Nine hacks for making your half-term getaway as smooth as possible

·6-min read
Rome - Getty
Rome - Getty

We are approaching by far the most ‘normal’ half term season since the beginning of the pandemic.

Only seven countries are on the UK’s red list: Colombia, Peru, Ecuador, Panama, Haiti, Venezuela and the Dominican Republic. This means that if you’re fully vaccinated, you will not need to enter a quarantine on your return to the UK. Just a test within 72 hours of arriving home (this can be lateral flow, from October 24).

If fully jabbed (or under 18) you also no longer need to take a pre-departure test 72 hours before travelling back to the UK. All the above makes for a far less stressful and less costly getaway, particularly for families.

And the best news of all is that many countries around the world are now welcoming UK arrivals. This means that our half-term short-haul favourites – France, Spain, Greece, Italy, Turkey – are all on the cards. As are farther flung destinations, from Mauritius to Barbados.

But the coast isn’t entirely clear. Travel in the post-Covid era still includes testing, paperwork and a fair amount of planning. Here are nine simple tips to ensure your half-term getaway is as smooth as it can be.

1. Book your day two test from Friday onwards

As of Friday October 22, you will be able to book your day two Covid-19 lateral flow test for arrival back in the UK after October 24. This will be listed on the Gov UK site. If you are travelling abroad for half term, it is worth organising this on Friday or as soon as possible after, to ensure your kit is on your doormat when you arrive home. You will also need the code in order to complete your Passenger Locator Form before travelling home. Expect to pay between £20 and £40 for this self-administered test. Children aged four and under are not required to take any Covid-19 tests; those aged five to 17 can also take a lateral flow test instead of the PCR as of October 24, regardless of their vaccination status.

If you are arriving back to the UK before October 24, or if you are not fully vaccinated, you will still need to take a PCR test within 72 hours of arriving home.

2. Bring a medical grade face mask

They don’t look very cool, but you will not regret stocking up on KN95 medical grade face masks. Firstly, because they are proven to be more effective at preventing the spread of Covid-19. But also because they are more comfortable when travelling on a flight, and more durable. A five-pack on Amazon Prime is going for £5.99.

3. Study the rules before you go...

Every country has its own rules for UK arrivals. In Greece, you need a passenger locator form. In Barbados, you must arrive with a negative PCR result (regardless of vaccination status). In Bermuda, you must take a test on arrival and enter a quarantine until your negative result comes back. Search, for example, ‘FCDO Greece’ and click on ‘Entry Requirements’ to clue up on the rules.

4 … and look out for Under 18 loopholes

Some countries still have strict rules for unvaccinated under 18s. In the Netherlands, for example, the FCDO page states: “Children aged 13 and over who are not fully vaccinated must self-isolate for 10 days on arrival in the Netherlands. This includes when travelling with vaccinated adults.” In Germany, they state: “Minors between the ages of 12-17 are only allowed to enter if they have an urgent need or if they have been fully vaccinated.” It is better to know this before you go, than when you arrive at the airport.

5. Print everything out

Prior to the pandemic we reached the point where you could fly abroad without a single piece of paper (except for your passport). For now, however, it is sensible to revert to the printouts. The NHS App, where your vaccine certificate is saved, has gone down on more than one occasion in recent weeks, leaving holidaymakers in the lurch. Instead of relying on the app, download your vaccine certificate as a PDF and print it out before you leave. Likewise, it makes for a much more straightforward arrival if you can present any required testing or health declaration paperwork as printouts on arrival; many countries recommend this.

6. Give yourself time to complete the Passenger Locator Form

Filling in the Passenger Locator Form, required for return to the UK, is a surprisingly lengthy process. The main stumbling block is your day two test code. Without this, you will not be able to complete the form. You can arrange this from October 22, when lateral flow providers will be listed on Gov UK ahead of October 24, when they will be accepted for the day two test. Until then, you must book a PCR test. There is also the slightly confusing question of when you plan to depart the United Kingdom, a point you can just ignore. Our advice is that you do not complete the form on your way to the airport. It can be filled in up to 72 hours before coming home, so get it sorted with plenty of time to avoid unnecessary stress.

7. Bring a battery pack for your phone

More than ever, you don’t want to get caught out with a flat phone battery on your travels. Even if you print everything else out, it is likely that this is where you’ll store your Passenger Locator Form, unless you have access to a printer while abroad. To avoid getting caught short, pack a small battery pack for your travels. You can get a decent one from around £15.

8. Consider a seat upgrade, if flying long haul

Arguably there has never been a better reason to upgrade. More leg room, better social distancing and speedier boarding will make the stresses of flying marginally less intense. If you can afford it, that is.

9. Set up a Gov UK alert for your destination

The best way to stay up to date with the rule changes for your destination is to set up an alert via the Gov UK website. To do this, click onto the country page (ie, search on Google ‘France FCDO’) and then select ‘Get Email Alerts’. Select the option that says you will be alerted each time they update the page. This way, you will receive updates straight from the source.

Reader Service: Planning to travel with your loved ones? Purchasing family travel insurance can help you get great cover for your trip.

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