Prime Minister Boris Johnson recently revealed the UK's plan to gradually return to international travel. A slow reopening of foreign tourism is expected with a traffic light system of approved countries soon to be confirmed. This is helpful news for anyone thinking about their summer holiday – it makes deciding whether you want to staycation or vacation for 2021 a little easier.
MORE: What countries can you travel to from the UK this year?
Will I need a vaccine passport to travel this summer?
With current travel restrictions expected to change on 17 May, the government is considering 'vaccine passports' which, in theory, would allow the public more freedom to travel. However, despite the current UK rules banning trips abroad for leisure, several countries have already opened their borders to UK travellers.
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At the moment, it's too early to say whether vaccinations will become a mandatory part of travelling in the future – but it's always good to be aware that these restrictions could change. Making sure you have a good travel insurance that cover you for COVID related disruptions is likely to be worth it.
James Andrews, senior personal finance editor at Money.co.uk, said: “If you’re looking to purchase travel insurance to give your trip another layer of security, it’s important to remember that your policy will be linked to the restrictions at the time you buy it, not at the time of your trip."
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In theory, this means that if you bought travel insurance before vaccine passports became mandatory (if they ever do), you would be covered in the event of a cancelled trip if you were unable to go because you hadn’t been vaccinated, but if you purchase insurance after the vaccine passports were announced, there would be little chance of getting your money back.
James added: "If you do end up purchasing a policy in the next few months, be sure to check the provider’s COVID policy before you pay. Several providers have stopped offering policies that cover you for COVID related disruptions altogether, so even if the deal looks good on the surface, you might find yourself out of pocket if the current restrictions change and you’re unable to travel."
A new travel traffic light system is being put into place
In short, we shouldn't all get booking immediately – there are still many restrictions in place and, for international travel, expensive testing and quarantine regimes to follow. If you’re still desperate to book your summer holiday abroad, here’s everything you need to know.
What has Boris Johnson said about international travel?
The Prime Minister said final details about when international travel can commence will be finalised at a later date, stressing that the Government will be "setting out what we think is reasonable". Currently, international travel is illegal and a £5,000 fine remains in place for all those who break the travel ban – so don't expect to jet off just yet.
Boris Johnson will introduce a traffic light system for international travel beginning as early as 17 May. Passengers coming from so-called "green" countries will not need to quarantine on their arrival back in the U.K., but they will need to test prior to and on the return from travel.
People from "red" or "amber" countries will still need to quarantine in a government-approved hotel. Boris Johnson said it’s currently too early to colour code countries on the traffic light system, but those details will come soon. "Red" countries are likely to be the same ones that are currently on the red travel ban list. And only British residents will be allowed in from those countries and they will still have to hotel quarantine.
What are the key dates for travel?
12 April: Holidays in the UK can be taken, but only in self-catering accommodation with your own household. A review of international holidays will be conducted by the Transport Secretary with a view to lifting travel bans in May.
17 May: Hotels, B&Bs, campsites, indoor hospitality and attractions reopen. Holidays in the UK now in full swing; you can socialise with up to six people indoors. International travel may resume pending the government’s review in April.
21 June: All restrictions on socialising to be dropped, meaning you can take holidays with whomever you like – even in larger groups.
Read the government’s announcement for more details. (These dates are for England only. Wales hopes to open for tourism before Easter and Scotland will be making more announcements in April.)
Can I book a summer holiday in 2021?
The short answer is: yes, but with plenty of caution. While there is still an international travel ban, and there will be for the foreseeable until the government’s review, it’s not illegal to book your future summer holiday. However, you need to be cautious about where you book and how you do it. Really, the question should be: is it safe to book a summer holiday in 2021? The answer to that is a little more complicated.
Current travel restrictions are unlikely to lift until 17 May, and even then, we don’t know which destinations might have travel corridors (or even if travel corridors will make a comeback after they were scrapped in January). Right now, all international travel for holiday purposes is illegal from the UK, whilst some countries have closed their borders entirely.
READ: 7 incredible UK vineyards every wine lover should staycation at this spring
MORE: Finally planning a holiday? Here are 85 things you need to pack: the ultimate guide
There’s also the issue of your desired destination’s border rules and entry requirements. Lots of countries have restricted travel from the UK, including, right now, France and Spain. These could change, but booking a holiday before they do might be a little risky – you could end up losing out on money if you can’t travel.
International travel may require vaccination passports
Finally, you might also find that vaccination passports become necessary to enter some destinations. The International Air Transport Association announced in February that it would be releasing a vaccine passport app soon, which will allow travellers who have been vaccinated to show proof of their jab.
How can I book my 2021 summer holiday safely?
The safest way to book your summer holiday abroad this year is as a package through a travel agent. This way, you’ll get ATOL protection (which means you get your money back should the holiday not go ahead for reasons beyond your control), and you’ll have a genuine travel expert at your disposal to advise you should anything go wrong, such as cancellations or more travel bans from the UK government.
Alternatively, look for companies offering money-back guarantees or flexible rebooking options. IHG hotels, for example, have a no-commitment booking policy with no deposit and free cancellation up to three days before travel. Sandals Resorts, one of the UK’s leading operators, also has a flexible policy. Karl Thompson, the Managing Director of their Caribbean arm, told us:
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“Customers who book through Sandals and Beaches Resorts’ UK tour operator, UCHL, are protected by the Package Travel Regulations, ATOL and ABTA. We have been offering customers who have been affected by the pandemic and are unable to travel free amends or cancellations since the start and we will continue to offer flexible options for our customers.”
Booking your holiday through a travel agent will provide you with ATOL protection
Meanwhile, On The Beach is helpfully doing a new pre-trip cancellation cover deal. This is automatically included with every package holiday, meaning that if anyone in your group contracts COVID-19 before travelling, your cancellation costs are covered!
Elsewhere, Wowcher has a great value deal for a mystery holiday with a hotel stay and return flights from five airports from £129pp in August - and £99pp if you book from September onwards. Holidays include Antigua, Thailand, Dubai, Sicily and Barcelona. If you are drawn a destination that is subsequently added to the UK quarantine list, you will be offered a suitable alternative - but make sure you check the T&Cs.
If you’re not planning on going abroad, though, booking direct with your hotel or accommodation provider and opting for a rate that offers the most flexibility is the best option.
Will summer holidays in 2021 be safe?
Staying safe on your summer holiday is paramount – no one wants to get sick during what’s supposed to be a relaxing trip. Whether or not your holiday is safe, though, really depends on where you go and how you travel.
If you’re concerned about mixing with too many people, consider a self-catering break rather than going to a hotel. If a hotel is what you’re after, though, book a property that has a clear and well thought out Covid policy and social distancing measures in place.
READ: 14 best summer holidays to go on with babies and toddlers
There’s a certain amount of personal responsibility involved with staying safe on holiday this year, too. Keep your mask with you at all times so you can pop it on when necessary, and sanitise your hands regularly.
The UK offers plenty of staycations for those looking for holiday closer to home
Where should I go for my summer holiday in 2021?
If you want a taste of island life and Caribbean-worthy beaches without going abroad, we recommend the Isles of Scilly – the destination of choice for Prince William and his family last summer. If you’re concerned about safety, consider booking a self-catering stay in the likes of Northumberland National Park, where you can enjoy long walks, country pubs and plenty of space.
The Pembrokeshire coast is littered with soft-sand beaches and has a great coastal path for inland national park for exploring on foot, while the Roseland Heritage AONB in Cornwall is generally quieter than the county’s north coast (we love the Fowey Hall Hotel & Spa or Talland Bay).
It’s a little harder for us to advise on which international destinations are safe to book right now, but the Caribbean could well be a good bet – numbers in this region have been pretty low for the most part and it’s easy to dine and socialise outdoors.
More updates on the top summer holiday destinations will come as and when the travel review has been conducted in April.
Will I have to quarantine after my summer holiday?
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released brand new guidelines earlier this spring, revealing that fully vaccinated American citizens will no longer need to quarantine after travelling. We are still waiting for the equivalent announcement in the UK, however.
According to the UK Government website, the rules haven't changed since 15 February. It states: Everyone allowed to enter England from outside the Common Travel Area (Ireland, the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man) must:
- quarantine for 10 days
- take a coronavirus (COVID-19) test on day two and day eight of quarantining
- follow the national lockdown rules
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