The Transport Secretary has hinted that free NHS tests could be used to facilitate international travel in the future, ending the need for holidaymakers to purchase notoriously expensive PCR tests.
Speaking at an industry webinar yesterday evening, Mr Shapps said that travellers may be able to “[take] the lateral flow tests, potentially, that they already have access to from home.”
The statement appears to suggest that holidaymakers could be permitted to use free NHS tests to obtain ‘fit to fly’ certificates, instead of PCR devices which currently cost an average of £128 per test. The twice-weekly NHS lateral flow tests are currently offered to everyone in England as part of the Government’s plans to ease lockdown, but the results are not presently accepted for international travel.
Travellers may also be permitted to use NHS test results to re-enter England after their holiday. “We are looking at things like whether people can take their tests away,” he added. “A sort of Covid version of ‘bring your own bottle’ when you go on holiday.”
However, Mr Shapps confirmed that PCR tests would be required for the foreseeable future. “For the time being, the PCR test gets us closer to the truth about somebody’s Coronavirus and for the time being that’s the one that’s going to be required.”
Scroll down for more on this, and other breaking travel news.
Whiling away a couple of hours in a bookshop will be near the top of many people’s wishlist now that lockdown restrictions have been eased in England and Wales (though those in Scotland and Northern Ireland will have to wait a little longer for this – until 26 April). To celebrate, we want you to tell us about your favourite independent bookshop, whether it’s one near you that you’ve been keen to return to, or a gem you discovered on your travels.
Please make sure that it has reopened (or, in the case of Scotland and Northern Ireland, will do soon) before submitting your tip, and include the bookshop website, too.
If you have a relevant photo, do send it in – but it’s your words that will be judged for the competition.
Keep your tip to about 100 words
The best tip of the week, chosen by travel expert Tom Hall, will win a £200 voucher for a stay at a Sawday’s property – the company has more than 3,000 in the UK and Europe. The best tips will appear on the Guardian Travel website, and maybe in the paper, too.
We’re sorry, but for legal reasons you must be a UK resident to enter this competition.
The boss of Europe’s largest tour company said he was ‘optimistic’ for foreign summer holidays this year.
Tui Group chief executive Fredrich Joussen credits successful vaccine programmes in the UK, US and Europe for his optimism.
He told the BBC: “We are still confident that we will have a decent summer.
“All medical advice we are getting as a company says that existing vaccines are working with existing variants.
“Now they might be less efficient sometimes, but still it’s much better than not being vaccinated.”
Joussen also broached the topic of testing, suggesting a negative test result would be just as effective as a vaccine passport – but only if the cost of individual tests is made more affordable to the average traveller. “The cheaper it gets, the better it works and the less harmful it is for the general economy,” he said.
He added that bookings in March for Tui had hit 2.8 million, with the company expecting to operate up to 75% of its normal schedule for the summer season.
As it stands under the Government’s current road map out of lockdown, Britons are set to be allowed to travel abroad for foreign holidays from May 17 – though the traffic light system may mean some destinations are essentially off-limits.
British travellers could be left waiting for up to 10 weeks for a new passport this summer, HM Passport Office has warned, after a delay in processing time caused by the pandemic and a recent surge in demand for new travel documents.
Under the revised timeframe, a passport applied for today may not be received until mid-June – one month after the proposed restart of international leisure travel, on May 17. Those hoping for an early summer getaway have been urged to check their paperwork now.
Meanwhile, research by the Post Office revealed that 22 million Britons are unaware of new post-Brexit passport requirements – which includes the need for six months’ validity for most EU getaways. Almost half of holidaymakers risk being caught out by post-Brexit red tape, with the survey revealing that 42 per cent were not aware of new passport validity rules, while 37 per cent of people do not know when their EHIC (European Health Insurance Card) expires.
Just four million people applied for a passport in 2020, compared with around seven million during a ‘normal’ year – suggesting that as travel restrictions lift, the passport delay may worsen.
Rory Boland, editor of consumer magazine Which? Travel, has warned Britons not to get caught out. He said: “The significant drop in the number of people applying for a passport last year means we could see a sudden spike in demand when we can all start travelling again.
“That, and changes due to Brexit, could mean you need to apply for a new passport sooner than you think.”
It’s the most wonderful (and chaotic) time of the year. As hordes of travelers descend upon airports nationwide to journey home for the holidays, the prospect of December travel strikes both excitement and anxiety in the hearts of many. We decided to consult the experts for travel advice for the upcoming season (including tips on how to make your economy ticket feel like business class.)
To that end, 15 travel writers shared their hard-earned wisdom on everything from travel rewards programs to appropriate-airport attire. (“Air travel is a horrific slog, it’s every man for himself, and you should wear whatever makes you feel most comfortable,” Todd Kingston Plummer offered on the latter.)
To check or not to check, that is the question. Or, one of the questions, at least. And while some writers we interviewed were vehemently against such profligate packing habits (“the cardinal sin of traveling,” according to Leila Najafi), there is something to be said for the mantra that more is more. Often, the things we’re likely to forget are those that are most obvious. (I surely am not the only one who has found myself in a foreign country sans passport… Twice.)
With that in mind, remember to stash your everyday essentials in a carry-on before boarding (preferably in a pre-packed travel case to minimize your likelihood of forgetting.) Offers Merissa Principe: “You never know when you might have to borrow your receptionist’s motorbike in the Thai jungle at 2AM to find some Advil.”
Read on for our list of the best travel tips, sourced by the ultimate industry experts, to avoid that same fate. But if you do encounter some (inevitable) mishaps: Fear not. In the words of Lesley Chen: “Boring trips don’t make for good stories anyway.”
I’m so sick and tired of people perpetuating this myth that airplane travel should somehow be glamorous, and that you should dress up for the plane. That is unequivocally false. I don’t care if you’re taking JetBlue to the Caribbean or flying in Singapore Airlines Suites Class—air travel is a horrific slog, it’s every man for himself, and you should wear whatever makes you feel most comfortable. If I’m flying to the tropics, you can bet that I’ll be wearing shorts. And if you think wearing pants somehow makes you immune to all the germs floating around on airplanes, you’re living a lie. Live your truth. Wear your comfiest shorts on the plane. Never apologize.
I hate creating expectations, but I like to be educated on a destination before a trip, so I do a certain level of pre-trip research. Part of this is to scope out popular attractions, restaurants, and bars, but more importantly, it’s to anticipate and understand a new culture’s customs. Additionally, I try to incorporate free time into my itinerary; the best way to discover a new place is to get lost, I’m overly curious, but always respectful.
I used to roll my clothes, but now I only roll wrinkle-resistant fabrics and fold anything that might wrinkle—I hate ironing, and I don’t like to travel with a steamer. The amount of space saved by rolling your clothes is not worth the wrinkles! My general rule for not overpacking is that your clothes should only take up half your suitcase. The rest should be free for shoes, toiletries, and everything else. This is where packing cubes come in handy, but they’re really not necessary if you’re using a clamshell-style suitcase (like every travel writer’s best friend, the Away bag).
Live your truth. Wear your comfiest shorts on the plane. Never apologize.
Gemma Price(Condé Nast Traveller, Departures, Wall Street Journal, etc.)
Ok, the thing I can’t live without is my plane pack. Flying long haul in economy every other week isn’t the most comfortable, so I have a selection of little pouches that contain everything I need for the journey. I pack Clorox sanitizing wipes for the armrests and table because they hardly ever clean those things. Plus, some medications against a dodgy tummy (loperamide, Pepto Bismol, etc.) because there’s nothing worse than getting the trots at several thousand feet… And having the cabin crew yelling at you to go back to your seat and put your seatbelt on when you just can’t.
I have a Cabeau eye mask and memory foam head pillow — it scrunches up quite small and is super comfortable — and some heavy-duty earplugs that shut out screaming and snoring equally well. To keep me from looking like the crypt-keeper on disembarkation, I also bring a sample pot of my favorite moisturizer (Jurlique Moisture Replenishing Day Cream), and a little bottle of Evian face spray that I swiped from a Maldives resort gym. Is it bougie? Absolutely, but it works.
Josh Laskin(Outside Magazine, The Points Guy, Travel & Leisure, etc.)
For me, I always make sure I don’t have to check a bag. It gives me one less thing to worry about — whether or not my belongings are going to make it where I need them to — while traveling. I always watch people pulling huge luggage bags behind them, trying to get them up and over curbs, tripping and falling in the process, and think to myself, “man, that’s really not for me.” I bought a large 65-liter backpack, which can fit as much — if not more — than a large suitcase, and bring it as a carry-on. It also allows me to walk around hands-free, which is a pretty liberating feeling when traveling long distances or for longer periods.
Some of the things that have helped me on my travels are writing out five or so common phrases that I may need to know if I’m chatting up locals and having pre-loaded webpages with important info on the sights I want to see or maps if I can’t get WiFi.
Another thing I try to do when I get to a new place is to jump on a free walking tour with a local! You get the lay of the land and, hopefully, some insider tips on what to see, do, and eat. When it comes to packing, I try to think worst-case scenario—physically. I bring meds for allergies, itch cream & bug repellent (mosquitos love me!), Advil, Neosporin just in case… you get it. And when it comes to airports, I make sure that the second I get off the plane, I make sure I know what the local time is (not just trusting my iPhone to recognize the different time zone)—especially when I have a tight connecting flight.
Fight attendants constantly comment on how I’ve turned my economy space into a pseudo-first class seat… Just minus the champagne.
I never check in a suitcase. It’s the cardinal sin of traveling in my book. Time is your currency when you’re traveling, so you want to be as efficient as possible. I’ve been able to go to Europe and Australia for three weeks with just a carry-on. You learn to get good at packing a wardrobe that you can mix and match, and if I’m staying at an Airbnb, I’ll do laundry.
International travel is much more comfortable when you take advantage of the perks of airline and hotel elite status like upgrades, early check-in or late checkout at hotels, and airline and hotel lounges. Even those that don’t travel as frequently can take advantage of special benefits like lounge access, priority boarding, and fee waivers through certain credit cards. It certainly takes the hassle out of constant travel, and actually, kind of makes it more fun!
If you want to travel like a travel writer, you need to have the right apps! I always download the app of the airline I’m traveling with, so I can get mobile updates as well as terminal and gate information. The rewarded miles don’t hurt either! My other must-have app while traveling is Mobile Passport! When I’m arriving stateside, I always use my mobile passport app to breeze through customers. I fill out the customs form on the app while we taxi to the gate and have found that it’s saved me hours over the past few months.
I’d also recommend having a pre-packed in-flight bag that has everything you might need ready to go for your flight so you can pull it out of a backpack or carry-on before finding your seat. That way, you’ll have all the essentials, like laptop, charger, book, Chapstick, headphones, snacks, just to name a few, all in one place so that you don’t have to hassle in the aisle and boarding can continue efficiently.
Finally, if you’re traveling via carry-on, which is very travel writer-esque, roll your clothes to save room, pack easy mix-and-match layering clothes, and don’t forget to pack pharmaceutical essentials like Advil! You never know when you might have to borrow your receptionist’s motorbike in the Thai jungle at 2AM to find some!
I never check in a suitcase. It’s the cardinal sin of traveling in my book.
For me, it’s all about surviving the long-haul flight to make sure I don’t arrive completely wiped out with sore muscles. I essentially turn that coach seat into my own little spa oasis. A gel sleeping mask, lavender essential oil, cucumber under-eye masks, and—most importantly—an inflatable footrest (which is still the best damn $20 I’ve ever spent). Even flight attendants constantly comment on how I’ve turned my economy space into a pseudo-first class seat… Just minus the champagne.
Noiseless headphones, my Kindle full of books I’ve been dying to read but put off until I am on an airplane, and my Seed facial serum by Canadian luxury vegan brand VERDURA are my travel go-to’s. Oh, and a person in the seat next to me who is affable (and doesn’t snore) is a nice bonus.
My toiletry bag has a second set of everything I use (face wash, toothpaste, floss, lotion, etc. in miniature size). So, I can just grab it and go without having to worry about if I remembered to pack my face wash from the shower or my contact case from the counter. Things I always pack: a pair of black jeans (it’s a 2-for-1 because you can go dressy or casual!), a pair of running shoes (because I know the one time I don’t bring them will be the time I actually motivate to go to the gym), and flip flops.
This is kind of a terrible tip, but this is how I avoid jet lag: When I fly to and from international trips, I force myself to stay up on the plane and watch as many movies for as long as possible, and then when I land, I power through/keep moving until nighttime. By bedtime, my body is usually so tired (and probably disoriented) that I just go to sleep, and it kind of resets itself. Also, coffee helps.
To keep me from looking like the crypt-keeper: A little bottle of Evian face spray that I swiped from a Maldives resort gym. Is it bougie? Absolutely, but it works.
If you’re making a long journey and worried about jet lag, get a spa treatment the first evening you arrive. Book it for as late as you can in the evening and go to bed right after. There’s no better way to prime yourself for a good night’s sleep.
Claudia Laroye(Flight Network, The Globe and Mail, Twist Travel, etc.)
‘A gelato a day keeps the tantrums away.’ This travel tip works wonders for kids but also adults too. It keeps the ‘hangries’ at bay, incentivizes good behavior while traveling, and gives everyone a boost when spirits flag due to jet lag. And hey, it doesn’t have to be gelato, it could be cake, cookies, wine, etc. We live by this motto when we travel, and I know it works in real life as it’s saved us from more than a few meltdowns.
As tempting as another round of late-night cocktails—or hitting up just one more cool dance spot—might sound, I’m a big fan of calling it a night as soon as you (politely) can. When you really want to learn about the culture of a destination and squeeze in as much as possible when you’re staying in a place for a short time, you don’t have time to feel tired or hungover. Early to bed, early to rise, has always suited me well whenever I’m traveling for work!
When Rhiannon Lewin and her friends booked a camping weekend earlier this year, they imagined pitching their tents under the stars in isolation.
The site they booked near Jervis Bay, on New South Wales’ south coast, was advertised as an open paddock close to the beach. There was no running water or electricity, so Rhiannon and her friends thought they’d be roughing it.
But when they arrived, they found the camp site was in someone’s front yard. And instead of beaches, they were surrounded by tents, campervans and a busy road with a shopping centre.
“The advertisement had all sorts of location shots, but nothing of the actual property,” the 23-year-old from Sydney says.
“It had the beaches, the rivers, but then you get there it was just a yard with a couple of bins for our rubbish and that was it.”
Jodi Bird, a travel expert at consumer advocacy group Choice, says misleading advertising is one of the top consumer complaints when it comes to holiday accommodation.
So, what can you do when you find your holiday accommodation isn’t quite what you ordered? And what can you do to protect yourself?
What to do if there’s a problem
Your first port of call should be with the accommodation provider or the service you used to book.
“Usually we’d say whoever you’d paid money to is who you complain to,” Mr Bird says.
It helps if you can provide some evidence, like photos or a copy of the listing, and are clear about what you are requesting.
“You could ask to be provided with a separate room that meets the requirements of the booking,” Mr Bird says.
“Otherwise, if you’re looking for something like compensation, you need to state a specific amount and why you are seeking that compensation. And if you can refer that back to the legislation, like Australian consumer law.”
If you travelled interstate, you might be wondering whether to contact your local consumer affairs body or the one in the state or territory where the accommodation was located.
We asked Consumer Affairs Victoria about this, and a spokesperson said the consumer affairs body in your home state is a good first point of contact. In some cases, they may not have jurisdiction, but they can point you in the right direction.
“It’s unlikely the consumer affairs body will respond fast enough to facilitate a resolution while you’re still in the accommodation, so it’s not too late to deal with it when you get home,” Mr Bird adds.
“Just bear in mind, whether you changed accommodation providers, or stayed with the same provider, you ideally want to be able to state a dollar amount of compensation that you feel will resolve your problem.
“That dollar amount should reflect the reasonable cost to you of the failure of the service provider.”
Your rights under consumer law
If you’re travelling within Australia, you have some protections under Australian consumer law.
Accommodation providers are bound by consumer guarantees. These include providing accommodation with “acceptable care and skill or technical knowledge” and “taking all necessary steps to avoid loss and damage”;
Accommodation providers, like other businesses, also can’t make false or misleading claims in their advertising.
For example, if the accommodation provided is different to the photos or description in the listing, you may have grounds for compensation or cancellation, Mr Bird says.
The provider may be able to remedy the situation by moving you to a new room or different accommodation that matches your booking, but it must be done in a reasonable time-frame, Mr Bird adds.
“If it’s a week later, and you’ve already spent that time staying in a room that you didn’t want to book, you can ask for compensation,” he says.
“But if they’re able to organise a room that matches the description within a couple of hours, they’re allowed to do that.”
Keep in mind that Australian consumer laws may not apply if you’re travelling overseas. You may however have some rights under local consumer laws, Mr Bird says.
What to know about cancellations and fees
If you’re thinking about cancelling your accommodation after you arrive, it’s important to check the terms and conditions.
New research from ABTA, which represents the interests of travel agents, has found a growing trend for holidaymakers seeking the security of booking a package holiday with a travel professional.
As consumers wait to hear from the prime minister early next month about plans for restarting international travel, ABTA’s data finds that people are 31 per cent more likely to book a package holiday now than before the pandemic, primarily to be looked after in case something goes wrong (51 per cent) and for financial protection (49 per cent).
Package holidays provide the greatest level of protection for holidaymakers, including the right to a replacement holiday or a refund if the holiday is significantly altered by a change in the situation at their destination.
By booking a package holiday, travellers also get great value for money and have a single point of contact for their travel arrangements, so if they require any advice and assistance before they go on holiday or while they are there, the travel company is there to help.
A ‘package holiday’ refers to how the trip is booked, not where you go or what you do.
Any type of holiday – from a city break to backpacking around the world – could be a package holiday, and packages can be personalised to suit each customer’s preferences.
Holidaymakers are also placing a great deal of value on the services provided by a travel professional such as a travel agent. ABTA’s figures show that people are also 28 per cent more likely to use a travel professional now than before the pandemic.
The main reasons show once again the importance of feeling protected and reassured, with half citing the security of a package holiday (50 per cent) as why they would book with a travel professional, followed by trusting travel companies to look after them (48 per cent), and the travel professional’s up-to-date advice (42 per cent).
ABTA Members are reporting enquiries coming from new customers who have not booked with them before.
Holidaymakers remain committed to getting away overseas, with 63 per cent of people saying they hope to book a holiday abroad in the next six months or longer.
Graeme Buck, director of communications at ABTA, said: “Travel professionals and package holidays have an important role to play in helping people feel reassured and confident to book and travel this year, and we’re seeing more and more people turning to them as they plan their holidays.
“Over the last 12 months there has been a lot of uncertainty around international travel, with holidays having to be changed or postponed, but there is a lot of pent-up demand for holidays.
“People are increasingly recognising that they can get great value for money, added protection and the benefit of having someone else plan their holiday or make changes if needed further down the line.”