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Top tips for travelling abroad with kids during the COVID-19 pandemic

Posted on October 4, 2021 by Vicky Smith
Family hiking through woods

Planning a holiday abroad with kids?

Check out these top tips before you jet off abroad to find out how to make travelling during the pandemic as smooth as possible for your family.

Research the guidance for arrivals

A stress-free journey is crucial to having a good time abroad, especially when you have kids in tow.

Before booking anywhere it’s worth checking two things:

  1. The guidance for British arrivals at your destination
  2. The guidance for Brits returning to the UK from your destination

It’s simple to check these two key areas of information on the government’s Foreign Office travel advice section on their website. You can also sign up for updates for your destination so you are emailed when anything changes.

These two things can help you select a destination that’s easy to get to, and one that welcomes British travellers. Then you can research resorts in those places that are family-friendly – look for beach access, swimming pools, access to activities and day trips that your kids will love.

Once you’ve decided on your destination, you will need to know:

Some destinations may not need children under a certain age to take COVID tests, which may be preferred if you’re travelling with younger children.

Travel system rules

There are lots of amazing family-friendly non-red list destinations to travel to. Popular hotspots include Spain, the Balearics, the Canary Islands and Italy.

Under the new travel system rules, under 18s will be classed as fully vaccinated, regardless if they are vaccinated or not. This means under the new rules, under 18s returning from a non-red list country will only need a day 2 COVID-19 test. 

It’s worth remembering that adults who are not fully vaccinated will need to follow the new rules set out for returning from red list countries or the rest of the world. 

Entry rules and quarantine requirements (if any) may change at short notice too, so you’ll need to keep up to date with the latest FCDO travel advice before and during your trip.

Doctor using cotton swab PCR test on child

COVID tests for children

Some older kids may be used to taking COVID-19 tests at this stage in the pandemic. But for others it may be their first experience of doing them.

Rest assured they can be painless, and although they can irritate the nose a little, it’s mainly a case of distracting your child until they are done!

You can make the testing process easier, if you are administering the test on your child yourself. Have everything ready before you get started with the test – they should come with detailed instructions.

It might be a good idea to do the test while your child is watching TV so their mind is on something else while you get the swab.

What COVID tests do children need?

As you are travelling with kids you also need to check what the age limits are for testing requirements:

  • Test to enter your destination country
  • Test to travel back to UK – Kids aged 10 and under do not need a test
  • Day 2 test for arrival back to UK- kids aged 4 and under do not need to take these tests

Some countries exempt children under 11, for others it’s kids under four. This varies from place to place, so make sure you’ve checked the latest guidance so you have the correct tests.

Read more about what COVID-19 tests you need to travel abroad.

Kid riding bicycle with face mask and helmet

Check the rules at your destination

Every country has set its own guidance for citizens and visitors to follow in order to control the COVID-19 outbreak.

These rules may be different from the UK, so it’s worth considering whether this will impact on your kids’ enjoyment of the holiday.

For example, Spain asks anyone over the age of six to wear face coverings outdoors in crowded spaces, such as shops and public transport. If you want to visit Spain then you could make sure you plan a holiday that avoids these types of places.When packing face masks for your kids, check the fit for size and that your child finds them comfortable if you are going somewhere where they’ll need to wear masks.

Hygiene guidance, for example regular hand washing, are pretty universal everywhere you go plus it makes good sense for keeping your family protected from germs. Many public places will have hand sanitiser dispensers, but do pack small bottles of hand sanitiser you can slip into your beach bag just in case.

Children feeding giraffe in a zoo

Plan your itinerary

It helps to look at what you want to do during your holiday, such as trips to family swim parks or zoos, and then check the rules in those places. This includes whether you need to pre-book tickets ahead of your trip.

If playing at the beach or by the pool is your main plan for your holiday, pick your accommodation with this in mind. Stay somewhere in easy reach of the beach, or pick a hotel or place to stay that has a child-friendly pool on site for guests.

This means you can avoid taking kids on public transport, where mask wearing rules may mean younger children have to wear masks.

To stay safe you may wish to stick with outdoor activities and attractions, where risks from COVID-19 are far lower.

Woman packing suitcase with essential items

Stay safe

If your children have any medical conditions then have a chat with your family doctor before leaving to check they have enough medication and whether you need to take extra precautions.

You can give yourself peace of mind by picking a destination where rates of COVID-19 are lower. According to criteria published by the World Health Organisation, a positive case rate of less than 5% is one indicator that the epidemic is under control in a country.

Along with your clothes, bucket and spade you may also wish to pack these items when travelling abroad with kids:

  • Face masks – including spares for everyone
  • Disinfectant wipes
  • Hand sanitiser
  • First Aid kit – including thermometer

Children’s colouring book

Bring distractions

There may be longer checks at borders as officials have more paperwork to check from incoming travellers.

Be sure to pack easy-to-reach distractions to keep kids entertained in the queues, just in case.

This could include snacks, a new book, stickers, comics, colouring books or a set of headphones and their tablet – just remember to have it fully charged before you travel!

Remember you’re only as happy as your least happy child

A holiday should be fun for the entire family.

Always plan ahead and cater to what your kids can handle. If a long flight is likely to make your children unsettled, choose somewhere that’s closer to home.

If you’re set on a long haul destination, consider booking a night flight so your child can sleep through the journey and wake up feeling, hopefully, refreshed for the start of their holiday.

Look at the restrictions where you are going and whether these are going to impact on the things that your children love to do. For example, if they love activities and holiday clubs, check if these are still running and what the format will be like?

Take the needs of your little ones into consideration when planning your holiday and you will all more than likely have a wonderful time!

Vicky Smith

by Vicky Smith

Vicky Smith is a journalist and freelance content creator. She loves to travel with her family. Her favourite place in the world is a sandy beach in Cornwall.