How to start preparing for your next holiday now: everything you need to know

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The UK warning against all non-essential travel abroad was issued on 17 March. Six days later, British travellers overseas were told to come home. That evening, lockdown began, scuppering any plans for domestic holidays.

But as countries worldwide begin to ease their restrictions and airlines put in plans to resume flights for the UK, we’re now coming closer to answering the question, when can we travel? As the news updates every day, now is the time to start preparing for your next trip. Initially, you will be far from free and easy, and key aspects of the travel experience will change. But at least you can begin to turn your dream into a reality.

  • How to start preparing for your next holiday now: everything you need to know

    Consider a British break

    For many of us who are desperate to travel further than the end of the road, a break in the UK will be the first post-lockdown trip. It will be much easier to plan because it avoids the international jungle of regulations, restrictions and UK travel quarantine rules that currently obstructs any journey abroad.

    There is still no clarity on when and how the lockdown will be eased in the UK. But evidence from other countries that have published their rules for de-escalation suggests the first stage will allow travel within a certain distance from your home.

    France is imposing a 100km (62 mile) limit unless there is an urgent need to venture further – and vacances do not qualify, however desperate you are. The idea is to limit the spread of coronavirus between regions with a high incidence of Covid-19 and those only lightly affected. Residents of certain locations with a large number of cases – which could include Greater London – may be more restricted, both for departures and arrivals.

    Start planning a UK holiday with our guide to the best places to visit in the UK

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  • How to start preparing for your next holiday now: everything you need to know

    Plan on travelling by road

    Car drivers and cyclists are likely to have the most freedom. Leisure trips by train and bus may be limited or restricted because of the need for essential workers to use public transport without overcrowding.

    Domestic flights are still operating, and for longer journeys they may present the best solution. But England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland may adopt different policies, so don’t set your heart on escaping your home country as soon as lockdown is over.

  • How to start preparing for your next holiday now: everything you need to know

    Choose your accommodation carefully

    Not all hotels have closed down; for example you can still book a room right now at the Town Hall Hotel in East London (pictured) for £162. But prospective guests are warned: ‘We are welcoming bookings from key workers, including NHS staff and anyone with proof of status. We are also accepting bookings from long stay guests whose primary residence is currently unavailable.’

    Most hotels are closed, but some are taking bookings for later in May on the assumption of eased restrictions. Particularly popular dates for prospective ‘reopening’ from the searches I have made are the late-May bank holiday weekend (23-25 May) and 1 June.

    Before committing to any accommodation booking, though, ensure that you can cancel without penalty should continuing lockdown measures prevent you from reaching your intended destination. The easiest way to be sure is to book directly with the property, ideally agreeing that you will pay on arrival. That saves the hassle of organising a refund; many travellers will confirm that trying to claim money back has occupied a disproportionate amount of lockdown time.

    For inspiration, take a look at our UK accommodation guides:

    • The best hotels in the UK
    • The best holiday homes to rent in the UK
    • The best holiday cottages in the UK
  • Be aware that not all businesses will be open

    The opening up of leisure businesses will be one aspect of wider measures to allow locked-down citizens to have fun within the continuing confines of social distancing. So restaurants are likely to be open with perhaps half the usual number of tables, but bars may not qualify. Beaches and national parks, museums and galleries – all are likely to impose restrictions.

  • How to start preparing for your next holiday now: everything you need to know

    A UK island escape may have to wait

    You may be out of luck, if the Irish prescription for easing lockdown is emulated in Britain. The government in Dublin predicts that tourist facilities such as hotels, hostels, caravan parks and holiday parks will open up in the republic on 20 July, presumably for domestic travellers only, but to travel to offshore islands, non-residents must wait an additional three weeks.

    English, Welsh and Scottish islands may be likewise off-limits, and the possibility that Northern Ireland aligns with the republic cannot be ruled out – with restrictions on movement to and from Great Britain.

  • How to start preparing for your next holiday now: everything you need to know

    When will international travel resume?

    Just as the UK government has set five tests that need to be met before it will ease the lockdown, the prospective international traveller must consider these five tests:

    1. Can I reach the airport, sea port or international rail station?

    Present lockdown rules make getting to Manchester airport, Portsmouth or London St Pancras impossible for a non-essential journey.

    2. Has the Foreign Office warning against overseas travel been lifted?

    The present official advice ruling out non-essential travel anywhere abroad is both global and indefinite. No overseas leisure journey can be contemplated while it prevails – not least because to do so would invalidate travel insurance. I have asked the Foreign Office to consider replacing it with destination-specific, time-limited advice, but nothing has yet changed.

    3. Is there a flight, ferry or train to my destination?

    The range of transport opportunities has shrunk to a tiny fraction of what we enjoyed before lockdown began. While some services are continuing, airlines such as Ryanair have vowed to start operations at scale in July. But even then, the frequency of flights and the range of destinations is likely to be much reduced.

  • How to start preparing for your next holiday now: everything you need to know

    4. Will the destination admit me?

    That is likely to be the most critical question. Many countries around the world have some combination of flight bans and restrictions for people from certain countries or those with a recent travel history to nations with a high incidence of Covid-19. The UK is often prominent on any such list. In addition, many nations are insisting on 14 days of mandatory quarantine for inbound travellers to help tackle the coronavirus pandemic – the idea being that everyone arriving is assumed to have coronavirus until quarantine proves otherwise.

    5. Can I tolerate any quarantine rules on return to the UK?

    While Britain has remained open, with no checks on anyone coming into the country, the government has hinted that this will change. If everyone is obliged to self-isolate for two weeks on arrival in the UK, then the appeal of a weekend away or a week on the beach will dwindle.

    For more advice, see these 5 things everyone should consider when we can fly again


    5 things everyone should consider when we can fly again

Finally, what about travel insurance?

While many insurers have ‘paused’ travel cover, there are still providers around. Many are excluding cover for Covid-19-related cancellations, but may still cover coronavirus hospitalisation abroad. For visits within the European Union, the EHIC scheme is still in operation for British travellers to the end of the year and will provide medical cover.

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