Hassle-free holidays are back! 🎉
The traffic light system simplified, less testing - it's looking good for holidays.
What was the latest travel announcement?
September 17. Today's announcement from the UK government was the one we've all been hoping for. The complicated and offputting traffic light system has been scrapped, and from October 4 fully-vaxxed travellers can go anywhere that's open and not on the new red list. Just as importantly, from later in October PCR tests to come back to the UK will longer be required for fully-vaccinated travellers, removing the other largest barrier to overseas travel. So if you've been waiting for travel to get back to normal before you book your holiday - today's the day!
(Which probably means lots of other people are going to be booking in the next few days too. Our advice is beat the rush - and the inevitable price rises - by booking as soon as you can.)
What does that mean for holidays?
We've worked out that the average travel to-do list will shrink by over half - from 29 steps to 6 – saving approximately eight and a quarter hours of pre-holiday hassle! Plus, based on the average cost of Covid tests for travel, those looking for a bit of winter sun can expect to save £144 per person too... often enough to cover the flights for their next break. The real question is - where will you go first?
The best destinations for an autumn getaway:
Due to its climate there's really not a bad time to visit the Canary Islands, but if you're looking to avoid the crowds this is a great time to go.Canada
Autumn is a great time to visit the Great White North as you can catch the fall colours in the Rockies, and explore before the snow sets in.Greek Islands
Sun, sea and amazing food - plus with so many islands to explore you could never get bored!
Want to know where else you can travel?
So, is that it for the traffic light system?
Transport Minister Greant Shapps just announced (on September 17) the biggest changes to the traffic light system since it was originally introduced.
From October 4th fully-vaxxed travellers won't need a pre-departure test coming back from the new safe list, and at some point "later in October" it's just an antigen test when you get home - a huge saving in both cost and hassles every time you fly.
If you're not fully-vaxxed, the system works much as before - take a test before you set off from any safe list country, isolate for ten days when you get back, and take two more tests on days 2 and 8.
And coming back from countries not on the safe list (the old red list) it's still 10 days' quarantine in a government hotel when you land back in the UK - so if you really have to go somewhere on that list, you might find it easier and cheaper to stop off somewhere for 10 days on the way back, taking suitable precautions that you're not bringing Covid back with you.
Will I need a vaccine passport?
Most destinations that are admitting UK visitors now require either proof of vaccination and/or a Covid test.
You can get proof of vaccination, if you've had both jabs at least two weeks before you fly, from the NHS app, via an NHS Covid pass or with a letter from your GP.
Watch our video guide on using the NHS app to obtain your vaccination status.
Will I still need a test to travel?
It will depend on the entry policy of the country you plan to visit. For every major destination we've rounded up the current entry and return requirements at our testing page - pick the country you're planning to visit and we can tell you what test you need and even in most cases recommend a suitable provider.
Now there's no green list countries, do unvaccinated travellers have to isolate coming back from everywhere?
From October 4, yes, more-or-less. There will be only two lists - a red list, which still requires hotel quarantine when you come back, and a merged green and amber "rest of the world" list. Fully-vaccinated travellers will then be able to come back from anywhere not on the red list with no pre-departure test, and later in October no PCR test either. For unvaccinated travellers the rest of the world list will work like the old amber list though, so that's PCR tests on return and 10 days' isolation.
The only exception is the countries in the Common Travel Area - Ireland, the Channel Islands, the Isle of Man. Unfortunately, they require unvaccinated travellers to isolate on arrival, so while it's easier to come back, they're not really viable for a holiday either.
What are the rules for children now?
In short, unvaccinated children from the UK are treated the same as vaccinated adults. From October 4, if you're under 18 you won't need to complete a pre-departure test or isolate when you get home, and from later in October you'll be able to do a lateral flow rather than a PCR test when you get back.
What if I'm flying before October 4?
You have to follow the rules in places when you travel. The UK's rules apply when you come back, so if you fly to Spain (for example) you still have to follow Spain's rules to get in. Then when you come back, if you land after October 4 you'll need to follow the new rules (no pre-departure test but still take a PCR test on day 2 if you're double-vaxxed) and if you land before them you'll still be on the old/current rules, a pre-departure test and a day 2 PCR test.
At some point later in October, the government hasn't said when yet, PCR tests for fully-vaxxed travellers to come back to the UK will be replaced with lateral flow tests. Until that comes into force, you'll still need a day 2 PCR test when you get back.
What if I'm flying back towards the end of October?
Probably easiest to wait until a few days before you fly back and see what the rules say then. If you still need a PCR test you can book one before you fly. If you don't, you can book a cheaper lateral flow test instead.
What if I'm flying back on October 4 itself?
The new rules kick in at 4am on October 4, so if you land any time after 4am the new rules apply.