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13 secrets of how the royal family travels for a tour

Much more goes into a royal tour than you might think

prince harry meghan markle royal tour tonga
2 April 2020
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As exciting as exploring new destinations and discovering new cultures around the world can be, travel still has its downsides, from standing in line at security to flight delays and jet lag. But is it the same for the royal family? Ahead of Channel 5's Secrets of the Royal Flight on Thursday night, we take a look at some of the travel rules they will have to follow…

Commercial airlines are acceptable

Just like everybody else, the royals are under economic restraints and have to stick to a budget. A big budget, but still a budget! Prince William and Kate have been known to skip chartered royal jets – Duchess Kate took her place in seat 1A on a British Airways flight from Rotterdam to London in 2016 while down-to-earth Wills was spotted on a Ryanair flight to Glasgow a year earlier. Princes William and Harry also flew economy on American Airlines from Memphis to Dallas in May of 2014. You're not likely to bump into Queen Elizabeth on your next airplane trip though – Her Majesty no longer takes scheduled flights.

More recently, Prince William and Kate were seen travelling on a Flybe flight to Aberdeen in August following the controversy surrounding the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s use of Elton John’s private jet to travel to his home in Nice.

queen flight

The Queen on her travels

British Airways is their go-to airline

The British royals like to support their own country and try to fly British Airways when they do fly commercial. In 2011, William and Kate experienced the same frustrations of air travel we all do when their British Airways plane’s in-flight entertainment broke. The Duchess is very accustomed to flying the airline – her father and mother both worked for BA!

Bodyguards are always on hand to take care of the royals when they're on the move 

Security is a given

The royals may not always fly private, but they never fly without their top-notch security team of trained experts. But all in all, they don’t travel with as large an entourage as you would expect. On their trip to LA in 2011, William and Kate had just a seven-person deep entourage, while on their visit to Canada in 2016, the royal couple brought a 12-strong squad along.

GALLERY: Royals on holiday - see Kate, Eugenie and more on their travels

Of course the royals have special monogrammed luggage 

Monogrammed royal luggage

The packing arrangements of the royals are a grand affair. When the royals travel, they travel in style. On William’s trip to Australia, royal watchers were given a glimpse of his luggage which was emblazoned with the letter W and a crown. Kate isn’t quite so formal and apparently has a more eclectic mix of bags and suit carriers — which will carry her abundance of outfits (she had 25 during her tour of California and Canada in 2011). But at least they won’t get mixed up with William’s — the royal couple have an organized luggage tag system with a different color label for each family member.

MORE: The royal family's favourite hotels you can visit too

Prince William and Prince George have often traveled on the same flight – a no-no according to traditional royal protocol 

Two heirs should not fly together

Royal protocol is that two heirs should never fly on the same flight together so that the royal lineage is protected. And, despite there being no official rule in place, heirs must still seek permission from Queen Elizabeth, who has the final say on the matter. In fact, Prince William was granted permission from the Queen to bend the rules when his son was just nine months old; Prince George accompanied his parents on a tour of Australia and New Zealand in 2014. In September 2016, the Cambridges also traveled as a family of four to Canada with Princess Charlotte. And in July 2017, the family toured Poland and Germany, boarding three flights together. That's not always the case, though. On their trip to New York in December 2014, Prince William and Kate adhered to this rule again and Prince George stayed at home with his nanny and grandmother Carole Middleton.

MORE: Royal babies on their first tour abroad - see sweet photos

Even the littlest royals have passports. Only Queen Elizabeth is allowed to travel without one 

All immigration rules apply

Even royalty need passports. Little Prince George had to get a baby passport for his trip to Australia. And the royal party has to adhere to customs and immigration rules but is usually fast-tracked through this process. Queen Elizabeth is the only royal who doesn’t need a passport as passports are issued in the name of Her Majesty — however, she is forced to go through an identity check every time she flies in and out of Britain, giving her full name, age, address, nationality, gender and place of birth to immigration officials.

Will and Kate always look stylish when they travel

No tracksuits for the royal couple!

Even the most glamorous of us like to be comfortable on a long haul flight. We let our style go a little and dress in track pants or at least a comfy pair of jeans, right? Not William and Kate. These royals travel in style and always arrive smart and polished. Kate’s arrival outfit is either a signature two-piece suit or long dress, whereas William rarely arrives not wearing a suit or blazer and slacks.

Kate brings the comforts of home with her, including her personal hair stylist 

Kate’s home comforts

Everyone knows flying can dehydrate your skin, so Kate travels with her favourite skincare line. The royal swears by Heaven products that are famously made with bee venom by skin specialist Deborah Mitchell. Kate has used the bee venom mask in black and gold, which cleans and tightens skin and acts as a natural face-lift. And then, of course, there is the matter of the royal's world-famous locks. For the Duchess' trips, including the Canada jaunt, her personal hairstylist Amanda Cook Tucker is part of the official entourage.

Six-figure budgets

All things considered, what's the price tag on an official trip? Well, it varies. The Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall’s extensive tour of St Lucia, Barbados, St Vincent and the Grenadines, St Kitts and Nevis, Grenada, Cuba and Grand Cayman cost a total of £417,000 in 2018. Meanwhile, Prince Harry and Meghan’s visit to Fiji and Tonga cost a modest £81,000 in comparison.

Royal photographers also go on the road

Veteran photog Arthur Edwards – whose Twitter bio highlights that he has "photographed 7 royal weddings, 4 funerals and 8 royal births", has travelled to New Zealand with Prince Harry and Southeast Asia with Prince William and Kate to name a few of his jaunts. He was even made a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) for "outstanding service to newspapers." Getty Images' royal photographer Chris Jackson – whose wife is Duchess Kate's stylist, Natasha Archer – is another go-to snapper for iconic pics, and has a firm following of fans on his Instagram page.

meghan tour

Meghan on a royal tour in 2018

There must be a black outfit in a royal's suitcase 

Travelling with a black outfit isn’t a fashion choice. It’s actually to ensure that the royals are appropriately dressed if there happens to be a death in the family while they are away. This protocol stems from when the Queen returned to the UK after hearing of her father’s death in 1952 and had to wait for staff to provide mourning attire before she left the plane.

Planes, trains and automobiles are all used

Planes are not the only means of travel for the royals. As well as The British Royal Train, which is dedicated to transporting the royals across the country, the Queen regularly travels via public transport, such as for her Christmas trips to Sandringham. And they can’t avoid long delays any more than the rest of us! Prince Harry and Meghan Markle arrived around an hour late during a trip to Cardiff in early 2018 due to a train delay.

RELATED: Take a look at Meghan Markle's passport holder

Meghan’s travel necessity 

Long-haul flights and beauty don’t tend to go hand-in-hand. But the Duchess of Sussex’s must-have travel essential is the versatile tea tree oil. It can help treat a break-out, mosquito bite, or cuts and can even be used as a hand sanitiser. Plus, the travel-sized bottles are easy to get through security.

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