After weeks of speculation, the Prime Minister Boris Johnson has finally laid out a plan to ease lockdown this week.
It will happen in four stages, starting from 8 March.
You can read the full roadmap here.
For holidays, the key dates are 12 April (Step 2), when staycations for single households can happen in self-contained accommodation, and 17 May (Step 3), when we may be able to travel abroad for leisure again.
Those starved of travel may already be considering or booking getaways for those dates but it’s important to bear in mind that the progress and timing of the roadmap are still subject to change.
The government has said that before taking each step, an assessment on whether to move onto the next stage will depend on four factors:
- The vaccine deployment programme continues successfully.
- Evidence shows vaccines are sufficiently effective in reducing hospitalisations and deaths in those vaccinated.
- Infection rates do not risk a surge in hospitalisations, which would put unsustainable pressure on the NHS.
- Our assessment of the risks is not fundamentally changed by new Variants of Concern.
Essentially, if there are any signs that infection rates are getting out of control, the easing would be paused, perhaps with little or no warning as we’ve seen so many times in the past year.
What it means for you…
If you are desperate for a holiday, I’d say book cautiously – I know travel companies would welcome it and you’d almost certainly be able to land a better deal now than later, especially for staycations.
But there are a few things to consider, especially if you’re planning to travel abroad.
First, because there is the possibility that the dates could be moved back, make sure whoever you book with has a robust policy for when this happens and don’t book anything non-refundable, even if it’s a great deal.
That means the travel firm is either happy to offer you a full refund if you need to cancel, or they’re happy for you to move your booking to another date without extra charge. It’s worth double checking that they have a good track record for keeping their promises without hassle as well.
This is especially important if you live in one nation but plan to holiday in another – for example, if you’re travelling from England to Wales or Scotland – as devolution means they can and do have their own roadmap for easing lockdown.
For international travel, there’s even less certainty. The government has been clear that the 17 May easement date is subject to review and is the earliest international leisure travel can happen.
Booking a package holiday with a reputable company will be your safest bet.
If the holiday ends up being cancelled by the provider because of government travel restrictions either end, you’ll get a full cash refund within 14 days by law. If you decide to cancel though, you’d lose your deposit or more.
Again, it’s important to research your provider here.
So many travel companies have failed to refund in full and on time during this pandemic, some because they’ve been inundated with requests but some simply because they chose not to and you don’t want to end up booking with the latter and have to fight to get your money back.
You should also pay with credit cards where you can and these can afford you better payment protection through Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act.
Second, get travel insurance and make sure it covers you for what you need.
Lots of providers will cover your medical treatment if you catch coronavirus abroad, but won’t cover you if you need to cancel your holiday because of new quarantine restrictions, for example.
You can also get travel insurance for staycations, but some have restrictions on minimum distance travelled as well as minimum number of days you’re away.
Third, if you are determined to travel abroad, make sure your destination will actually let you in.
Many countries banned UK arrivals before Christmas because of new variants of coronavirus and not all of these have been lifted.
Some are only opening their borders for citizens, residents and those travelling for essential reasons, and that may not change by the time you travel.
And of course, you’ll have to make sure you have all the right documents, whether that’s proof you’ve had both doses of the vaccine or proof of a negative PCR test result from an accredited centre taken within a specified time frame.
Finally, make sure you have extra cash. There’s still some way to go between now and May and a lot can change, not least the list of “Red” countries that mandates quarantine on return.
So if you are going abroad, make sure you have extra cash to cover if you do unexpectedly need to quarantine on return, especially as most insurance providers won’t cover this extra expense.