With infection rates falling and the vaccination programme continuing apace, we are starting to see the first signs of life returning to some sort of normal.
From April 12, as we move a step closer to freedom, non-essential shops, hairdressers and salons will be able to throw open their doors, and pubs and restaurants will be permitted to serve customers outside in England.
But while these are all steps in the right direction, with Covid-19 restrictions being eased over four steps spread across at least four months – there are still a lot of decisions which still need to be made, and a lot of unknowns remain.
Right now, one of the most pressing questions for many of us is this: can I book a much-needed break?
While we can’t give you a definitive answer at this stage as to what holidays will look like for the next few months, here are some of the things we do know.
Self-catering holidays in England may be possible from April 12
If the government sticks to its roadmap plans, single households will be able to book into self-catering accommodation in England from April 12. This includes Airbnb rentals, cottages, lodges, mobile homes – and also campsites.
Venues such as zoos and theme parks can also open at this time.
Hotel and B&B stays in England may be possible from May 17
Around a month later, from May 17, you may be able to stay in a hotel, B&B or hostel in England.
On the same date, up to six people from two different households should also be able to share a holiday home or cottage.
Once again, dates are likely to vary a little for other parts of the UK.
What about international travel?
The government is due to report back on a review into ways to resume international travel on April 12.
According to the roadmap, the earliest date that travel outside the UK may be permitted is May 17.
International travel likely to get the green light to restart from June 21
While there’s a possibility that international travel may restart from May 17, many hold the view that a more realistic date is June 21.
Crucially, though, from this time, summer holidays abroad are not guaranteed. Any decision depends on the easing of earlier restrictions having gone to plan.
Back on home soil, June 21 is also the date when all travel restrictions are set to be removed for holidays in England, meaning that, for example, any number of people can go on holiday together.
Should I book a holiday?
For many of us, the big conundrum is this: should I book a break but run the risk of it getting cancelled, or wait and see what gets announced, but run the risk of things being very booked up – and prices going through the roof.
No-one has a crystal ball, but a sensible approach may be to err on the side of caution when thinking about booking a holiday abroad in the early summer, but with a view that a late summer break could well be on the cards.
If you do decide to bite the bullet – and book either here or overseas – for any time over the next few months, be sure to check that the company you are booking with has a clear cancellation and refund policy, and flexible options for changing the date.
Scour the small print, and if in doubt, ask what will happen if restrictions are brought in again and you aren’t able to go.
By taking care and being diligent when booking, if things do end up getting cancelled, you should hopefully avoid ending up out of pocket.
What else can I do to protect my money?
Other ways you can protect yourself – and your hard-earned cash – when booking a trip include:
- Booking with an established tour operator or travel agent
- Checking that your tour operator is Atol-protected, as this will offer peace of mind
- Paying for your trip with a credit card – to benefit from the safety net offered by Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act
- Reading the tips and advice from travel association, Abta here
Make sure you get the right cover in place
Given there is still a lot of uncertainty ahead, having comprehensive travel insurance in place is more important than ever.
The good news is, many insurers are now offering cover for Covid – and the majority of policies available via MoneySuperMarket’s panel offer emergency medical treatment and repatriation for coronavirus claims.
The majority also cover for cancellation due to Covid-19, or if you are forced to quarantine while on holiday, meaning you would be covered for additional accommodation and travel costs.
These policies are clearly ticked on our results page for ‘Enhanced Covid-19 cover.’
Note, though, that policies can vary, so make sure you always read the small print.
Don’t forget travel insurance for domestic holidays
If you’re holidaying at home in 2021, it’s important not to be complacent about taking out travel cover.
Making sure your UK break is fully protected is just as important as getting protection for any trips you plan further afield.
A comprehensive policy will give you the peace of mind of knowing you and your family are covered for a range of eventualities including cancellation caused by illness, redundancy, or having to isolate due to Covid-19.
As well as cancellation cover, travel insurance offers a number of additional benefits including cover for lost or stolen baggage, valuables or personal documents, and personal liability.
Equally, while having access to the NHS in the UK takes away the need for medical expenses cover for holidays at home, having travel insurance in place would mean you would still benefit from having useful cover in place. This includes, for example, cover for transportation back to your nearest hospital at home should you fall and break your leg or suddenly get taken ill.
To compare travel insurance, head here.
What if I have to travel in the next few weeks?
If you need to travel overseas before restrictions are eased – and are legally permitted to do so for work or education, say – you need to check the rules in place.
It’s important to know what such a trip will mean in terms of Covid testing and quarantine rules at your destination – and also when you return to the UK.
What about the vaccine passport?
The government has said it is looking into the possibility of a vaccine passport.
While such a move could mean we avoid large amounts of paperwork and long queues when borders open, it is something of a thorny issue, with all sorts of moral and ethical implications.
As things stand, no details have been released. The government says it plans to report back on these certificates by June 17. We will keep you updated on any details as soon as we have them.