Travel tips, destination advice, entry requirements and testing – check out my top tips for booking holidays during Covid-19.
The advice against non-essential travel is finally being lifted, with foreign travel set to resume on the 19th of July. Vaccinated people should be able to jet off to EU countries without any testing requirements or fear of quarantine, although it is important to note that restrictions can change at any time. Things are also more tricky for those who are not vaccinated, and did you know you could be denied boarding if you fail to fill out passenger locator forms in advance of travel? With this in mind I thought I should give you some of my top tips for booking holidays during Covid-19.
1. Book with a reputable travel company
As a former travel agent I have always seen the benefits of booking with an agent, but it surprises me that many people still don’t. As well as getting their expertise, you are also able to pick up the phone and speak to someone if you need help. You also don’t need to worry if you find yourself in an unfortunate situation where a travel agency is forced to close – they are licensed and bonded by the Commission for Aviation in Ireland, so you money is always secure.
If you are booking with an online travel agency, it is important you check if they are reputable, and or if they are licensed and bonded in your home country. Many household names like On the Beach, eDreams and Lastminute.com are registered overseas and may not covered by the same regulations, or as easily reached by phone as local travel agencies. Ryanair have publicly announced that they have no agreements in place with many online travel companies and securing refunds proved very difficult for many last summer.
So my advice is book with a local travel agency, or book accommodation and flights separately via reputable sources. If you wish to book directly with an airline and accommodation provider, follow these top tips for booking holidays during Covid-19 should help.
2. Book flights with free changes or free cancellation
It is great to see many airlines now offering free changes, but it is vital that you check the terms and conditions, as they vary greatly between airlines. Some airlines like Qatar Airlines offer a full refund if you decide not to travel, others include Covid-19 travel insurance.
I have highlighted some issues and tips for booking flights during Covid-19 with our two major airlines below, but similar terms and conditions apply to many airlines. Make sure to check the flight change, cancellation and refund policy of the fare type you are booking.
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Aer Lingus are allowing unlimited free changes across all fares – so you can change your flights as often as you like right up to two hours before departure. This is a huge advantage for families who are worried what might happen if their children test positive before departure. Changes are allowed on all flights departing up to 31st December 2021 and you can change dates to travel during 2022.
Aer Lingus are also giving the option of applying for a refund voucher (valid for 5 years), if you decide not to travel, but this is only available to you if you have booked a Plus, Smart, Advantage or Flex fare – not the cheaper Saver fare.
Top tip for booking Aer Lingus flights during Covid-19:
If you are booking an Aer Lingus flight, it is worth comparing prices to your chosen route between a Saver fare and the more expensive Plus fare. The Plus fare includes 20kg checked baggage, seat selection and priority boarding, as well as the option of going standby for an earlier flight if required.
If you know you need to check-in a bag and wish to pre-book seats, it might be a better option to opt for a Plus fare, as this also gives you the option of applying for a voucher, if you wish to cancel your booking.
Ryanair are allowing two free changes on flights booked before 30th September 2021 for travel before 31st December 2021. You must change the flight at least seven days before the original scheduled departure date and travel before 31st December 2021.
3. Check the cancellation policy on accommodation, and book hotels with free cancellation if possible.
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Most hotels and accommodation booking sites offer rooms with free cancellation policies, and I recommend availing of these if possible. In some cases they may be more expensive but they do provide peace of mind, should you need to cancel at the last minute.
However, don’t rule out booking your dream apartment because there is a small deposit payable. Some holidaymakers are booking multiple hotels with free cancellation ‘in case they are able to travel’. This is proving to be very difficult for hotels and accommodation owners to manage, so in some cases they have introduced a nominal deposit to stop people from ‘holding’ rooms. This is completely understandable and necessary in these uncertain times. Remember if the cancellation fee is nominal, it might a good idea to pay it, especially if it is to secure the property you want during peak times.
As previously mentioned it is important to choose a reputable accommodation provider. Booking,com and Hotels.com ranked well in this recent survey on travel firms offering refunds – affiliates.
4. Book peak holiday dates now
Covid has not only determined how we travel, but it has also changed our minds on the type of holiday or accommodation we desire. Large busy all-inclusive resorts may not be as popular as they once were, as people opt for spacious hotels and beach front apartments instead. While I believe there should be no issue with holiday availability during off-peak times, it is important to remember that if travelling as a family, you have a limited dates available to you and certain accommodation types will be at a premium.
July and August is always a busy time for holidays, but I forsee October mid term break and Christmas holidays being busier than ever this year and remember Easter 2022 is on sale to many destinations already…
5. Consider your destination wisely
I can’t wait to travel the world again, and if 2020 has thought me anything it is to grab all opportunities available, and see as many places as possible. However, if you are travelling overseas this summer, I advise choosing EU destinations, or countries with excellent covid policies in place, over far flung destinations where tourism is not a primary focus. Many destinations in Europe and beyond have excellent covid measures in tourist resorts.
It is also worth pointing out that if you do wish to travel to long haul destinations, many airlines are providing free covid cover at your destination to entice you to travel with them.
However, travelling within Europe does have its benefits:
There are many direct flights available – which negates the need to through multiple airports, and offers shorter journey times. Ireland has agreed to adopt the Digital Covid Certificate for travel from the 19th of July, so you should be able to enjoy quarantine free travel within Europe if you have been vaccinated, have a negative Covid-19 test, or have recovered from Covid.
You can also avail of the European Health Insurance Card which will give you medical treatment for free, or at a reduced rate, in all European countries – see more here. Note, this will only cover you for medical treatment, and not for cancellation or curtailment, or for expenses occurred should you have to remain in a country due to a Covid-19 outbreak.
6. Check the entry requirements for the country you are travelling to in advance of travel.
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It is vital you check the entry requirements for the country you are travelling to, especially if you are not fully vaccinated or travelling with children. Although the Digital Covid Certificate was designed to help free movement within the EU, each country has their own entry requirements.
Ireland requires a negative PCR test on arrival for non vaccinated visitors and children over 7, while Spain and Portugal accept rapid Antigen tests taken 48 hours before departure, and children under 12 are exempt from testing.
Remember if you are fully vaccinated, (two weeks after 2nd dose of vaccine), you should be able to enjoy travel within the EU without testing or quarantine.
7. There are separate requirements for travel to and from the UK.
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Currently the UK does not require non vaccinated visitors to provide negative tests if arriving from Ireland or any country in the Common Travel Area. However, Ireland has additional entry requirements for visitors from the UK or Irish nationals returning home:
- Arrivals from UK who are fully vaccinated are required to self-quarantine at home for 14 days. Passengers are requested to arrange a PCR test to be taken at least five days after arrival in Ireland. This test is free of change and can be booked in advance on www.gov.ie/test or by visiting any HSE testing centre. The 14-day period of home quarantine can be shortened if you receive a negative PCR test result from this test taken at least 5 days after arrival.
- Arrivals from UK who are not fully vaccinated, are advised to stay in quarantine and arrange a further PCR test to be taken at least 10 days after arrival in Ireland. Visitors are requested to stay in quarantine until a negative result of this PCR test is received.
Additional entry requirements may be required if travelling two and from Northern Ireland too, as they have broadly aligned with the UK’s traffic light system for travel. See more here.
8. Go to Spain without the plane!
For some, busy airports and packed flights are a concern – but there is an alternative way to travel to France and Spain. Brittany Ferries, Irish Ferries and Stenaline offer sailings to France from Ireland, while Brittany Ferries also have twice weekly sailings from Rosslare to Bilbao.
Instead of a beach holiday in the Côte d’Azur or the Costa del Sol, why not choose a farmhouse in the Bordeaux or Rioja instead? You can check-in from the comfort of your own car, and sea air and a private cabins make social distancing very easy. Some ferries even allow you to bring your pet along with you.
9. Fill our passenger locator forms before you travel
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Most countries have introduced Passenger Locator Forms to help manage and trace Covid-19 cases, but did you know that in some cases you need to fill these out 48 hours before you fly? You may be denied boarding at the airport or refused entry to a country if you have not filled out the locator form in time.
Some countries require you to print documentation and have it with you when you arrive, while others they want you to complete the form online – even Ireland’s Passenger Locator Form needs to filled out online, before you return home.
10. Take out travel insurance at the time of booking
It is important to check with your travel insurance provider what covid cover is included in your policy. Some insurance companies will only provide cover for medical expenses if you contract covid abroad, while others will allow you to cancel and provide a refund if you contract Covid-19 before you are due to travel. Multitrip travel insurance includes covid cover, but with some exclusions.
In most cases insurance will not cover you if you simply do not wish to travel, if quarantine measures are introduced, or if you travel to a country against government advice. If government advice is against ‘non-essential travel’ at the time of travel and you decide to travel anyway, your travel insurance will insurance will be invalidated. This could have serious financial repercussions if you travel outside of the EU.
Note: The above tips for booking holidays during Covid-19 is researched from reputable websites, however, travel advice and updates are changing on a daily basis. It is important to check with the country and travel provider you are booking with before taking any steps to to travel abroad.
Some of the links in this post contain affiliate links where I receive a small commission if a booking is made, but at no additional cost to you. This helps me run The Travel Expert website and provide free travel tips and destination guides to you.
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