How to Travel Without Stress: A step-by-step guide to stress-free vacations abroad this summer

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While the options for a summer trip abroad are much broader and less complicated than they have been in the past couple of years, there is still plenty to navigate. Entry requirements and local Covid restrictions still vary widely from country to country, while higher prices and staff shortages add to the uncertainty.

But for many, the past two years have boosted the benefits of travel and the importance of dusting off your passport (more on that later) and getting on a plane, train, or ferry again. By following this step-by-step guide, you should be on your way to an enjoyable and memorable trip abroad.

Passports ready

The current backlog at the Passport Office has been widely reported, but not all applications or extensions take the recommended 10 weeks. Before booking a flight, check the validity of your passport. To travel to the European Union and the Schengen Area, you need a passport that was issued less than 10 years before the date of entry and still valid for at least three months after the intended date of departure. Many others require at least six months of validity, although some – including Australia, Mexico, Saint Lucia and the United States – only require that your passport be valid until the day you leave.

If your passport is unlikely to meet the requirements of the country you intend to visit, consider a potential 10 week processing time and be sure to follow the instructions carefully (common mistakes include using error correction fluid rather than crossing it). Errors, misspellings, images and signatures that do not meet the requirements and do not return the original documents).

Look for boxes to apply at midnight – appointments are posted daily but first come first served. For urgent requests (for example, if you have urgent family matters to attend), you can write to your attorney to step in, which may speed up the application process.

Find your travel destination

Covid entry requirements are not standardized and can change at short notice, so make sure you are familiar with the requirements for your chosen destination. Those who prescribe the vaccination may specify an expiration date for the doses, so check in advance if you need a booster dose and if the type of vaccine (such as Moderna or Pfizer) is known.

If you need a Covid test before travelling, make sure you understand what type is needed (eg a rapid antigen test or PCR which may require specialized supervision) and how to present the result. Find out ahead of time if you need to fill out a passenger locator or a health form – these are always free, so watch out for third-party sites that ask you to pay.

The Foreign Office lists country-specific travel advice (gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice) but this is not always up to date, so use it as a starting point for each government’s requirements – links to health departments can usually be found under the entry requirements section. If you are not sure, you can also check with the country’s embassy or consulate in the UK.

Covid is not the only obstacle to travel – check if you need a visa (or visa waiver, eg Esta for the USA or eTA for Canada) and apply on time.

Book with a reputable provider

The world may open up again, but the pandemic has shown that requirements can change without warning. Bargaining rates are tempting, but book with a reputable provider. Vacations with Abta and/or Atol protected is a good standard. Atoll protection is a statutory requirement for all package holidays which include flights, while Abta covers group holidays including rail, cruise and self-driving holidays sold in the UK. If your business goes bankrupt while you are away, there is an obligation to bring you home.

Kitemark Aito (Association of Independent Tour Operators) means that your vacation is financially protected, including tours with accommodations only; If something goes wrong, the worker is obligated to take care of you. Same goes for peripherals including airport parking – book with an authorized provider to avoid nasty surprises.

Your airline should tell you how long you should allow at the airport.

Make sure your NHS Covid Pass is valid – and working

You can prove your Covid status (vaccination, recent recovery or negative test) using the NHS Covid Pass app or request an electronic version by calling 119. Wait at least five working days to receive the paper copy. If you previously ordered a paper copy, check that all doses (such as a booster shot) are listed as you may need to order a new one.

If you’re using the app, it’s also worth downloading a PDF copy, saving a copy in Google Pay or Apple Wallet, or getting an email copy offline If your mobile device is where you saved it should show no indication of Covid status. Once downloaded or emailed, it is valid for six months. If you downloaded the previous versions, you have to do it again because the old versions were only valid for one month.

NHS Covid Passport Refund Certificates will only be issued if you score a PCR test, not a lateral flow/rapid antigen. Some countries, such as Spain and the US, will accept a doctor-signed certificate of recovery – it is available from private clinics which you will have to pay for (around £30-60).

protect your money

Get travel insurance as soon as you make your reservation. This protects you from that moment until the end of your trip, for example if conditions change and your trip is canceled – although it’s always useful to check coverage and exclusions to understand what is covered.

An important aspect should be health insurance and repatriation costs. If you are renting a car, consider purchasing excess insurance up front rather than paying for coverage on arrival through the rental company as this tends to be more expensive.

For travel to the European Union and Switzerland (not Norway, Iceland or Liechtenstein), apply for a free Ghic Card (gov.uk/global-health-insurance-card) that qualifies you for emergency care provided by the government. Ghic replaces Ehic, which remains valid until the expiration date.

Don’t forget Britain’s exit from the European Union

If you haven’t traveled to the European Union since Brexit, there are fundamental changes in how we join the bloc. Allow more time at the airport for actual passport control, and also be aware of the changing requirements for everything from driving to bringing your pet with you. British passport holders can spend up to 90 days in the European Union in any 180-day period.

If you are driving your own car, you will need to have your driver’s license, V5C book, insurance certificate and green card (also for Ireland) – these can be obtained (in due course) from insurance companies. You must also apply the GB sticker even if your car has the Euro symbol and the UK National ID on its number plate. Be careful when using your phone abroad – many networks have reintroduced EU roaming charges; Some offer the possibility of creating a travel plan.

Know your rights

Delays and cancellations are likely to continue on the turbulent path out of the pandemic. Regulation 261/2004 states that you are entitled to compensation if your flight is delayed – which left the UK, arrives in the UK on a UK or EU airline, or arrives in the EU on a UK airline the amount varies Compensation depending on the itinerary and length of delay, three to four hours or more and from £220 to £550. For ferries, they are from 25 to 50 percent of the ticket price, depending on the flight duration and delay; Eurostar has a similar policy.

Passengers are also entitled to “care and assistance” (food and drink, hotel accommodation if overnight, transportation to the hotel and two phone calls) if the flight is at least two hours late (flights less than 1,500 km) or four hours for flights more than 3500 km. If your airline does not offer this, organize your own flight
Reasonable care and retention of receipts and filing of a claim with the airline.

If your flight is cancelled, you must have 7 days to rebook (even with a competing airline), move to the next available flight, or get a full refund. The same applies to ferry trips. Holiday packages must be paid for within 14 days.

What will you do with the money

Think about how you will pay while you are abroad. It pays to have low denomination currency for things like transport and groceries (avoid buying at the airport where prices are bad and fees are high), but UK debit and credit cards can incur transaction fees every time you use them. Prepaid currency cards can be useful, as can travel cards from competing banks such as Revolut, Monzo, and Starling.

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Your airline should tell you how long you should allow at the airport. Checking in before you leave will help speed up the process, but due to an ongoing staff shortage, it’s wise to allow plenty of time for passport control and security. Check the airport’s website and social media accounts for updates.

If you are stopped by dropping bags or security queues and your gate is about to close, call a staff member and ask if they can put you at the front of the line – they usually do. And if you think you’ll miss your flight, speak to an airline representative and ask if they can put you on the next available flight.

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