Get ready for summer
Everyone's bags are packed ready to jump on a plane as soon as they can get away, so don't miss the boat (plane!) this summer - it's going to be busy, get yourself in pole position ready to grab those sun beds!
1. Pick a destination
First things first - where are you going? Why not work on that travel bucketlist we all carry around in our heads? Do your research, pick your top ten dream destinations, and work out which one's likely to be open this summer. The government recently announced a traffic light system for travel - green means take-off! Whilst we don't have a crystal ball for where will be included we do know lots of places are either already open to visitors with a vaccine or a negative test, or have announced plans to open up to UK visitors in good time for our restrictions being lifted.
2. Take advantage of a great deal
Now you've chosen a destination take advantage of your forward planning by booking ahead and getting a great price! Travel companies know that everyone's concerned about things changing again, so lots of products and packages come with complete flexibility in case you change your mind. Have a look and see if there's a bargin that catches your eye. You can be sure once travel opens up again seats will book up quickly, meaning prices will only go up!
3. Use your travel vouchers
When travel came to an unexpected halt last March, some people took vouchers for their cancelled trips. Once you've got a plan for your next trip, have a rummage through your emails from March and April last year and see if you've got a voucher you can use.
You have? Boom! Free holiday!*
*Terms and conditions probably apply. Especially that it's not technically a free holiday if you paid for it last year. But if it feels like a free holiday, isn't that the main thing?
4. Book the time off at work
Assuming you've got a boss, and people you work with, once all this is over and travel picks back they're all going to want to jump on a plane too. And if you're the last person to request the time off, guess who's going to be left behind to run the office / shop / restaurant / pig farm? Muggins. So beat the rush and - ever so quietly, you don't want to tip anybody off - email your boss with the dates for your trip and makes sure your time off's in the calendar.
5. Organise a Covid test
To fly almost anywehere at the moment, including back to the UK, you need a negative Covid test.
We have a comprehensive guide to the tests required for most major destinations and available at most major aiports (see the purple box below).
Like everything else, once travel resumes there's likely to be a lot of demand for tests, so if you know when you're flying you can think ahead and book now.
(Bear in mind you can't actually take a test early - almost every country requires a test no more than 72 hours old. But you can book early, and, once again, beat the rush.
6. Check your passport
The rules for passports for trips to Europe have changed since Brexit, so you should make sure your passport doesn't need to be renewed.
Since 1st January, the rule for trips to Europe is that your passport must have at least six months left on it*.
Same as booking your time off - if you leave renewing your passport until the week everyone heads to the beach, you might find there's a bit of a queue. So check now, and if your passport does need to be renewed this year you can beat the rush and do it while everything's quiet.
Check the UK government's passport website for details.*(There's a slightly more complicated version too. If you renewed a UK passport with time still left on it, the UK passport office may have rolled that time over into your new passport - so if you had six months left on your passport when you renewed it, your new one would have had 10 years and six months. But the EU doesn't recognise those extra six months, so your passport must have six months left, not counting any additional months you rolled over last time you renewed.)
7. Check how you're affected by other Brexit changes
Even after Brexit, most trips to Europe are going to be easy and hassle-free. Spain, Italy, Greece and all our other favourite tourist spots want tourists, so they're not going to put barriers up just for the fun of it.
That said, some things have changed since January 1st, so it's worth being aware of the main changes and checking whether you need to do anything differently this time.
- If you normally take a pet with you, pet passports have changed and you should check out the details
- If you drive to (or in) Europe, it's pretty much the same as before except you may need new paperwork in some of the Schengen countries that aren't in the EU - again, check out the details
- There are new rules on what you can take across the border (including some fairly strict rules on meat and dairy products that mean some people have seen their cheese and ham sandwiches confiscated on arrival - not even joking). It's worth checking what's allowed and what isn't before you set off.
8. Work out how you're getting to the airport
There's no point starting your first proper break since 2019 stuck in a three-mile tailback at 4am.
If you've got an early flight, have a look at hotels near the airport. You can drive up the night before when the roads are empty, then start your trip by waking up refreshed and enjoying a spot of breakfast next to the terminal.
If you're driving, it pays to book your airport parking in advance. Prices get higher as the date approaches, and the price you pay on the gate is often 70% more expensive than if you pre-book.
9. Check when your EHIC card runs out
The EHIC is the European Health Insurance Card, a reciprocal deal between EU member states so that everyone can use everyone else's health service while visiting.
Now we've left the EU, the EHIC has rolled over into the GHIC (Global Health Insurance Card), a functionally-identical bilateral deal between the UK and the EU.
If you still have an EHIC card, in date, it'll still work in Europe. If it runs out, you can get the new GHIC - but like everything else, once lockdown ends everyone will do it and you'll have to queue. So check now, and if you need to renew your card this year do it in advance and beat the rush.
Check with the UK government's GHIC page for details (and watch out for scam adverts - the GHIC doesn't cost anything, so any website charging you for one shoud be avoided).
10. Sort out your travel insurance
EHIC or no EHIC, there's no substitute for a good travel insurance policy. As soon as you book a trip, we recommend getting your insurance in order so you're covered in case you need to cancel.
If you haven't flown since 2019, your travel insurance has probably run out.
Most standard travel insurance policies also aren't valid if you're flying against FCDO (UK government) advice, so even if you've got an annual policy you should check it covers you right now.
However it's possible to get specialist travel insurance that covers trips even to countries where the FCDO advises against holidays. You might be pleasantly surprised at how affordable a policy is - for non-FCDO trips we've partnered with battleface, a specialist provider.
11. Make a travel checklist
There's 12 things on this list. You also need to get your travel money, make sure you have the right adapter, set an alarm, pack at least three different colours of mankini and buy one of those little timers that fool unobservant burglars into thinking you come home on the dot of 7.42pm every night.
Luckily, we have a more detailed holiday checklist. If you'd like to keep it all in one place, we're happy to help.
12. Tell your family and friends
It's no good you getting your passport, zlotys, travel insurance and suitcase prepared three months in advance if you're all going to get held up at customs by one grandkid who didn't get the memo about not bringing cheese and ham sandwiches.
So if you've found our guide useful, pass it on to everyone you're travelling with, or just tell your friends with the sharing buttons below.
Looking for more inspiration, information or a handy travel guide? You'll find more on our travel hub.