates. This year they have just changed my flight times. In future I will book last minute and pay in full. Those three months they are profiting from interest on my money. They should be made to repay lost interest. When my mother died just days before my holiday they just said ‘unlucky’, then they had the cheek to ring me full of apologies the day before telling me it was no longer available. As luck would have it that worked in my favour.

Janet says:
11 February 2015

I booked with thomas Cook 4th January, paid 550 deposit for two of us, on the 8th of February got a email saying chase up for the balance, I was very annoyed, when booking hoilday, the hoilday company informed me, the balance due would be 12weeks before departure date, why should I pay 18weeks before I depart, someone needs to make laws were all hoilday compaines have the same dead line ie 12 weeks before departure for customers to pay balance outstanding they are a law to them selves and very greedy,

M Hall says:
18 February 2015

I recently booked a holiday using Coop Travel, the tour operator invoice showed payment in full 4 weeks before travel. The brochure shows payment in full 4 weeks before travel. However the Coop crossed out the date on the invoice and want payment in full 14 weeks before travel. I have asked at the Coop why they need payment 10 weeks before the tour operator does and the response was that their accounts department need to process it. I am paying by card, surely the Coop system doesn’t take 10 weeks to process a payment. The cynic in me tends to think the Coop are making money by holding onto customers payments for extended periods to gain interest from having our money in their account.

Myreve Chambers says:
15 August 2015

I have booked a holidays just about 3 weeks ago and paid deposit for mid December this year from Planet Cruises UK just had an email from this this week looking for final payment that is some 16 weeks before I travel surely that cannot be right. Is there anywhere you can sort this out as I am reluctant to pay this far in advance. I don’t even have my invoice as yet from Planet cruises yet their demanding payment now. If I cannot get this sorted will never book with them again.

David Thatcher says:
22 June 2016

Just booked for a Holiday to Croatia In September (16th) booked on the 21st June, paid £300 deposit, they want the balance of £2942 on the 24th June, or three days later.
I really can’t see why they need to get the whole balance so far in advance, let’s face it, if you do not pay the balance (Say a much fairer 6 weeks before) they would still have your deposit as a forfeit, and still be able to sell on the Holiday.
Perhaps it is time the Monopolies commission looked at this practise, as it seems all the large holiday companies have jumped on this particular bandwagon, as well as charging you for using your credit card (1.5%) which I think is also wrong.

Barbara Boardman says:
28 July 2016

I booked a cruise (with an agent) to the Caribbean leaving on the 15th November 2016 and have been told the balance will have to be paid 4 months in advance we then explained that the cruise company we are going with only expected the balance 91 days before sailing. Although I think this is till to early pay the balance I think to ask for it 4 months in advance is a bit of a joke. We have booked previous cruises with the same terms and conditions 1 month before sailing and paid the balance then how can they accept that

Richard Caldwell says:
28 August 2016

Thomas Cook are now asking for full balance payments 18 .19. Weeks
Before departure. Too Much too soon.