What the new travel rules mean for under-18s

·7-min read
Sisters relaxing on inflatables - AzmanL/E+
Sisters relaxing on inflatables - AzmanL/E+

The traffic light system has been scrapped as of October 4. The green and amber lists have merged and the pre-departure test for return to England has been dropped – making it easier for families to book and take half-term holidays overseas later this month.

Britons travelling with children will have welcomed the news that foreign travel rules are now (for the most part) simpler and cheaper. Families have faced hundreds of pounds in testing costs for a trip abroad since the ban on non-essential overseas trips was lifted on May 17. See below for the specific travel rules depending on a child's age.

The red list has also been slashed in the UK Government, with only seven countries remaining high risk. The move sees likes of Mexico, Thailand and all countries in Africa join the new “rest of the world” category. Outside of the red list, the rules on return to England now depend on the vaccination status of the traveller.

Crucially, the costs of overseas breaks for families with children will be further reduced when both the pre-departure tests have been scrapped and day two PCR tests replaced with lateral flow tests come the end of October. The Government has yet to announce a specific date for the day two tests to change to lateral flow, but has said it is confident it will be in time for October half term.

Unvaccinated adults returning from any destination not on the red list now face up to 10 days of quarantine at home and will be required to take PCR test on or before day two and day eight. This is a tightening of restrictions for this group – they could, up until the latest announcement, return from green list countries and territories without facing self-isolation or extra testing requirements.

When the rule changes were announced, there was a degree of confusion over what the new restrictions meant for those travelling with children. There was concern as to whether those aged 12 and over would have to self-isolate for 10 days and take the same tests that would be required of an unvaccinated adult.

Grant Shapps, the Transport Secretary, tweeted on September 19: “Some incorrect commentary in some Sunday papers which I'm glad to quash. Under-18s resident in the UK are actually already exempt from self-isolation on arrival – there isn’t anything new here.”

Here’s what you need to know if travelling with children following the October 4 rule change.

What are the rules for unvaccinated under-18s returning to England?

Travellers aged under 18 who are returning to England from countries not on the red list will not face self-isolation on return (this was already the case for under-18s returning from green or amber destinations). Since October 4, they do not need to take a pre-departure test before coming back to England. The day two PCR test is also set to be replaced by a cheaper lateral flow test later in October, hopefully in time for half term.

Every adult returning to the UK must complete a passenger locator form in the 48 hours before arrival. They can include under-18s who are travelling with them on the same form, if they are staying at the same address. They must be under 16 if you are travelling into Scotland.

Here we breakdown the specific rules depending on a child's age and the country in which they are resident (see gov.uk for the latest information).

Aged 0–4

  • Do not have to take any Covid-19 tests for travel to England

  • Can be included on the passenger locator form of an adult they are travelling with, if they staying at the same address

  • Those arriving in England from a red list country must enter hotel quarantine for 10 days, but do not have to take any Covid-19 tests. A stay in a quarantine hotel is free for children aged 0–4

  • The rules above apply to children who are resident in the UK or a country with an approved vaccination programme

Aged 5-10

  • Take a day two test after their arrival in England (the test must be taken on or before day two – arrival day is day 0).

  • Can be included on the passenger locator form of an adult they are travelling with, if they staying at the same address

  • Those arriving in England from a country on the red list must enter hotel quarantine and take two Covid-19 tests

  • The rules above apply to children who are resident in the UK or a country with an approved vaccination programme

Aged 11-17

  • Take a day two test after their arrival in England (the test must be taken on or before day two – arrival day is day 0)

  • Can be included on the passenger locator form of an adult they are travelling with, if they staying at the same address

  • Those who are arriving in England from a red-listed country must take a Covid-19 test in the three days before travel

  • Those arriving in England from a country on the red list must enter hotel quarantine and take two Covid-19 tests.

  • The rules above apply to children who are resident in the UK or a country with an approved vaccination programme.

Rules for children resident in any country that is not on the UK Government's approved vaccination programme list

Aged 0–4

  • Do not have to take any Covid-19 travel tests

  • Must follow quarantine rules: self-isolate at home or in the place they're staying for 10 days or for the duration of their stay if it's less than 10 days.

Aged 5–10

  • Take a Covid-19 day two test after their arrival in England

  • Take a Covid-19 day eight test after their arrival in England

  • Quarantine at home or in the place they're staying for 10 days or the duration of their stay if it's less than 10 days

Aged 11–17

  • Take a Covid-19 test before travelling to England

  • Take a Covid-19 day two test after their arrival in England

  • Take a Covid-19 day eight test after their arrival in England

  • Quarantine at home or in the place they're staying for 10 days or the duration of their stay if it's less than 10 days

Other travel rules can differ for return to the devolved nations. It is advisable to check their government websites.

What about the red list?

Only seven countries remain on the red list as of October 11. Hotel quarantine will remain for Britons returning from destinations on this list. Under-18s are included in this rule.

The cost for an adult staying in one of these government-approved hotels for 10 days (11 nights) is £2,285. It is £1,430 for each additional adult staying in the same room – or each child over 11.

The rate for children aged five to 11 is £325. There is no charge for children aged four or under.

The price includes the cost of transport to and from the hotel, accommodation and any Covid-19 tests taken during quarantine.

Do any countries not permit entry to unvaccinated under-18s?

Malta requires 12-18 year olds to be fully vaccinated before arrival. Children aged five to 11 can enter Malta if accompanied by vaccinated parents or legal guardians, provided they show a negative PCR test carried out within 72 hours of travel. Other nations may have similar rules in place: check the FCDO page of the country to which you plan to travel for the latest guidance.

What about rules on the ground when you’re on holiday?

Health passes or vaccine passes are in use in many countries across Europe. France, for example, currently requires people over the age of 12 to have proof of full vaccination, a negative test taken within the previous 72 hours or proof of recent recovery from Covid for entry to most venues, such as restaurants and tourist attractions.

Other countries where such passes are a factor include: Switzerland, Greece, Germany, Austria, Cyprus, among others. Always check the entry rules of the country you are travelling to before committing to booking.

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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