News that international travel is on the cards for 2021 has led to a stampede online as people search for holidays.
With all social restrictions set to end on June 21 in the UK, and international travel due to return from May, holidaymakers should be eager to explore the world after more than a year of tough restrictions.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson unveiled the government’s roadmap to lifting lockdown on February 22, promising a “one-way road back to freedom”.
And Brits responded immediately, with easyJet reporting a jump in bookings for flights from the UK of 337%.
Andrew Flintham, the managing director of TUI UK and Ireland, said: “The announcement from the prime minister was positive and shows that by working with the travel industry on a risk-based framework our customers will have the opportunity to travel abroad this summer.”
Can you book a holiday abroad in 2021?
The complete picture for how holidays abroad in summer 2021 will look is not expected to be clear until April.
But holidays abroad look set to return from mid-May onwards and travel firms such as Jet2 are already adding seats for flights to popular destinations.
Under the government’s roadmap out of lockdown, international travel is included under stage three, which will happen no earlier than May 17.
A review by the Department for Transport’s Global Travel Taskforce will report in the coming weeks with recommendations for resuming travel abroad.
Johnson said this will “give people time to make their plans for the summer”.
Popular holiday destinations such as Spain have already indicated they are keen to open for holidaymakers from the spring.
Reassurance from holiday providers
Holiday companies and airlines are doing their best to restore confidence to the market, showing they can adapt to the circumstances with flexible bookings that allow you to rearrange or be refunded for trips if they cannot go ahead.
Firms such as TUI also offer covid cover, which allows you to make free changes to your trip if you contract COVID-19 before you travel.
This understanding from the travel industry gives travellers the much needed reassurance that they won’t be left out of pocket if circumstances do change.
What will travel abroad be like in 2021?
There remains some concern around international travel bringing mutations of the virus, which may be less receptive to vaccines, back into the UK.
Due to these concerns it is possible there will still be some measures at the border in summer 2021.
We may still see measures such as:
- Requirement to complete a Passenger Locator Form upon arrival in the UK. It sets out where you are staying in the country and where you have been travelling.
- Proof of a negative test before travel and/or after return to the UK to allow release from quarantine.
However, the government’s plan states it wants to see a more “facilitative model” which allows arrivals to end isolation early with measures such as testing.
We also don’t yet know how vaccine passports could come into play. Once all adults have been offered a vaccine it’s possible that having proof of a vaccine will make international travel easier – with no requirement to quarantine on either side of your journey.
Any new restrictions, or those set to continue, are expected to be set out in the next Global Travel Taskforce review in April.
Tips for booking holidays in 2021
While there are still a few pieces of the jigsaw to slot into place, the government’s roadmap has provided some confidence that summer holidays will be on this year.
Here are some top tips for booking your holiday in 2021:
Find a flexible holiday
Many airlines and holiday providers are offering flexibility for your booking should you need to cancel or rearrange due to a change in travel rules. For example:
- easyJet. The airline has launched a “protection promise” allowing customers to change their booking if plans alter. This includes a refund guarantee up to 28 days before travel.
- Jet2. The company has added extra seats on flights to popular holiday destinations such as Zante, Crete, and Rhodes. In a statement Jet2 has also promised to provide refunds where restrictions force holidays to be cancelled.
- TUI. The holiday firm is offering free changes for selected holidays due to depart before 31 October 2021.
Check your tour operator’s small print on cancellations and refunds to be sure you will get a refund should anything change that is beyond your control.
Organise your travel insurance
Be sure to get travel insurance as soon as you book your trip.
This will cover you (from the first day your policy starts on annual multi trip policies, or as soon as you purchase your single trip policy) if your trip cannot go ahead, and includes Covid Cover. You will find it’s easy to move your travel dates if you need to via Staysure’s online portal.
Book a package holiday
Package holiday operators pay into an insurance fund run by the Civil Aviation Authority, which means your booking is fully protected should the worst happen.
The other benefit of booking a package holiday is to protect against changing travel corridor lists and national lockdowns. If travel advice to a particular country changes, then a tour operator will generally cancel the holiday and provide a refund.
Be sure the holiday you book is ATOL protected. Which? has a guide on how to check whether your holiday booking is covered.
Pay for your holiday with a credit card
Use a credit card to pay for your holiday as this will give you more financial protection under Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act.
If your holiday is cancelled by the operator or the operator collapses you can claim a refund from your credit card issuer for a holiday costing between £100 and £30,000.
Use a local travel agent to book
Some customers have reported difficulties in contacting tour operators during the pandemic when travel regulations changed.
Choose a local, trusted travel agent who will always be on the other end of the phone should anything change. You can find independent reviews for most travel agents on websites such as Trustpilot.
Keep an eye on the guidance
The roadmap out of lockdown could be delayed if issues with the vaccine or new variants arise or if unlocking parts of society leads to a surge in cases.
So it’s a good idea to keep on top of the latest information on where the roadmap is. New stages will be reviewed before being unlocked every five weeks.
Research guidance in your destination country
Every country has slightly different rules around arrivals, quarantine and tests. So be sure to research the requirements for UK arrivals to your holiday destination both when you book and ahead of your departure so you aren’t caught out.
Some may require proof of a negative test within three days before you travel. A list of approved test providers can be found on the government website.
We don’t yet know if vaccine passports – a document or possibly an app proving you have been vaccinated against COVID-19 will be a factor in international travel.
All adults in the UK are set to be offered a vaccine by the end of July, so if you are traveling after this month then it is more likely proof of a vaccine will become a strong requirement for adult travellers.