Face masks at airports

Important checks to do before your next international trip

It’s probably been a while since you last dusted down your luggage. But the future is – fingers crossed – starting to look a littler rosier and, all being well, you’ll hopefully soon be travelling again. But before you do, there are a number of things you might like to check. The pandemic has turned the world upside down and the “rules” for travel have probably changed since you last made a trip. Not only that, but it would be easy to overlook one or two other details such as your passport’s expiry date if you’ve not used it in a while. Here are a number of checks that we hope will make your next trip run that little more smoothly. And, if you have of your own suggestions, please add them in the comments below. Visa applications made easy 1. Assess your own personal level of risk and your likely risk to others International travel won’t be for everyone this year and not necessarily through choice. The virus won’t have gone away, but the risk will hopefully be greatly reduced. Still, for some people, that risk may still be a significant one, whether it be because they are in an ‘at risk’ group and unable to get a vaccination just yet or simply because they don’t want to put others close to them at increased danger.  To travel or not to travel, that is the question.  But, government restrictions aside, only you can really make that choice. Face masks at airports 2. Check on when and where you can and can’t travel Some countries will be welcoming visitors with open arms whilst others will be closing their borders to all but essential travel. Identify ‘travel corridors’ – those countries that you can travel to without the need to quarantine on your return. Furthermore, be aware that the rules can change and one destination that is OK to visit now might not be in a couple of months (see sections on booking terms and conditions and travel insurance later), so flexibility may be key. 3. Check the travel and entry requirements Does your airport/airline require you to wear a mask? (In all probability, the answer to that is a resounding ‘yes’ so make sure you have one!) Do you need a PCR test? Do you need proof of vaccination? Do you need to complete a Passenger Locator Form detailing which countries you have visited recently? Be aware of exactly what the requirements are for you, not only when you travel but also when you arrive at your destination. And keep a close eye on this as time passes as the requirements may change in response to changing government policies and/or changing circumstances with the virus. 4. Check your passport Firstly, do you know where it is? If you’ve not used it in a while, as will be the case for most people, you might like to double check that it’s still where you thought it was. Secondly, is it still in date? When applying for a provisional driving license for one of our sons recently, we had to provide a passport number so that the DVLA could run some checks. It was at this point, we double checked the status of all our passports and noticed that our other son’s passport was due to expire in June. Don’t forget that you need at least 6 months left on your passport to travel to certain countries. It’s a good idea to be ahead of the game and check your passport now, before people suddenly starting booking trips again and passports need urgently renewing in large numbers. There could well be a backlog which could inevitably mean delays. 5. Check your booking terms and conditions It goes without saying that now is a time when it’s more advisable than ever to read the small print. What exactly are the terms and conditions of your booking?  What is the policy when it comes to refunds? Seek clarification before you book if there’s anything you are not sure about. 6. Check where you stand with your employer If you are employed, it might be wise to check with your employer what would happen if you were unable to travel back or if you had to quarantine on your return. 7. Use a credit card when booking Credit card purchases can provide you with added protection should a trip be cancelled or if a company goes into administration. 8. Check your health insurance Check your health insurance. If you are a UK citizen travelling to Europe, and have a UK European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) it will be valid until the expiry date on the card. Once it expires, you’ll need to apply for a GHIC to replace it. It is free to apply for a GHIC via the NHS website. (There are sites out there that charge a fee to help with your application but they are really not necessary.) 9. Check your travel insurance It’s imperative that you have adequate travel insurance. See our COVID-19 coronavirus travel insurance post for details of some insurance providers offering cover, but again read the small print so that you are clear on exactly what is and isn’t covered. Policies and extent of cover will vary enormously. Make sure you find a policy that you hare happy with and provides you with the cover you need. Note that GHIC and EHIC do not replace travel insurance. 10. Be aware of safety requirements at your destination Think about the safety requirements for where you’re travelling to as these can vary from one country to another.  In your country, there might be a stipulation that you keep at least one metre distance from other people, but in another country it might be two metres, so be aware of any such differences.  In some countries, you might only need to wear a mask indoors where in others you may need to wear one whenever you venture out.  And in some countries, there may even be regional variations. Make sure you are aware of the requirements and stay safe. Any other suggestions?  I’m sure this isn’t an exhaustive list but hopefully I’ve given plenty of food for thought. Please use the comments below to share your feedback or to offer some of your own suggestions. Thank you and safe travels!

Paul Johnson

Paul Johnson is Editor of A Luxury Travel Blog and has worked in the travel industry for more than 30 years. He is Winner of the Innovations in Travel ‘Best Travel Influencer’ Award from WIRED magazine. In addition to other awards, the blog has also been voted “one of the world’s best travel blogs” and “best for luxury” by The Daily Telegraph.

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  1. Recently a number of U.K. citizens have been caught out by cancelled flights and then having to go straight into quarantine on their return. I’ve read that some travellers had parked their cars in short stay car parks which has proved to be very expensive. In these unusual times, it is probably best to think carefully about your journey to and from the airport.

    1. A very good point, Gerald, which I didn’t mention. I could imagine there are other similar possible eventualities to consider. For example, if you have a dog that goes into kennels… again you could end up incurring a larger bill than you had initially anticipated.

  2. Thanks for these reminders. It’s been so long since I travelled that I’m sure I’ll have forgotten how to go on holiday.

  3. TBH I didn’t miss flying at all for 2020 as I had so many early morning flights and late returns for work that I really didn’t miss airports at all. My family were upset that they didn’t get any long haul holidays last year but to begin with I enjoyed the break. Now, after a year of Zoom calls I’m raring to go again. More for a holiday than business though.

    1. Thanks for dropping by and sharing your mixed feelings, Attesh. There have been a number of benefits from not flying, that’s for sure… the benefit to the climate is the most obvious, but also things like encouraging us to explore what’s on our doorstep more. All too often we find ourselves flying halfway around the world to discover hidden gems when there are many in our backyard. On the other side of the coin, it’s been pretty desparate for much of the travel industry, for the economy and for jobs, so I think we are very much in need for a re-start as soon as it is deemed safe to do so. Happy travels!

  4. Nice informative piece but I can see you having to rewrite this every two to three weeks. The travel landscape is likely to keep changing. Countries coming and going from the red list? Vaccination passports? Changes to testing regimens before flights? It’s all going to be worryingly fluid.

    1. Of course, you are right, Steve… but I’m hoping much of this is covered by “Check the travel and entry requirements”. Things will change – and no doubt at an alarming pace at times – so I’ve never tried to make this a post that covers all eventualities and that constantly needs updating, but rather a general overview of some things to look out for.

  5. Excellent reminders. It’s probably best to delay any travel (whether business or leisure) until at least some of the restrictions are eased out. Although if they can’t be avoided altogether, it’s best to be informed of every country’s unique guidelines as I can imagine the whole travel industry will never really be ‘the same’ again.

  6. Shouldn’t the canny traveller have been checking all of these things anyway?

    Covid has brought all of these issues to a head. Thinking back events such as hurricanes, coups and other other infections could have caused travellers many problems.

    1. Yes, Michael… definitely! But COVID has very much brought many of these issues to the fore, I feel. And, with so many of us not travelling for so long, it’s perhaps all too easy to forget some of the most basic precautions we should all be taking.

      Plus there are a few added considerations (eg. travelling with a mask, potential quarantine on return, etc.) that we didn’t really have to think about until the events of the last 12 months.

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