Holiday FAQs: Everything you need to know before travelling this summer

Holidays are coming, in the words of Coca-Cola – though hopefully these ones will come with a little more sun and a little less Santa.

But although travel restrictions have eased in many places, there are still multiple issues to address before you head off this summer, from testing requirements to potential flight cancellations. Here’s our handy guide to the most common travel FAQs.

Do I need to be vaccinated to travel abroad?

That will depend on where you’re heading to. Plenty of destinations have dropped all travel restrictions, including the need to show proof of vaccination and/or a negative test. The exception is Asia, where a number of countries are still not open to international travellers.

Click here for our guide to the destinations that have scrapped all travel restrictions.

Do I need to test to travel abroad?

Again, this varies between destinations. In many cases, you only need to show a negative Covid test if you’re not fully vaccinated (though the definition of “fully” also varies, with some countries only counting adults as such if they have received a booster jab. Check the Foreign Office (FCDO) advice for your destination before you go).

Check out our guide to the places that still require a negative test.

Any paperwork to fill in?

Many countries that have scrapped testing and proof of vaccination requirements for visitors have also done away with passenger locator forms, the UK included.

It’s worth checking the FCDO advice beforehand; here are guides to some of the most popular destinations’ travel rules below:

Will I need to wear a mask?

Protocol around mask-wearing has eased in many countries, but varies between destinations. In some cases, mandatory face covering rules may have been dropped in most places but are still enforced on public transport. Check the FCDO advice for your destination, but it’s also worth having a stash of masks with you just in case: specifically FFP2 masks, which some countries (including Italy) specifically require.

How long do I need left on my passport?

This will depend on your destination. Since Brexit, British passport holders entering EU countries are bound by different rules: your passport must be no more than 10 years old (look at the date of issue) from the time of entry and have at least three months left (expiry date) at the point at which you leave the EU.

Click here for The Independent‘s guide to the new EU passport rules.

Click here to see how long you need left on your passport to enter various countries around the world.

Should I renew my passport just in case?

At the moment, passport renewals are taking far longer than normal due to a backlog of applications that built up during the pandemic. The passport office is advising travellers to allow 10 weeks to receive their passport, with a number of Independent readers reporting the process has taken three months (or more).

It might be worth waiting to renew your passport until strictly necessary – or, if you need it renewed urgently, paying more for a fast-track one-day or one-week appointment.

Click here for our guide on how to renew or get a first passport.

How long can I stay in the EU?

Again, the rules have changed for Brits thanks to Brexit. There is now a time limit on how long and how often you can visit EU countries, visa free. The FCDO advises: “You can travel to countries in the Schengen area for up to 90 days in any 180-day period without a visa.

“To stay longer, to work or study, for business or for other reasons, you will need to meet the Greek government’s entry requirements.”

You must also have your passport stamped on arrival and on exit from the country. Make sure this takes place at passport control to avoid any confusion over how long you have been there.

How early should I arrive at the airport?

Airport “chaos” has hit headlines this summer, with pictures of UK airports blighted by hours-long security and baggage queues. Although passengers are being told to arrive in good time, arriving too early isn’t advised – it actually creates more of an issue, with bottlenecks forming and travellers with earlier flights getting snarled up in even longer queues.

Check your airport and airline’s advice about when to arrive: Heathrow currently advises all travellers to arrive three hours ahead; Gatwick says at least two hours; and Manchester three hours. Check, too, what time check-in opens if you need to drop off a bag (often four hours beforehand for long-haul and three hours for short-haul). Leave longer if you have to do bag drop and check-in at the airport than if you’re pre-checked in and travelling hand luggage-only.

Should I check-in a bag?

Luggage has also taken a hit this summer, with a shortage of baggage handlers leading to mislaid and delayed bags at some UK airports. There’s no way of knowing whether your case might be caught up in the problems – but if you can slim down your packing, the safest bet might be to go hand luggage only.

What if my flight is cancelled?

Staff shortages have seen airlines including easyJet and British Airways have to cut back their flight schedules, with some on-the-day cancellations. Heathrow has introduced a cap of 100,000 daily passengers until 11 September, instructing to carriers to stop selling extra tickets to avoid the airport getting overwhelmed.

That said, the vast majority of flights are going ahead as planned – unless you hear otherwise from your airline, assume you’ll be taking off. However, if you are in the unlucky minority, you are entitled to be flown to your destination as soon as possible, even if that means going with a rival carrier, and may be entitled to cash compensation depending on the circumstances of the cancellation.

Check out our full guide to your passenger rights if your flight gets cancelled.

What should I pack?

This one’s easily answered: check out The Independent‘s ultimate packing guide for inspiration.

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