‘Too hot to sleep in my Premier Inn room — can I get a refund?’ | Travel

✉ We recently stayed in a room at the Chelmsford Springfield branch of Premier Inn, and it was unreasonably hot for the duration of our stay — 27C on both nights — and I couldn’t sleep. The receptionist confirmed that there was nothing that could be done 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 I received a reply saying that because my lack of sleep had been caused by “circumstances arising from the lack of a facility at a hotel” — in this case, air conditioning — no refund was due. Could you get a better result for me?
Tim Herbert

Premier Inn’s sales pitch is that it’s so confident guests will have a great night’s sleep that they’ll get their money back if this isn’t the case. 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 do make it as clear as possible on our hotel information booking pages and at the point of booking whether a hotel has air con or not, and we would just encourage guests to check to make sure they are booking the best hotel for them, it said. “For example, two of our three Chelmsford hotels do have air con.”

✉ Our daughter is having a ski season in Japan this winter. We’d like to visit her together with our other daughter and son-in-law in late March, and have a few days skiing in Niseko before spending about two weeks traveling and hopefully catching the start of the cherry-blossom season. Where are the best places to visit? We envisage spending about £6,000 per couple including flights and accommodation, but less if possible.
Isabel Patchett

Prepare to spend every last penny of your budget on this trip. Flights are expensive — about £1,200 in late March if you want to fly nonstop — and it will be peak season (foreign tourists haven’t seen the cherry blossoms since 2019, so demand is high). After seeing your daughter and hitting the slopes, you could fly to Osaka and go temple-hopping in Kyoto, followed by a few hectic days in Tokyo (both should provide plenty of cherry-blossom action). Then, for a contrast, explore the samurai towns and gardens of Kanazawa, and stay in traditional guesthouses in Shirakawago and Takayama, in the northern Japanese Alps. A self-guided, tailor-made 13-night holiday would start at about £3,000pp, including flights, some meals and all transport across the country, with the specialist operator Inside Japan, which would also provide you with fantastically detailed trip notes ( insidejapantours.com).

Byodo-in temple near Kyoto

KNOWLEDGE

To celebrate my wife’s birthday we booked several cottages for family and friends in the Peak District for a week in April, paying £3,320. A few days before the trip my wife tested positive for Covid and I was told by the cottage company that we couldn’t change the date of our trip or get a full refund because we were canceling too late, so we put in a claim with Staysure, our travel-insurance company, for £2,655, which is the amount we lost. We did not receive the final outcome of our claim until August 23, when we were awarded £278.46. Staysure didn’t say how such a low amount was arrived at, and I demanded a full explanation, only to receive the standard reply that we’d have to wait up to six weeks for a response. Can you help?
Ian Dickson

When I got involved, Staysure insisted that your case was under review with its claims handlers. It said that, in line with a clause in its terms and conditions, you were paid for your portion of the holiday minus the policy excesses per person. “However, as we assess all claims on an individual basis and have taken our customers’ circumstances into consideration, we are now pleased to say that after a thorough investigation our claims handlers have reassessed the outcome of the claim and the customer has now been paid in full,” it said. Why it couldn’t have come to that conclusion in the four months it took to process your claim is a mystery.

Palazzo Borromeo gardens, Italy

Palazzo Borromeo gardens, Italy

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✉ We’re trying to find a fairly short trip to visit the lakes and gardens in northern Italy. Most seem to involve coach parties, trips to Verona and/or lengthy itineraries that would take us away from home for longer than is ideal for us. We’d like to be part of a small group and stay in lovely hotels. A good garden guide would be a bonus and we’d like to go next April or May.
Anne Salisbury

Martin Randall’s six-night Gardens & Villas of the Italian Lakes would have you wandering through glorious gardens around lakes Como and Maggiore, including those at the renaissance Villa Cicogna Mozzoni at Bisuschio, with its pools, parterres, splendid water staircase and grottoes, and Isola Bella, with its extravagant wedding cake of terraces. You’d be in a group of up to 22 and stay in two historic lakeside hotels; the tour is led by the lecturer Steven Desmond, a fellow of the Chartered Institute of Horticulture who specializes in the conservation of historical gardens. There is coach travel, but journeys are short — on average about 20 miles each day. Departing on April 27, it will cost about £3,400pp, including flights (online bookings will open in a month or so at martinrandall.com).

● Where and when to see Japan’s cherry blossom
● The best hotels in the Peak District

✉ I’m planning to drive to Spain for three weeks in October. I’ve been 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 of these? I’ve contacted the DVLA, the AA, the RAC and the Spanish embassy, ​​but none of them seem able to help.
Kenneth Walker

Madrid and Barcelona now have low-emission zones, and you have to register your vehicle to drive through them; the sticker is proof of registration and without one you may well be pulled over by the transport police, who will check your details. Obtaining one is far from a quick and simple process, though. You first need to register online, which can take up to 15 working days to be approved (zberegistre.ambmobilitat.cat); if you can’t wait that long, call the ZBE helpline, which should be able to push it through immediately (0034 930 333 555, option 3 for an English-speaking operator). You then have to apply for the sticker via the website of the Spanish government’s road-safety department, and delivery can take up to 12 days (pegatinas-dgt.com). The alternative is to buy one at a post office when you reach Spain, but it might be easiest not to drive through either city.

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