The five things we know for sure about holidays this summer

Greg Dickinson
·6-min read
Holiday in covid era - Getty
Holiday in covid era - Getty

Finally, we are getting more certainty. We know we will be able to get our hair cut on Monday April 12 (hurrah). On that same date we can also enjoy our first pint since December (albeit, shivering in a pub garden). But there is one quite important part of our lives still cloaked in uncertainty: our holidays.

We do not know where we will be able to go. We do not know, for certain, when we will be able to go – the May 17 date has always been poised as the “earliest possible date”, but it is not set in stone.

We do not even know, for sure, when we will know anything. Monday April 5 was promised to bring “an announcement” on international travel, which amounted to half a sentence from the Prime Minister on how it was “too early” to say anything, and to watch out for the Next Big Holiday Announcement on April 12. What is to say we will not have another disappointing delay on Monday?

But, amid the fog of travel uncertainty, there are some knowns. Here are five things you can bank on for your summer getaway in 2021.

Watch: COVID-19 - Don't bank on summer of freedom as scientists predict third wave at height of holiday season

There will be a traffic light system

Boris Johnson has confirmed there will be a traffic light system to reboot travel, replacing the "travel corridor" system used in 2020. Risk assessments will be based on vaccination drives, infection rates, the prevalence of variants of concern, and a country’s genomic sequencing capacity.

Green status will mean no quarantine, but likely pre-departure and post-arrival tests. Arrivals from amber countries will require a pre-departure test, then quarantine at home (or accommodation) for up to ten days – likely with the option for ‘Test to Release’ after five days. Arrivals from red countries will be banned entirely, unless you are a returning UK resident, in which case you will have to enter a compulsory hotel quarantine, with tests.

The Government has repeatedly said it is too early to say which countries will be green or amber, although Telegraph Travel has crunched the data to predict which countries could be given the holiday go-ahead from May 17.

The Seychelles is welcoming anyone who is fully vaccinated against Covid-19 - Getty
The Seychelles is welcoming anyone who is fully vaccinated against Covid-19 - Getty

UK holidays will go ahead

Here’s the good news. Domestic holidays will definitely be able to resume from April 12. However, the return of domestic holidays will apply to single households, and you'll have to wait a while longer to stay in a hotel.

The reopening of domestic holidays applies to self-catering accommodation, camping and glamping, but hotels will not reopen until May 17 at the earliest. What’s more, campsites will not be able to open communal facilities (such as toilets, or reception areas) until May 17.

As of April 12, cross-border travel into Wales will resume for self-catering stays within one household. Nicola Sturgeon has indicated April 26 will be the date Scotland will lift restrictions on Welsh and English visitors crossing the border.

To go abroad, you’ll have to take a test

We cannot say for sure if vaccine passports will be rolled out, although it is looking likely as more countries open their doors to immunised arrivals. But what we do know is that everyone – including those who have received two doses of the vaccine – will still have to take a test of some sort to go away. In a document released on April 5, the Government said "pre-departure and post-arrival tests would still be needed" for green list arrivals.

Earlier this week, the CEO of easyJet, Johan Lundgren, said the Government should allow people to use the cheaper, quicker lateral flow tests rather than the more expensive "gold standard" PCR tests. Responding to the suggestion, the Prime Minister said: "I do think we want to make things as easy as we possibly can.

"I think the boss of easyJet is right to focus on this issue. We're going to see what we can do to make things as flexible and as affordable as possible.”

Testing will likely become part of our holidays - Getty
Testing will likely become part of our holidays - Getty

Flexibility will be guaranteed by your tour operator

On the topic of flexibility. Many tour operators and airlines are now offering generous and flexible booking conditions and free postponements to convince people to book amid repeated Government warnings of "do not book". Telegraph Travel’s consumer expert, Nick Trend, gives an example: “BA Holidays is allowing new bookers to change dates and destination without incurring a fee, although you will need to pay any difference in price. This applies to journeys that are due to have been completed by Aug 31, 2021.”

He advises: “Make sure that your tour operator is bonded so that your money is protected if it goes out of business. I also recommend going with an operator which is an Abta ( or Aito ( member – all holidays are bonded and the two organisations have a code of conduct and a dispute resolution service if things go wrong.”

A deserted Rialto Bridge, pictured on April 5 - Getty
A deserted Rialto Bridge, pictured on April 5 - Getty

Your destination will have changed

What we can also say, with some degree of certainty, is that your destination will be quite different to how it was prior to 2020. There are the Covid precautions: you may have to wear a face covering in public spaces (or perhaps on the beach, in Spain), and you will likely see ‘social distancing’ advice, whether current or outdated, spray-painted onto pavements and plastered onto bus stops. Restaurants could still be operating at reduced capacity, and you will likely see hand sanitisers on every other surface. And your hotelier is more likely to greet you with a fist-bump than a handshake. 

But the more positive slant is that – if you get away soon after the holiday ban is lifted – your destination will likely be much quieter than in pre-pandemic times. While it feels like our holidays keep being pushed back, the chances are that we in the UK will be travelling sooner than many countries, including the tourist-exporting titan of China, meaning many destinations will feel gloriously tranquil. Oh, and the final guarantee? With tourist economies desperate for the return of visitors, you will almost certainly be greeted with a smile (whether you can see the smile, or not, is another question).

Watch: Should I book a holiday in 2021?