Q. Which is the best way to pay for a holiday? Does a debit card offer as much protection as a credit card, which always carries a surcharge? Jeremy White, Kettering
A. It depends what sort of holiday you are buying. If it is a bona-fide package, covered by an ATOL (for which you pay a £2.50 per-person fee), then the method of payment is immaterial; the first call to recover your cash in the event of the tour operator going bust will be the CAA's Air Travel Trust Fund.
For "DIY" holidays, the dependable back-stop remains a credit card. For any purchase of £100 or more, Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act makes your financial institution jointly liable with the travel provider to deliver what you have bought. So, if your airline or accommodation provider goes bust, you can claim back via the credit-card company. But, as you say, most travel providers surcharge credit-card payments.
Debit cards do not carry legal protection, but Visa and MasterCard now require issuers of these cards to offer a similar level of protection under the "chargeback" rules.
There is, though, one scenario in which paying with a credit card could prove wise. Suppose, on a DIY holiday, your airline goes bust before or during your trip. The extent of contingent spending – notably for new, short-notice flights – is likely to be several times higher than the original tickets. You may be able to claim the full amount from a credit-card company, but not from a debit-card provider.
Having said all that, the cover that comes with buying a proper package holiday comprises by far the best consumer protection in travel. The Package Travel Regulations require the tour operator to deliver the safe, good-quality holiday you were expecting – and reduce the risk that your dream trip will turn into a nightmare.
Q. Where can I fly from Gatwick, our local airport? There must be a website, but I can't find it. Geraldine Blake
A. Here is a short link: bit.ly/Gatlinks. When you reach it and scroll down, it should reveal all 200-plus destinations plus the airlines that fly there. Based on price/city interest/beaches/food, Portugal's second city, Porto, looks like an excellent choice.