Hassle-free travel: A step-by-step guide
If this summer is your first holiday after two years of lockdowns, we've made this step-by-step guide to help you prepare for take-off
Step 1: Plan your trip
The holiday really starts with the planning! The most important decision you can make is where to go. The UK has, of course, scrapped all of our own travel restrictions so you can come and go without any extra tests or paperwork. But, while almost everywhere is open to visitors again, some of the countries you'll want to visit could still have restrictions in place. So before you book get the latest travel advice and check what the rules are for your destination and have a think about whether you want to start your summer getaway with extra tests and paperwork.
Guides to every major holiday destination
We've visited all of the top holiday destinations, from Tenerife to Thailand. Watch our original video guides for everything you need to know to enjoy a hassle-free trip.
Step 2: Check your documents
If you're going away this summer, there's two things you should do right now - check your passport and, if you're travelling to Europe, check your EHIC.
The turnaround time for passport renewals right now is up to ten weeks, so if you're flying this summer and you let your passport run out during the travel lockdowns, now's the time to apply.
To travel anywhere you'll need to make sure you have a valid UK (or equivalent if you're a non-UK national) passport. You'll need to make sure you have at least six months left on your passport to visit most countries, and there's an extra complication visiting Europe. Some UK passports have more than ten years on them (because the passport office rolled unused months over at the last renewal), and Europe doesn't recognise those extra months. So check you've got six months left, not counting any months over ten years, and if that's not the case get a new one.
If you need to renew your passport there are a few options:
- Renew your passport online for £75.50
- Renew by post for £85
- At a passport office for 1 week FastTrack (£142) or same-day premium service (£177)
Check the government passport page for more info.
2.2 EHIC and GHIC cards
The old EHIC card still gives you access to healthcare throughout Europe, in a reciprocal deal between the UK and EU granting visitors here the same option. You can't get a new EHIC card but the old ones still work, and if yours has run out you can apply for the new GHIC card which for all practical purposes is exactly the same.
2.3 Other paperwork
Once your passport is sorted you need to ensure you have any visas required for your destination country - we know we've gotten so used to talking about covid entry requirements but it's important to also remember standard entry requirements. These vary from country to country, for example to visit the USA you need to make sure you have a valid ESTA. The best place to find this information is the UK government website.
You should also bear in mind the new EU (and Schengen) entry rules - you can't spend more than 90 days in the Schengen Area in any 180-day period. For most holidays this isn't a problem but if you spent a lot of time overseas you should check you're not going over.
Step 3: Insure your trip
We know it's no fun thinking about worst case scenarios when you'd rather think about the beach - but we are here to say as soon as you've booked your flights then it's important to get your travel insurance. It may be tempting to leave this until the day before you fly as you may not think you need it until you actually go away, but the sooner your trip is insured the more likely it is you'll be covered for any eventuality. If this year has taught us anything, it's be prepared.
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Step 4: Check test requirements
Vaccinated or not, you no longer need any tests to enter or leave the UK. But there are still some countries that require a test to visit, so check whether you need a Covid test to travel (or alternatively pick one of the many countries that don't!).
Mask rules everywhere
Mask rules for airlines, airports and countries you might visit this summer, all in one handy guide
Step 5: Check destination rules
Most countries you'll visit have dropped most or all of their Covid requirements by now, but there are still a few things to consider. Some countries - for example, at time of writing, Italy and France - still insist on a mask for public transport, and it has to be a medical-grade FFP2 mask, so make sure you have the right one if you're flying somewhere with mask rules.
Step 6: Book your extras
Holidays won't be cheap this summer - lots of people are going away for the first time in two or three years, and there's less supply than there was pre-pandemic.
One thing to watch out for especially is overseas car hire, which is looking particularly expensive in some destinations and is something you should definitely think about booking as soon as you can.
But almost all your holiday extras usually go up as you get closer to your deaprture date. Before the pandemic we found that people who paid for their airport parking on the day instead of booking in advance paid an extra £100 each, so it's worth not leaving any of it to the last minute.