Home » How elections affect travel – and can poll workers claim refunds for cancelled trips?

How elections affect travel – and can poll workers claim refunds for cancelled trips?

The first July election in a lifetime will have some significant effects on travellers – specifically those people who are now required to be in the UK for the campaign and/or the polling day itself.

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

But what about the response of the UK public? Will we see a sudden increase in demand for holidays because some will want to escape the campaign – or could people decide to stay at home because they want to lap up the spectacle? And, crucially, if you are planning to be away on 4 July, how can you vote?

These are the key questions and answers.

I’m on holiday on 4 July. How can I vote?

There are two options.

Apply for a proxy vote, whereby someone else completes your voting form on your behalf.

Arrange for a postal vote, which allows you to make your choice up to two weeks ahead of polling day.

Arrangements are different for Northern Ireland, with full details here.

I have a holiday booked for early July. My job means I now can’t go. What are my options?

Thousands of local authority staff, candidates, party workers and journalists who were assuming a quiet early summer ahead of a busy autumn will be urgently cancelling travel arrangements.

Your best hope is that the travel company is prepared to be flexible in these unusual circumstances and allow you to postpone. That is more likely to happen if, for example, you have booked a family-run seaside hotel where you stay regularly.

Unfortunately, most companies are likely to say that normal terms and conditions apply – which could mean you lose some or all of your money.

Package holidaymakers are in the best position: they can transfer the trip to someone else, such as a family member or friend, on payment of a modest amount – typically £50.

People from Scotland or Northern Ireland who have “DIY” family holidays planned, with flights and accommodation booked separately, may find themselves thousands of pounds out of pocket.

I imagine a range of employers, from media organisations to local authorities, may be asked to pick up the bills for spoiled holidays.

Can I claim on travel insurance?

Most unlikely; I know of no travel policy that would pay out because of a snap election.

If loads of people are cancelling, does that mean bargains to be picked up?

No. It may be that a few enticing Mediterranean villas are now unexpectedly available between now and early July. But it seems improbable that more than 15,000 election-related workers might have to cancel holidays. That is just 1 per cent of the number of British people who typically head abroad at this time of year, and not enough to move the market.

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

Some people may feel they have had enough of the election already. The notion that significantly numbers are so cheesed off they want to escape the campaign is a popular one.

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

Yet I can find neither market nor anecdotal evidence to support it. Going on holiday would constitute an extreme step to avoid all the campaigning: people could simply turn off broadcast news programmes and find news on other subjects online.

Will some people cancel holidays because they want to follow the hustings?

I have never heard of that happening. It is conceivable that some people who were thinking of travelling abroad – and sensibly booking fairly 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.

Looking ahead to polling day: will there be any travel effect on or around 4 July?

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

  • Euros
  • World Cup
  • Summer Olympics
  • General Elections (but not all of them).

Not all elections are equal. In 1997, when it appeared that the Conservatives’ long run in power would end, anecdotal evidence suggested many people wanted to be “in the room” as the count unfolded. I found a £99 one-week package holiday to Ibiza at the time.

Yet eight years later, the May 2005 vote – the third won by Tony Blair – appears to have been regarded as a foregone conclusion, with relatively little interest on election night beyond the Labour majority. I flew out to Nice on the day itself, 4 May 2005, and paid a normal fare for the privilege.

I sense that 2024 will be very similar to 1997. Airlines and holiday companies are currently experiencing “soft” demand for off-peak holidays. They may find it falls still further over the first week in July.

Look out for some good last-minute deals from airports in England and Wales; schools in Scotland and Northern Ireland will have just broken up, with demand from families in those nations sweeping up available holidays.