School’s out, summer is here and dream breaks can turn into holidays from hell if you muck up a booking.

Grabbing online deals can be so tempting when cash is tight. But if you don’t go through a trusted tour operator that is a member of ABTA or ATOL, you can end up in a world of trouble.

Readers Charlie and Jessica from Cardiff wrote to me this week about their break to Mexico.

Jessica searched online last November for a bargain and came across a company in Mexico ­advertising cheap holidays there.

She searched through the site and found the holiday she wanted. It included flights between Gatwick and Puerto Vallarta in Mexico plus two weeks in a hotel.

The hotel was advertised as four-star with a swimming pool, sea view, two restaurants and a spa.

After paying for the holiday in full, Jessica started to worry that she had not received any specific details of the flight.

She kept chasing and finally received an itinerary and online check in instructions on May 10, one week prior to departure.

To her horror, the journey ­consisted of three flights, with three different airlines.

She contacted the holiday firm and it promised to look into it but nothing happened. So Charlie and Jessica endured what they called a “horrendous journey” to Mexico.

And things got even worse when they landed.

The hotel was not on the sea front as they had anticipated. Instead it was up in the hills, ­although there was a view of the sea in the distance.

The swimming pool was very small and dirty and the restaurants were non-existent.

Instead, there was a barbecue and at the front of the hotel a ­mobile takeaway van. The hotel was also nowhere near the quality of a four-star hotel.

She complained immediately to the company in Mexico. It ­responded the same day saying the four-star rating was their “internal” rating, not an official one and was based on their opinion.

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It claimed no representations were made in relation to the size of the swimming pool.

And it insisted there were two places to eat – the barbecue and takeaway van – and that, in Mexico, “restaurant” simply meant “place to eat”.

So what can Charlie and Jessica do?

If they had booked with an agent registered with ABTA, the Association of British Travel Agents, or ATOL, the Air Travel Organiser’s Licence, they would have been protected and would have received compensation.

But they booked with a ­cowboy outfit located overseas – and the chances of any compo is remote.