/ 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?


what I don’t get is the fact you have to pay 12 weeks before you go yet I know from experience your hotel bill is not paid till you have had your holiday as so when some of travel agents had gone bust folk was kicked out hotels as they knew wasn’t going to get paid so why should we have to pay 12 weeks before go

This comment was removed at the request of the user

Even if you don’t use a travel agent, most people use a tour operator as a relatively protected way of getting the destination and accommodation standard they want – and it’s the tour operator that requires the advance payment.

For popular destinations the tour operators reserve a number of bookings with each hotel a year or more in advance so that they can include them in their brochures with confidence and also to have a degree of exclusivity. Bear in mind that the UK tour operators are competing not only against other UK companies but also against those from many other countries.

Whereas the advance payment terms seem excessive I see it as a reasonable compromise as the complications that would arise if final payment was much closer to the departure date would put prices up for everybody. The operators do need time to sell any slots that are not paid for in good time; it is almost certain that the terms with the hotels under the reserved bookings contracts mean that the operators pay some or all of the costs of unfilled places in return for better rates on block bookings.

Another dimension to these terms and conditions is the increasing number of holidays that are only available on a non-refundable basis once an initial payment has been made.

Mr S Glastonbury says:
6 March 2019

We are going on a cruise with Princess beginning of Nov this year already paid £500 deposit and they require the remaining balance by the 4th June absolutely ridiculous what are our rights please.
Many thanks,
Mr Glastonbury

John Burton says:
14 January 2020

If you have booked direct with the cruise line check their terms and conditions, deposits and balance payment schedules are always in the small print somewhere. If however if your booking was through a travel agent you will find that nearly all of them need your cash at least a month or more earlier. Simply ask why they do it and they will come up with a load of reasons none of which really give a satisfactory answer. It is worth noting that most agents apply a discount against the brochure price, is so to get a better deal you will have to fall in with their time lines for repayments.Happy cruising

For all the stick that British Airways seem to be getting these days, their holidays have low deposits to reserve your flight and hotel, requiring full payment just a few weeks in advance.