Most of us have been social distancing for weeks if not months now, and between coronavirus anxiety, trying to stay connected with friends and family, and the weather getting warmer, a getaway sounds pretty nice right about now. Dirt-cheap flights and discounted hotel deals are even more tempting when you add a little cabin fever to the mix. But should you really book a summer holiday now? Whether you've already booked a trip or are itching to take a holiday as soon as possible, this guide will answer all your questions when it comes to travelling this summer, from safety measures and travel restrictions to refunds and creative alternatives.
When Will We Be Able to Travel Abroad?
Because the situation changes every day, it's hard to give an exact date. But right now, many countries are still experiencing severe coronavirus outbreaks and have extended their mandatory quarantines and border closures. At present, the UK advises against all international travel until, at least, 31 May. To get a better feel for summer travel and where and when you can go, it's best to continue checking every day as the situation develops.
It's also important to note that you should take your departing location and your destination into consideration. For example, if you live in an area where things are improving but want to travel to an area where they're not, you should consider pushing your travel dates. Whether you plan to travel by rail, air, or shared private car, it is strongly advised to download and use the NHS COVID-19 contact tracing app to reduce the Coronavirus reproduction rate.
What Experts Are Saying About International Travel
Travel experts like Dominic Raab, who is the UK Foreign Secretary, announced on 17 March, 2020 that the UK government has "taken the decision to advise British nationals against all non-essential international travel". Initially international travel restrictions from the UK were suggested for 30 days after Raab's announcement, but The Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO)
has extended that period indefinitely. If you are a British national who becomes ill while overseas, then it is advised to seek care and support from the country that you are in.
The European Commission has restricted all "non-essential travel from third countries" looking to visit the EU+ area until June 15. Other countries, like Argentina, have banned all travel until September. While you can still travel to places like the US, New Zealand, and Australia, you'll be required to self-quarantine for 14 days upon arrival, and will be encouraged to do the same when you return home, dedicating an entire month of your trip just to self-isolation. Iceland, which plans to reopen the country's borders to tourist on 15 June, will offer all travellers the opportunity to take a free COVID-19 test upon arrival to avoid a 14-day quarantine (although, those who test positive will still have to self-isolate for 14 days). Some countries like Greece, Guatemala, and Belize plan to reopen in July, but whether or not that'll actually happen is still to be determined.
What If I Already Booked a Trip?
Thankfully, airlines and hotels are trying their best to be accommodating during this uncertain time. Airlines are waiving change fees and offering flight vouchers, and will likely continue doing so for the rest of the year, if not longer. If you booked a flight through a third-party travel website (Bookings, Expedia, Travelocity, etc.), you'll need to contact them directly instead of the airline. As far as accommodation goes, getting a refund will be easy if you booked a place through Airbnb.
Can I Go on a Cruise?
The FCO advises "British nationals aged 70 and over and those with pre-existing health conditions against cruise ship travel at this time". Given the nature of cruises — older populations, living in close quarters with thousands of people, eating buffet-style food, and not having access to major healthcare facilities — it's safer for everyone to avoid being out at sea for a while.
What Are My Other Options?
This summer is going to be the summer of domestic travel. The government is working to get public transport services back up and running to 2019 standards, and major airlines are still operating domestic flights with bookings being accepted for 1 July. Travelling by car is the safest choice, but if public transport is your only option, then you must follow the government's guidance on social distancing by wearing face covering.
Paula Cannon, virologist and USC professor at the Keck School of Medicine said that "being alone in your own car is going to be the safest way of travel." Road trips not only provide a safe way of transportation, but allow you to choose a safer, less common destination. While we wait to see what the future holds, stay safe and take a road trip this summer. Who knows, it may turn into a bucket list trip after all.
— Additional reporting by Kara Kia