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Pay by credit card or book hotels and flights together to protect your booking

Package holidays are usually protected (always check) under either the ATOL or ABTA consumer protection scheme. This means if your tour operator goes bust, you’re covered. If you don’t opt for a package holiday though, there are still ways to make sure you’re covered: Get ATOL protection on DIY bookings. ATOL doesn’t protect standalone hotel bookings. If you book a flight plus separate hotel or car hire together from the same travel website in the same transaction, you get full ATOL financial and legal protection, just as with a traditional package holiday. If you book these elements from the same site, but in different transactions, you’ll only get financial protection. Even better, if you book flights and a hotel together, Expedia*, Ebookers* and Lastminute.com* sometimes give extra discounts. Compare this with booking the cheapest flight and hotel separately to see if this protection ‘costs’ you. Pay by credit card. If a hotel stay’s more than £100 and you pay by credit card, you’ll get extra protection. That’s because under Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act, for purchases over £100 the credit card provider is equally liable if something goes wrong. See our Section 75 guide for more info. For bookings under £100 see our Chargeback guide. Booked directly with a firm that went bust? Check your insurance policy. Some insurers will cover you in the event of cancellation, and possibly for other elements of your trip too, like flights, if you can’t find anywhere else to stay. Alternatively, if you booked using a credit or debit card, see above. See our Holiday Rights guide for more information. Stay in a swanky spare room Spare room and apartment rental sites have mushroomed in recent years, and can often offer cheap short-term stays worldwide. The idea is hosts put you up in their spare room or rent out their whole apartment to earn cash on the side. You can stay everywhere from swanky LA lofts to houseboats in Paris, and it’s a great way to meet locals. Crashing in spare rooms often beats hotel prices, too. We found a night in a double room in a Barcelona flat for £49 – a similar quality hotel cost £90. The sites below act as middlemen between hosts and guests to help. It’s worth trying a few, as sometimes prices differ for the same room between sites. When comparing, always click through to the payment page, as they can add extra fees at the final stage. Best for breadth: Airbnb. It’s the biggest name in spare room renting, over 3,000,000 listings worldwide. It charges guests a 5-15% fee to stay. Smaller selection but can be cheaper: Wimdu*. Another major player, it features over 350,000 listings worldwide. It’s free for hosts to list, so some price at slightly lower rates to reflect this. Guests pay a 15% flat fee to stay, shown on the payment page. For belt ‘n’ braces: 9flats.com. It covers slightly fewer properties, but it’s also worth a look. The site says it features over six million listings worldwide. It doesn’t charge any extra fees for guests, but charges hosts up to 15% of the transaction.