Thinking About A Winter Holiday? Here’s What You Need To Know…
After a seemingly never-ending year, most of which has been spent in our houses, you might just be considering a winter getaway – and you wouldn’t be alone in this. For example, Gatwick Airport has seen demand increase enough to run 100 flights a day in December, instead of the four a day during England’s second lockdown.
And while the joys of a winter holiday are tempting – even in normal times, who can say no to an exhilarating day on the slopes, a winter wonderland trip to see the Northern Lights, or a quick blast of Mediterranean winter sun – there are still considerations to factor in.
More than anything, things are ever-changing – and we don’t just mean regarding COVID-19, as there’s Brexit to factor in too – so keeping up to speed is all important. So for the moment, here’s what you’ll need to know if you’re considering a cheeky trip abroad this winter.
The quarantine rules are easing
In between the restrictions and warnings, there’s a key bit of good news for English travel lovers. As of 15 December, those travelling to places that aren’t on the travel corridor list need only self-isolate for five days if they then return a negative COVID-19 test. This is a huge change from the previous rule of a 14-day isolation period that came into effect in June. This new ‘test and release’ policy gives enough time for COVID-19 to develop if it’s present, without keeping the traveller at home for any longer than needed.
Read gov.uk’s advice
The first thing to do when considering a holiday destination is check what the official travel advice is from the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO). You’ll find advice for 226 countries at gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice. This will let you know the current situation at your intended destination, and the requirements for entering the country, which is especially useful now that many places ask for a negative COVID-19 test either ahead or at arrival. A key bit of information is if the FCDO advise against all but essential travel. If that’s the case, it means that your travel insurance won’t be valid – so that’s one point to keep checking on right until the moment of departure. Which leads us nicely on to the issue of insurance…
Check your travel insurance
Even in normal times, the need for travel insurance is compelling. But when there are so many variables around – from airlines on the edge of collapse to Brexit changes to extended health concerns – having travel insurance is strongly advised this winter. Before booking a holiday, read through your policy with a fine-tooth comb and make sure you understand when you’re covered, when you’re not covered, and what you’ll need to know before you go. For starters, Switched On customers can rest easy knowing that cancellation, curtailment, and emergency medical expenses abroad are covered if caused by COVID-19. To find out more about our Travel Insurance take a look here.
Travel corridors remain in place
Another aspect you’ll certainly want to check is the ‘travel corridor’ list. Updated every Thursday, these are the countries that you can travel to without needing to self-isolate on return, which makes it much easier to take a quick trip somewhere nice. The only catch is that the FCDO might still advise against ‘all but essential travel’ there – which effectively means you still can’t travel over for a holiday. And another catch is that while there might not be any restrictions coming back to the UK, there might well be restrictions for entering the country. So…
Keep an eye on local restrictions
Some countries still have a blanket ban on UK travellers. But most insist on a varying mix of negative COVID-19 tests beforehand, a government-approved test on arrival, and self-isolation until the test results come in, which might eat into a quick trip away. In addition, it might be that there’s not a huge amount to do once you’ve landed – you’ll need to keep abreast of whether shops, bars and restaurants are open, plus any mask/socialising rules the region has in place.
When it comes to ski holidays over the popular Christmas and New Year period, different European countries are taking different approaches. Resorts in France, Italy and Germany won’t be open. Austria’s ski slopes will be permitted to open on Xmas Eve, but the country’s tight restrictions mean that ski breaks will pretty much only be available to locals. However, slopes in Switzerland have already been allowed to open but resorts must apply for a permit to do so, and they must continue to comply with a clear set of rules or risk losing it. As with everything this year the situation is ever changing so make sure to keep up to speed with the latest news before making any travel arrangements.
Amid the coronavirus concerns, it’s easy to forget the little thing called Brexit. Again, it’s a live situation that might well change as we get closer to the 31 December date for leaving the EU. But it looks like from 1 January 2021, we’ll have to abide by the same travel arrangements as non-EU or associated countries. This means if you’re travelling to the EU, Switzerland, Norway, Iceland or Liechtenstein, you’ll need to make sure your passport is valid for at least six months. Your European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) won’t be valid after 31 December 2020 either so you’ll need to get your own travel insurance in case of any medical emergencies. And you’ll also need to check you’ve got the right documents if you’re planning to drive, take a pet, or stay in the EU for more than 90 days. For more info, see our post-Brexit travel post.
Check the details of your flight, ferry or train
It’s good practice in any case but keep a special eye that your travel arrangements are carrying on as planned. You’re not only checking to see if the flight, ferry or train is still running to schedule, but also that the rules around it are the same. For example, do you need to leave extra time to board? Can you get a refund if the flight is cancelled? Note that EasyJet are changing their cabin bag rules so from 10 February 21 if you book and want to bring anything larger than say a backpack into the cabin, you’ll need to pay for an extra legroom seat, buy a Flexi fare, or opt for a bag in the hold. For more details visit the baggage info page on the EasyJet website.