How will elections affect travel – and can politicians get refunds for canceled July holidays?

Should you get away?  British Airways, easyJet and Ryanair at Edinburgh Airport (Simon Calder)

Should you get away? British Airways, easyJet and Ryanair at Edinburgh Airport (Simon Calder)

The first July election in their lifetimes will have some significant implications for travelers – particularly those who now need to be in Britain for the campaign and/or election day itself.

A number of candidates, party activists, election workers and people working in the media will have booked holidays in early July in anticipation of an autumn vote. This is especially true for people in Northern Ireland and Scotland, where many schools close their doors at the end of June.

But what about the reaction of the British public? Will we see a sudden increase in demand for holidays as some people want to escape the campaign – or could people decide to stay home because they want to soak up the spectacle? And, crucially, if you plan to be away for the 4th of July, how can you vote?

These are the most important questions and answers.

I am on holiday on the 4th of July. How can I vote?

There are two options.

Request a proxy vote, where someone else completes your voting form on your behalf.

Arrange for a postal vote so that you can make your choice up to two weeks before election day.

The arrangements are different for Northern Ireland, with full details here.

I have booked a holiday for early July. Because of my work I can’t go now. What are my options?

Thousands of local government officials, candidates, party workers and journalists who expected a quiet early summer ahead of a busy autumn will urgently cancel their travel arrangements.

Your best hope is that the tour company is willing to be flexible in these unusual circumstances and allow you to postpone. The chance of this happening is greater if, for example, you have booked a family-run hotel by the sea where you regularly stay.

Unfortunately, most companies will probably say that normal terms apply – which could mean you lose some or all of your money.

Package travelers are in the best position: they can transfer the trip to someone else, such as a family member or friend, for a modest fee – usually £50.

People from Scotland or Northern Ireland who have planned a ‘do-it-yourself’ family holiday, with flights and accommodation booked separately, could find themselves spending thousands of pounds out of pocket.

I imagine a whole range of employers, from media organizations to local authorities, could be asked to pick up the tab for spoiled holidays.

Can I claim travel insurance?

Very unlikely; I don’t know of any travel policies that would pay out because of early elections.

If a lot of people cancel, does that mean there are bargains to be had?

No. There may be some unexpectedly tempting Mediterranean villas available between now and early July. But it seems unlikely that more than 15,000 election-related workers will have to cancel their vacations. That’s just 1 percent of the number of Britons who typically travel abroad at this time of year, and not enough to move the market.

Will there be a surge in holiday demand between now and July 4?

Some people may feel like they’ve already had enough of the elections. The idea that significant numbers are so impressed that they want to escape the campaign is popular.

If true, a surge in demand could lead to higher holiday prices.

Yet I can find neither market nor anecdotal evidence to support this. Going on vacation would be an extreme step to avoid all the campaigning: people could simply turn off news programs and find news about other topics online.

Will some people cancel vacations because they want to follow the crowds?

I’ve never heard of that happening. It is conceivable that some people thinking of traveling abroad – and booking quite late from England and Wales – may decide not to go so they can enjoy what promises to be a slapstick campaign.

But again, the numbers are probably not significant.

Election Day Preview: Is There a Travel Effect on or Around July 4?

Possibly. In my experience, few external events (apart from the weather) are substantial enough to change usual demand patterns among British travellers. I count four, three of which are sports-related – and two of which are football-related.

Not all elections are equal. In 1997, when it looked like the Conservatives’ long hold on power might be coming to an end, anecdotal evidence suggested that many people wanted to be “in the room” as the count unfolded. At the time I found a £99 package holiday for a week to Ibiza.

But eight years later, the May 2005 vote – the third won by Tony Blair – appears to be considered a done deal, with relatively little interest on election night outside the Labor majority. I flew to Nice on the same day, May 4, 2005, and paid a normal fare for this privilege.

I have a feeling 2024 will be a lot like 1997. Airlines and holiday companies are currently experiencing “soft” demand for holidays outside peak hours. They may see it drop even further in the first week of July.

Look out for some good last-minute deals from airports in England and Wales; Schools in Scotland and Northern Ireland will have just closed, with demand from families in those countries eating up available holidays.

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