After four months in lockdown and a backlog of cancelled plans, it's no wonder we're seeing online searches for holidays soar. When it was announced at the end of June that lockdown rules across the UK were changing to allow more freedom of movement, many began to consider the possibility of going away this year after all.
As with everything around the lockdown, there is a lot of confusion and anxiety about travel in this new pandemic-wary world. While some are choosing to travel to Europe (flights to Greece from the UK are soon to resume despite rising cases of coronavirus in the country) and beyond, many others are considering staying closer to home either to alleviate some of the anxiety around travelling or in an effort not to endanger other countries. Considering not just your own safety but the safety of those around you is of the utmost importance at this time. Perhaps that is why staycations appear to be the most popular choice for a break, with places like Norfolk, Bournemouth, Dorset, Brighton and Tenby reportedly seeing an increase in interest.
Inevitably, there are lots of questions you'll have to ask yourself before you make your plans. Where is safe for me to visit? Is it responsible for me to go? Who can I go with? Where should I stay? How do I even get there?
The information out there is confusing and understandably many people are tying themselves up in knots over this. We can’t tell you who you should have in your support bubble or guarantee a rain-free trip to Dorset but we can give you a hand in ensuring that any trip you do take will be as safe as you can make it. More importantly, we'll explore how you can make sure you are doing your utmost to ensure the safety of the locals at your destination of choice.
Where can I travel safely?
There are different guidelines for different countries within the UK but as long as you stay within those guidelines you should be safe to travel, according to Wendy Haines, personal travel consultant. Those guidelines are as follows:
The government guidelines (which, to be fair, are subject to change about as often as the weather) are that you can now travel as far as you like within England as long as you adhere to social distancing rules (which have now changed from two metres to 'one metre plus') and are only travelling with a max of two households. If you're in a support bubble, that counts as one household – so if you're travelling with your parents who are your support bubble, you can also travel with one other household. Staying overnight in a hotel, Airbnb, hostel or campsite is now allowed too (again, only with two households).
If you are travelling outside England you need to adhere to the guidelines in place in Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland.
The guidelines are similar in Wales: the "stay local" guidance that asks people to stay within five miles of their home has been lifted, and it's been proposed that from 11th July Welsh residents will be able to go on holiday in Wales (though this is not yet guaranteed). This also means that there can be travel between Wales and England, as long as social distancing rules are followed – the two metre rule is still in place in Wales.
Likewise, the five-mile travel limit has been lifted in Scotland and the two metre social distancing rule remains in place, and holiday accommodation (as well as pubs and restaurants) is expected to reopen from 15th July. This means that self-contained accommodation (like cottages, lodges and caravans that have no shared services) is allowed. Overnight stays are also now allowed (beyond your extended household).
You can already take domestic holidays in NI as the Northern Ireland executive has permitted holiday and caravan parks, camping sites and self-catering properties to open. Ninety-five days after lockdown began, people can officially take holidays involving an overnight stay, and there are no travel restrictions in place.
How can I travel?
If you've decided to make a trip, the most obviously safe option is to take a car if you can. As Wendy told R29: "I think most people see their own cars as safest for travelling distances in. This is because they limit exposure to other people, people know who’s been in their car, how clean it is etc." As long as everyone in the car is part of the same support bubble, there is also the added comfort of not needing to wear a face covering, unlike on public transport.
However it's important to remember that it's not possible to social distance during car journeys. "Transmission of COVID-19 can definitely occur during car journeys," Wendy adds, "so avoid travelling with someone from outside your household (or your support bubble), unless you can practise social distancing – for example by cycling."
As for public transport, you should once again be sure to follow the government guidance: wear face masks, socially distance, use hand sanitiser and wash your hands as often as possible.
However you plan to travel, you should allow extra time as there is likely to be reduced capacity or services whatever route you take.
Who can I go on holiday with?
In England you can meet up with friends indoors and so are able to go on holiday together as long as (all together now!) you practise social distancing. That means not travelling together in the same car, keeping separate in accommodation and generally using your common sense. This is also true in Northern Ireland.
In Scotland and Wales you can only stay overnight with those in your support bubbles or extended households, as you can only meet up with others in outdoor spaces.
How can I be socially responsible?
The most important thing that must be front of mind is that it is not only your safety you are considering but the safety of the people in the area you visit. Social distancing is imperative, avoiding crowded spaces is imperative, and you should only travel with those within your support bubble.
With those considerations in mind, going on holiday is a great opportunity to lend your support to small and independently owned businesses that have been hit hard by the pandemic. Wendy advises "spending money locally, using independently owned cafes/restaurants/shops/accommodation rather than international corporations" and "stocking up at local farm shops and delis rather than taking all your own food from a big supermarket."
You should also apply this rule when visiting attractions or sites – when you visit smaller resorts you are not only spreading income, you're reducing the risk of overloading an area with visitors (as seen on beaches in recent weeks).
In terms of personal safety and the safety of locals, you should once again turn to the government guidelines. Don't travel if you're feeling unwell, follow local social distancing guides, avoid crowded areas and book ahead for attractions as they will have restricted numbers. Wendy also recommends researching how your accommodation provider supports the locals: "Do they have a CSR [corporate social responsibility] policy, what do they give back to the local area?"
Depending on whether you are staying in a hotel, self-contained accommodation or on a camping site, it's worth looking into what procedures the accommodation provider has in place – if not publicly available, you should ask to see their health and safety policy. Self-catered accommodation is preferable where possible as it makes social distancing far easier.
Most importantly you should plan ahead every step of the way. Book your holidays sooner rather than later as availability will be limited. Once you've made your plans, you should allow for needing more time to get there and any additional items you may need.