Flying Through 

How easy is it to fly in and out of the UK for a holiday? We ask four travellers who've just come back from breaks in Spain, Greece and Iceland

Five of our colleagues and partners just got back from trips overseas so we asked them what it was like.

Four went to amber destinations (Spain and Greece), one to green (Iceland). All four reported back on how easy it was to get tests to get in and out, what's different and what's the same about travelling at the moment.

Our top three takeaways -

  • The beaches, restaurants and especially airports are much quieter than usual. The dreaded post-Brexit "other countries" queues haven't materialised (yet) because there's just fewer people travelling
  • If you plan ahead, the testing system is easy to navigate. Book your tests in advance, use a reputable and reliable provider (we have many here) and you'll be fine
  • Lockdown is either easing or pretty much finished all over Europe. Outdoor mask rules are ending in Spain, once you have your tests everyone in Iceland is just walking around as normal, Greece is as relaxed as ever.

So if you want a taste of of normality this summer - you could do worse than to hop on a plane!

NAME:

Allie

TRAVELLED TO:

Iceland

WHEN:

June

How easy was it to fly out to Iceland?

Iceland is on the Green list and as it currently stands if you are double vaccinated then you don't need a negative test to get in. You'll be tested on arrival (for free) and then you need to self-isolate in your accommodation until you receive a negative result - in theory up to 24 hours, in practise after 4 hours we were free to go.

If you are NOT doubled vaxxed it's a 5 day quarantine - so probably not practical for your summer holiday.

What's it like when you're there? What's different and what's the same?

Once we'd received our negative test we only ever wore a mask in public areas of the hotel (at the hotel's request) - other than that they aren't needed for shops or restaurants etc. There's hand sanitizer stations about - but really everything feels pretty normal and it's a nice break!

How easy was it to fly back to the UK?

For our return we booked a test that was done in Reykjavik, it cost 50EUR. There was a queue when we arrived but it went very quickly and the whole process was simple. There was a bit of a queue at the border - took maybe 45 minutes or so to get through. We'd pre-booked an airport test to do when we got back to the UK for the day 2 test - we used Collinsons and it wasn't very well signposted (it's downstairs at Heathrow T2) and the biggest inconvenience of the whole trip was the test came back inconclusive and had to be re-done (free of charge).

Any tips for people flying soon?

For some reason it felt like Heathrow had the heating on and it was super hot wearing a mask the whole time - so we used a hand held fan to try and get some air!

How to travel to Iceland this summer

We've just got back from the land of fire and ice and we have to say, it was much easier to travel there at the moment than we expected - find out all about our experience.

NAME:

Elizabeth

TRAVELLED TO:

Spain

WHEN:

June

How easy was it to fly out to Barcelona?

It couldn't have been easier. I have never made my way from the car park to the departure gate with such ease. No delays, no queues, no hassle. There were enough concessions open at the airport to be able to do my usual shopping - WH Smith for a magazine and bottle of water, Boots for emergency sun cream, Pret for a Sandwich, Coast to Coast for a glass of wine and plug to charge my phone… and I had Duty Free all to myself if I'd had the urge.

Spain is on the amber list, but welcoming Brits without needing a PCR test, so all I had to do was fill in a Passenger Locator Form (PLF) before I left. One of my fellow travellers hadn't done this in advance, but was able to do it at the gate. It was that easy.

What's it like when you're there? What's different and what's the same?

It was gorgeous, the sunshine, the food, the beaches… they haven't changed although the beaches are less crowded and it's really easy to get a restaurant reservation.

On arrival, in addition to passport control they had a PLF checkpoint, but that was nothing to worry about, they took a quick scan of my QR code and waved me through. Taxi drivers (and I assume other tour guides) can't meet you at the arrivals hall, they have to wait just outside, which didn't present any particular challenge, but was a change from my previous visits.

The biggest thing I noticed was that everyone wears a mask in public, unless they are exercising, which did take some getting used to compared to the UK, but it didn't really impact my holiday.

(Editor's note - Spain ends its outdoor mask mandate this weekend as part of the general easing of lockdown restrictions, so even the masks outdoors in public are likely to be gone soon.)

How easy was it to fly back to the UK?

It was really easy. I needed to provide proof of a negative covid test, which I had taken that morning (I used Qured and took a lateral flow test via video link) and I needed to complete a UK PLF which, being organised, I'd done in advance, but again lots of people just did it whilst standing in the queue to board so it really wasn't hard to do.

Girona is a much smaller airport but I still whizzed through with no queues, duty free and a cafe were both open for some final purchases.

Arriving in the UK was easy, I queued for about two minutes before completing passport control, and then I was straight through and on my way home.

Any tips for people flying soon?

If you are flying to an amber list country it's worth getting your covid tests booked in early as you may be reliant on Royal Mail delivering on time before you fly.

The airport shops and restaurants may be operating on more restricted opening times, so if you are planning to pick up something to eat it might be worth checking in advance.

Enjoy it - it's likely you have never had an easier journey before!

NAME:

Leanne

TRAVELLED TO:

Spain

WHEN:

June

How easy was it to fly out to Spain?

I flew from LGW airport and had booked the Purple parking Meet and Greet which is now situated in the Sofitel car park, the team here were amazing and COVID friendly. The team had screens up protecting both themselves and me, I handed my keys over, and away I went.

I headed straight to security and from dropping my car off to being in the departure lounge I was through in less than 15 mins.

Unfortunately no lounges were open during my time at the airport but I do know they are opening at certain times, I think on the Saturday it was 0730 - 10 am (lounge dependant).

Boarding was straightforward, as I didn't need a test to leave the country and enter Spain. There were no further checks in the UK, I boarded my Easyjet flight and 3hrs later I was in sunny Spain.

Entry into Spain again was seamless. I had already completed my Spanish passenger locator form so once again from landing to being out of the airport took less than 20 mins, I didn't have luggage so that helped speed up the process.

What's it like when you're there? What's different and what's the same?

Being in Spain was a dream, the Spanish are pretty much back to normal now, there are a few restrictions in place for bars in the area, bars need to close by 12am and nightclubs by 2am (but my clubbing days are past me so I didn't see any of that). It is advised that you wear a mask while walking around but nobody is enforcing it, if you pass a police officer on the street they will ask you to wear one but they are not forcing the matter.

How easy was it to fly back to the UK?

My return journey, I took a PCR test 72hrs before my flight home, I paid £86 for this and it was done at a local clinic, I had the results back in 2 hrs.

My flight back to the UK, easy, I completed my passenger locator form, had results of my negative test and I was on my way. On landing in the UK once again, from landing to being back at the Meet & Greet pick up point to collect my car was 20 mins, border control was a breeze, I was asked if I knew tomorrow was my day 1 of quarantine and that was it, I was on my way home to quarantine for 10 days.

I purchased my day 2 and day 8 PCR tests from Randox. I purchased them before I returned to the UK so they were waiting for me at home ready to take on day 2, I paid £96 for the package.

I have since been called by the UK track and trace team daily reminding me to isolate and what the result of my PCR test was on day 2. I am now on day 8 and just returned from dropping my day 8 test off at the drop off point which is a 15 minute drive from my home.

NAME:

Sophie

TRAVELLED TO:

Greece

WHEN:

June

How easy was it to fly out to Greece?

We were a little daunted at what we thought would be lots of paperwork and bureaucracy. However, both my husband and I are double vaccinated now so it couldn't have been easier. The Greek passenger locator form is very slick and easy to download, as is the NHS app which automatically shows your double vaccination QR code. On arrival at Heathrow the BA check in guys couldn't have been nicer. They were so happy to see people travelling again. They advised us to keep photos of our documents on our phones just in case there were any internet issues on landing in Greece. That was very sensible and we did it with everything to put our minds at rest. Although the precaution wasn't needed.

What's it like when you're there? What's different and what's the same?

Arriving in Greece was just so exciting! On approach, as we stared out of the aircraft windows we could see those famous crystal blue waters and the rocky outcrops of the islands. After landing, as the plane doors opened the warm air flooded in. We stepped on to the tarmac, put on our 'sunnies' and all smiled smugly at each other. We'd made it! And it was so easy. The Greek security guys were very 'au fait' with all the procedures and we zipped through the small airport quickly. Everywhere felt so safe and well managed. Masks were in use by all the staff in hotels and restaurants but there was definitely more of a feeling of normality. It certainly wasn't the only 'topic in town' as far as conversations and the news went. We were stunned at how many French, Americans and Germans already seemed to be travelling and enjoying the beauty of Greece without the usual crowds.

How easy was it to fly back to the UK?

Travelling back was easy enough. Our hotel in Athens organised our PCR test at the hotel itself. The results came back the same day. We filled out our UK PLF's ahead of travelling and the plane was only a third full so we had plenty of room and the service was great. We flew back into Gatwick quite late in the evening and the airport was completely empty.

Any tips for people flying soon?

Take photos of all your documents on your phone, for backup. When filling your UK passenger locator form, (PLF) try to edit as you go along because if you make a mistake after you have finished and saved it, you will have to start again. You will find the two PLF's end up being registered as you cannot delete them, which means you will end up getting more calls from the track and trace guys.

NAME:

Richard

TRAVELLED TO:

Spain

WHEN:

June

How easy was it to fly out to Spain?

Spain is open, yes amber list, but UK folks you're allowed in. You don't *currently* need to have a test to get into Spain any more. For entry you need to complete the SPTH Contact Locator form: https://www.spth.gob.es/create

What's it like when you're there? What's different and what's the same?

Whilst here it's pretty relaxed - places currently open til 1am, likely moving to 2am in the next week or so. You wear a mask in the street, when walking from a terrace/ indoor table to the loo/ payment station, but the nonsense about masks on beaches is just that - nonsense. There are still some indoor capacity limits based on licensing situations, but in the main it feels like 'life as we knew it' (except discos). Yeah we have to book a time slot for the gym, but it's not difficult - it's just what people do.

How easy was it to fly back to the UK?

You need a test to get back into the UK. The only languages the UK accepts for this are English, French and Spanish (if travelling from Spain - can't speak for other places). This is relevant because we had mates denied check-in as theirs was in Catalan. Currently the test for return to the UK is basic - so antigen works - PCR not needed, so it's cheap relative to a PCR. We have used a local clinic where you do the test, sit in reception for a few minutes before getting your certificate and it costs around EUR40.

You can do an official Test to Release on day five. This means you're free when you get your result. Collinson at most major airports is a good option. Again, the BA page has discount codes. Best booking these for a time of day when it's not peak flight arrival time into the airport of choice. It's a good service - definitely recommend.

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