Congratulations. You’ve waited patiently, and after this week’s positive traffic light announcement you have decided to book a last-minute holiday.
You’ve picked a good moment. France has just lost its ‘amber plus’ status, meaning double jabbed can return from the country without quarantine. Spain and Greece have seemingly avoided falling onto an ‘amber watchlist’, which threatened imminent relegation onto the red list. And our green list has grown, with Slovenia and Latvia letting in Britons regardless of vaccination status.
But in this brave new world of swabs, certificates and passenger locator forms, just how spontaneous can you actually be when it comes to booking holidays?
If double vaccinated, the answer is: quite spontaneous. Providing your destination does not require a pre-departure negative test result from the double jabbed, you will simply need to fill in the necessary paperwork and sort the tests you need to take before flying home and after you get back. With your vaccine certificate loaded on your phone, it is perfectly possible to book and be on a plane within 24 hours. If you are not double vaccinated, you will need to factor in a few days for the pre-travel testing process.
All destinations have different requirements, but here’s a look at the core steps you need to take, when planning your last-minute escape.
How to book a last-minute summer holiday
Step one: Decide on your destination
If you are double vaccinated, your options are bountiful. Spain, Portugal, Greece and now, France, await. As well as the UK’s traffic lights, make sure you check the country is letting Britons in, quarantine-free, and swot up on Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) guidance to make sure your insurance is valid.
If you are not double vaccinated, and don’t fancy entering a mandatory quarantine on your return, your choices are slimmer – Croatia, Madeira, Malta, and Iceland are among the countries on the green list. Don’t be fooled into thinking ‘green’ necessarily means ‘go’. Austria, for example, currently bans all arrivals from Britain.
Step two: Organise your tests before departure
If you are double jabbed, and your destination will let you in without a pre-departure test, skip to step four. For everyone else, the likelihood is that your destination will require a negative PCR test result, typically taken 48 to 72 hours before travel. The FCDO has a list of verified testing companies, most of which can dispatch the kit within 24 hours. Plenty of companies run in-person services for quicker results.
Step three: Take your test
Whether the kit lands on your doormat, or you go into a lab or a drive-through centre to have it done, now is the moment to take that swab sample.
Step four: Organise your tests on return
Before you depart, you’ll need to organise the test that allows you to board your flight home, taken 72 hours before you fly (lateral flow or PCR), plus your test(s) after arriving home. You may wish to wait for your negative pre-departure test result, before completing this step. On the slim off-chance that you are travelling to a red list country in the knowledge that you will have to endure a hotel quarantine on arrival home, now is the time to organise your stay.
Step five: Fill in any paperwork
Many countries will require passengers to fill in a health questionnaire or passenger locator form, prior to arrival. Check the FCDO to see what is needed, and when. Some countries may deny entry, if you do not have the required documents.
Step six: Off you go
Print of all your paperwork (including travel insurance and negative test result), charge up your phone and travel to the airport nice and early to avoid getting caught out by lengthy check-in queues. You’ll be on the beach with a cocktail before you know it.
Check gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice for the latest travel requirements.