The world is eagerly awaiting the moment when we can rush to the local airport and fly off somewhere on holiday. We’re hearing about folk who aren’t even waiting for the all-clear before they start snapping-up holiday bargains. Is that a risky strategy, when half of the world is still locked-down? We decided to summarise what we think are the most important points to check before booking a coronavirus travel deal.
Will your country of origin permit you to travel
That’s right, before you book a discounted trip, check you can leave the house! For example, at the time we wrote this, the British Government imposed restrictions on movement that prevented travel outside of our home for longer than a day. We could go out and about, but not stay overnight anywhere.
Passengers could be questioned about the nature of their travel and risk being sent home by the police.
Additionally, the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) imposed a travel advisory to not travel abroad unless essential. This statement alone invalidated most travel insurance policies.
Is the airline or tour operator solvent?
We’ve seen that airlines are making no secret of how near to bankruptcy they are. Despite being sat on billions in cash, the bigger airlines told us they’re burning £100m+ per day. Even the richest don’t seem to have enough cash to last a long-term grounding of their fleets. They’re all desperate to get their aircraft back in the air and are telling us that’ll be soon. Package holiday companies are in the same situation. They too have aircraft to pay for, and also have commitments for accommodation. The travel sector is speculatively selling tickets with optimism attached.
We’ve seen some great deals out there, but buyer beware. Cancelling travel because your airline went bust is terrible, but being stranded abroad without a hotel is even worse. If you’re planning to speculatively book a trip, check the airline has a strong cash position or has already been bailed-out by a government.
Will your destination country allow you to enter?
Even if your country of departure lets you leave, will the country you’re heading to be happy to receive you? Remember, if your journey requires a transit stop along the way, you’ll need to check the restrictions for layover country too.
Notable “closed” countries
- Hong Kong
- New Zealand
- South Africa
Here’s an exhaustive list of travel restrictions for every country.
There may be glimmer of hope within Europe. The EU issued guidance on 13th May that it wants tourism between member states to start reopening. The guidance specifically calls for the restoration of freedom of movement and for countries to lift their internal border controls.
Even if the country is officially allowing visitors to enter, it might be worth checking the mood with the local tourism office and reading the press (most are online these days). You wouldn’t want to arrive at your destination only to receive a tirade of abuse from the locals. Our bet is most tourist spots will be hanging out the flags when the tourist income returns.
Do you need a medical certificate?
Infectious diseases are nothing new and travel has always been affected by it. For example, you have to present a yellow fever immunisation certificate when you travel to certain countries from affected regions.
We’re already seeing strong signals that coronavirus travel documentation will be adopted for travel in the not too distant. Iceland recently stated it will exempt tourists from a mandatory 14-day quarantine rule if they present a recent negative test certificate or subject themselves to a test on arrival.
Are hotels and other hospitality establishments open?
Just because the flights are operating doesn’t necessarily mean the rest of the local tourism industry will be open for business. Check that hotels and restaurants have reopened at your destination. If you’re planning on seeing some sights, check that they’re able to receive visitors. If you’re planning a beach holiday, check the beaches are open.
Also check the price of your desired accommodation before you lock-in your plans. Basic supply and demand dictates low prices = low demand. If your destination is one of the few accepting tourists, you should expect prices to skyrocket when every man, woman and their dog head there.
If you struggle to find affordable accommodation that is open, booking that coronavirus travel deal might feel like a false economy.
Will you need to quarantine or social distance?
While open for business, life may be far from normal when you arrive. Check if quarantine restrictions will be imposed when you arrive. Many countries are mandating 14-day self quarantine, which could royally ruin a 7-night beach holiday. If you’re planning to take advantage of the quarantine rules to stay in a remote villa for 14-days, bear in mind that you cannot leave at all, not even for food! It would also be wise to check that the villa owner is happy with this arrangement.
Even if you’re not asked to quarantine, you will have to contend with social distancing. Decide whether or not this is likely to negatively impact the activities you hope to enjoy as part of your trip. If you won’t get much value from the trip, you might think twice before booking that coronavirus travel deal.
Will the flight be comfortable?
Let’s face it, flying right now is far from fun. Airports are ghost towns, which might sound fun, but hospitality and retail is closed. Airline lounges are also closed. On the plane, you’ll be asked to stay in your seat and will only receive a bare-bones cabin service. Sandwiches in a box and a bottle of water, no matter if you paid for a business or first class ticket. If you have a weak bladder, be mindful that access to washrooms will be managed by the crew, so go easy on that water.
Does your travel insurance cover you for claims relating to COVID-19?
If you have to cancel your trip, or the airline cancels, will your insurer cover you? Many travel insurers have warned policy holders that they won’t cover claims related to COVID-19.
What about medical care if you developed severe COVID-19 symptoms? If you’re on holiday and you fall sick, will your insurer still cover your costs?
Many insurers are varying their terms of cover with the home and foreign government advice. Don’t get caught out, it could be very costly. If you can’t find the relevant information, contact the insurer for clarification.
Can the local medical system cope if you needed it?
Nobody plans to get ill or have an accident on holiday, but it does happen, and often at the most inconvenient time. How is the medical care at your destination? Are hospitals coping well with COVID-19 cases, or are they overwhelmed? If your little one gets hurt playing by the pool, or one of you gets food poisoning, are you happy the local infrastructure will be in a position to help you? Check with your travel insurer that they will cover you for medical incidents aboard during your period of travel. Many are varying their terms of cover with the home and foreign government advice. Again, don’t get caught out. Medical bills soon escalate.
Will you have to quarantine when you return?
Finally, you may have aced the perfect bargain getaway, but unless you’re emigrating, getting back is also necessary. Will the authorities expect you to quarantine at home before you can to go about your normal daily life?
In the UK, everyone arriving from overseas (with the exception of Ireland and France) should quarantine at home for 14 days. This might be less of a problem if you’re working from home, but it would mean no-one in your household could leave home for two weeks. Not even to exercise. For the right trip, it might be a price worth paying.
As long as you’ve considered these points, you can get on with booking that coronavirus travel deal with little regret. If in doubt, follow the advice of your government and travel insurer. These are the folk who’ll be bailing you out if the trip doesn’t go according to plan.
We’ll start posting the 2020 deals when we think they’re a safer bet. For now, we’re focusing our deal searches on 2021.