✉ We recently stayed in a room at the Chelmsford Springfield branch of Premier Inn, and it was excessively hot for the duration of our stay – 27°C both nights – and I couldn’t sleep. The receptionist confirmed that there was nothing they could do to change the temperature, although we were provided with fans and sheets to use instead of duvets. I tried to claim a partial refund under the chain’s good night guarantee, but received a reply stating that my lack of sleep was caused by “circumstances resulting from the lack of facilities in a hotel” – in this case, air conditioning – no refund was due. Could you get a better result for me?
Premier Inn’s selling point is that it’s so confident that guests will get a good night’s sleep that they’ll get their money back if they don’t. But buried in its terms and conditions are the exclusions, and the first of these deals with hot weather and lack of air conditioning, so unfortunately it won’t offer any sort of refund. “We state as clearly as possible on our hotel information booking pages and at the time of booking whether a hotel is air-conditioned or not, and we simply encourage customers to check that they are booking the best hotel for them, “It said. “For example, two of our three hotels in Chelmsford have air conditioning.”
✉ Our daughter is doing a ski season in Japan this winter. We would like to visit her with our other daughter and son-in-law at the end of March and spend a few days skiing in Niseko before spending about two weeks traveling and hopefully catching the start of cherry blossom season. What are the best places to visit? We are looking at spending around £6000 per couple including flights and accommodation, but less if possible.
Prepare to spend every penny of your budget on this trip. Flights are expensive – around £1,200 at the end of March if you want to fly non-stop – and it will be high season (overseas tourists haven’t seen the cherry blossoms since 2019, so demand is high). After seeing your girl and hitting the slopes, you can fly to Osaka and do the temple tour in Kyoto, followed by a few hectic days in Tokyo (both should provide plenty of cherry blossom action). Then, for contrast, explore the samurai towns and gardens of Kanazawa and stay in traditional guesthouses in Shirakawago and Takayama in the northern Japanese Alps. A bespoke 13-night self-guided holiday would start at around £3,000 pp, including flights, some meals and all transport around the country, with specialist operator Inside Japan, who would also provide you with incredibly amazing travel notes detailed (insidejapantours.com).
Byodo-in temple near Kyoto
✉ To celebrate my wife’s birthday, we booked several cottages for family and friends in the Peak District for a week in April, paying £3320. A few days before the trip my wife tested positive for Covid and the chalet company told me we couldn’t change the date of our trip or get a full refund as we were canceling too late so we filed a claim with Staysure, our travel insurance company, for £2,655, the amount we lost. We did not receive the final outcome of our claim until August 23, when we received £278.46. Staysure did not say how such a low amount had been reached, and I demanded a full explanation, only to receive the standard response that we had to wait up to six weeks for a response. Can you help ?
When I became involved, Staysure insisted your case was being reviewed with their claims handlers. He said that under a clause in his terms and conditions you were paid for your part of the holiday minus the policy deductibles per person. “However, as we assess all complaints on an individual basis and have taken our customers’ circumstances into consideration, we are now pleased to say that after a thorough investigation, our complaints handlers have reassessed the outcome of the complaint and the client has now been paid in full,” he said. Why he couldn’t come to that conclusion in the four months it took to process your claim is a mystery.
Gardens of Palazzo Borromeo, Italy
✉ We try to find a fairly short trip to visit the lakes and gardens of northern Italy. Most seem to involve coach parties, trips to Verona and/or long itineraries that would take us away from home for longer than is ideal for us. We would like to be part of a small group and stay in nice hotels. A good guide to the garden would be a plus and we would like to go next April or May.
Martin Randall’s Six Nights Gardens and Villas on the Italian Lakes will have you wandering through magnificent gardens around Lakes Como and Maggiore, including those of the Renaissance Villa Cicogna Mozzoni in Bisuschio, with its swimming pools, flowerbeds, splendid water staircase and its caves, and Isola Bella, with its extravagant wedding cake from the terraces. You’d be in a group of no more than 22 and stay at two historic lakeside hotels; the tour is led by lecturer Steven Desmond, a member of the Chartered Institute of Horticulture who specializes in the conservation of historic gardens. There are coach trips, but the journeys are short – averaging around 20 miles per day. Departing April 27, it will cost around £3,400 pp including flights (online bookings will open in around a month at martinrandall.com).
● Where and when to see Japan’s cherry blossoms
● The best hotels in the Peak District
✉ I plan to drive in Spain for three weeks in October. I was told that the Spanish authorities require, among other things, an official sticker on the rear window of a vehicle indicating its emission levels. Can you please tell me where I can get one? I have contacted the DVLA, AA, RAC and Spanish Embassy but none of them seem to be able to help me.
Madrid and Barcelona now have low emission zones and you must register your vehicle to drive through them; the sticker is proof of registration and without it you risk being stopped by the transport police, who will check your details. However, getting one is far from a quick and easy process. You must first register online, which can take up to 15 business days to be approved (zberegistre.ambmobilitat.cat); if you can’t wait that long, call the ZBE helpline, who should be able to get it through straight away (0034 930 333 555, option 3 for an English-speaking operator). You must then request the sticker via the Spanish Government’s Road Safety Service website, and delivery can take up to 12 days (pegatinas-dgt.com). The alternative is to buy one at a post office when you arrive in Spain, but it may be easier not to drive through either town.
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