After months of lockdown, we’d only just wrapped our hands around the concept of leaving our homes and getting back into the outside world.
In July, the UK government removed travel restrictions on a sizeable list of countries, but the latest decision to put England back into a national lockdown has left people’s holidays in November in limbo – and the travel industry’s imminent business not just frayed or ragged, but in shreds.
For the next four weeks, most travel within the UK will also be banned, along with overseas trips, in a bid to curb the rise in coronavirus cases. What does this mean for British holidaymakers in lockdown? Here’s what we know so far.
What’s going on with travel right now?
According to the new government guidelines, which will apply from November 5 to December 2, travelling in or out of your local area should be avoided.
There are a number of exemptions for essential purposes, including travelling to work if you’re unable to work from home, trips to grocery shops that are deemed essential retail, for exercise, for education and caring responsibilities, hospital and GP visits and other medical appointments, and emergencies.
For the duration of lockdown in England, Wales is banning travel in and out of the country, while those in Scotland are urged not to travel to or from England unless essential.
“It is an awful time for the UK domestic and outbound travel industry,” Emma Coulthurst, expert at holiday price comparison site, TravelSupermarket explains. “They had no pre-warning about the government’s decision to lockdown, as it was taken very suddenly.”
Can I take a staycation?
Overnight stays and holidays away from primary residences are not allowed, including any holidays abroad or in the UK.
This also means you cannot stay in a second home (yours or anyone else’s), or stay with anyone who does not live with you or isn’t in your support bubble. The only exceptions are if you need to stay away from home (including a second home) for work, for education or other legally permitted reasons.
“Much of the industry was already operating with less than 50% of its normal levels of business and for some even less,” Coulhurst says. “You also need to really feel for anyone who relies on their living from the tourism industry here and overseas – entertainers, hotel and bar workers etc. Covid has wreaked devastation on so many people’s lives.”
Of course, it’s still possible to have a holiday in your local neighbourhood when you head outside for your daily exercise and walk around your local area – you will just have to think outside the box and research what’s around.
What about travel abroad?
Holidays abroad are subject to the same restrictions as holidays within the UK. Though all leisure trips are off the cards, you can still travel to 60 countries for ‘business or education’ during November’s lockdown.
The full list of countries you can currently visit without having to quarantine on your return is changing all the time, with new nations being added and others being taken off with short notice.
Spain, Belgium, Bahamas, France, Malta, Monaco, the Netherlands, Croatia, Austria, Switzerland, Jamaica, the Czech Republic, mainland Portugal, Hungary, Iceland, Poland, Turkey and Italy were all recently removed, due to rising cases in those destinations. If you have travelled to any of these destinations before the start of the national lockdown, you will have to quarantine on your return.
British nationals who are currently abroad do not need to return home immediately for lockdown, but they are advised to check with their airline or travel operator about arrangements for returning.
Are flights cancelled? And can I get a refund?
It’s likely that airlines will continue to operate a very limited number of flights to certain destinations, under current terms and conditions not all airlines will provide vouchers and refunds, meaning that people could lose their money if they were supposed to be travelling soon.
Ryanair won’t be issuing any refunds for November flights, but will allow you to change your flight once for free. You have to pay any fare difference up to 7 days beforehand. Ryanair CEO Michael O’Leary said in a statement on Monday: “If the government wants to change that advice and provide refunds themselves, they can feel free to do so.”
EasyJet will be banning all leisure travel – and holidays up to December 2 won’t go ahead as planned. It is offering free holiday change dates with no extra fees.
“Following the government’s sudden announcement, easyJet will operate its planned schedule until Thursday [November 5] and will be reviewing its flying programme over the lockdown period,” EasyJet chief executive Johan Lundgren said in a statement, “It is likely that much of the UK touching schedule will be cancelled during lockdown with our planned flying set to resume in early December – we will advise customers who are booked to travel over the next month of their options with a view to assisting customers to return to the country in the coming days.”
British Airways and Jet2 haven’t announced any cancellations yet, but they are expected to offer vouchers and refunds for any flights after Thursday dates.
This article originally appeared on HuffPost UK and has been updated.