On 22 February, Prime Minister Boris Johnson finally revealed the UK’s route out of lockdown – and the proposed reopening of hotels, self-catering accommodation and international travel were announced. This is good news for anyone thinking about their summer holiday – it means planning your getaway for 2021 is a little easier.
MORE: 24 UK hotels you need to visit for a post-lockdown weekend getaway
We shouldn’t all get booking immediately, though – there are still many restrictions in place and, for international travel, expensive testing and quarantine regimes to follow. If you’re desperate to book your summer holiday, here’s what you need to know.
What are the key dates for travel?
12 April: Holidays in the UK can be taken, but only in self-catering accommodation with your own household. A review of international holidays will be conducted by the Transport Secretary with a view to lifting travel bans in May.
WATCH: Travel abroad from the comfort of your own home
17 May: Hotels, B&Bs, campsites, indoor hospitality and attractions reopen. Holidays in the UK now in full swing; you can socialise with up to six people indoors. International travel may resume pending the government’s review in April.
21 June: All restrictions on socialising to be dropped, meaning you can take holidays with whomever you like – even in larger groups.
Read the government’s announcement for more details. (These dates are for England only. Wales hopes to open for tourism before Easter and Scotland will be making more announcements in April.)
Can I book a summer holiday in 2021?
The short answer is: yes, but with plenty of caution. While there is still an international travel ban, and there will be for the foreseeable until the government’s review, it’s not illegal to book your summer holiday. However, you need to be cautious about where you book and how you do it. Really, the question should be: is it safe to book a summer holiday in 2021? The answer to that is a little more complicated.
Current travel restrictions are unlikely to lift until 17 May, and even then, we don’t know which destinations might have travel corridors (or even if travel corridors will make a comeback after they were scrapped in January). Right now, a ‘red list’ of destinations currently requires you to quarantine at a hotel on return from a Covid hotspot, and any destination could be added to this at any time. Right now, it includes holiday favourites Portugal, Mauritius and South Africa.
READ: 7 incredible UK vineyards every wine lover should staycation at this spring
MORE: Finally planning a holiday? Here are 85 things you need to pack: the ultimate guide
There’s also the issue of your desired destination’s border rules and entry requirements. Lots of countries have restricted travel from the UK, including, right now, France and Spain. These could change, but booking a holiday before they do might be a little risky – you could end up losing out on money if you can’t travel.
International travel may require vaccination passports
Finally, you might also find that vaccination passports become necessary to enter some destinations. The International Air Transport Association announced in February that it would be releasing a vaccine passport app soon, which will allow travellers who have been vaccinated to show proof of their jab.
How can I book my 2021 summer holiday safely?
The safest way to book your summer holiday abroad this year is as a package through a travel agent. This way, you’ll get ATOL protection (which means you get your money back should the holiday not go ahead for reasons beyond your control), and you’ll have a genuine travel expert at your disposal to advise you should anything go wrong, such as cancellations or more travel bans from the UK government.
Alternatively, look for companies offering money-back guarantees or flexible rebooking options. IHG hotels, for example, have a no-commitment booking policy with no deposit and free cancellation up to three days before travel. Sandals Resorts, one of the UK’s leading operators, also has a flexible policy. Karl Thompson, the Managing Director of their Caribbean arm, told us:
SEE: 5 best hikes in the UK to inspire your post-lockdown staycation
“Customers who book through Sandals and Beaches Resorts’ UK tour operator, UCHL, are protected by the Package Travel Regulations, ATOL and ABTA. We have been offering customers who have been affected by the pandemic and are unable to travel free amends or cancellations since the start and we will continue to offer flexible options for our customers.”
Booking your holiday through a travel agent will provide you with ATOL protection
If you’re not planning on going abroad, though, booking direct with your hotel or accommodation provider and opting for a rate that offers the most flexibility is the best option.
Will summer holidays in 2021 be safe?
Staying safe on your summer holiday is paramount – no one wants to get sick during what’s supposed to be a relaxing trip. Whether or not your holiday is safe, though, really depends on where you go and how you travel.
If you’re concerned about mixing with too many people, consider a self-catering break rather than going to a hotel. If a hotel is what you’re after, though, book a property that has a clear and well thought out Covid policy and social distancing measures in place.
READ: 14 best summer holidays to go on with babies and toddlers
There’s a certain amount of personal responsibility involved with staying safe on holiday this year, too. Keep your mask with you at all times so you can pop it on when necessary, and sanitise your hands regularly.
Where should I go for my summer holiday in 2021?
The UK offers plenty of staycations for those looking for holiday closer to home
If you want a taste of island life and Caribbean-worthy beaches without going abroad, we recommend the Isles of Scilly – the destination of choice for Prince William and his family last summer. If you’re concerned about safety, consider booking a self-catering stay in the likes of Northumberland National Park, where you can enjoy long walks, country pubs and plenty of space.
The Pembrokeshire coast is littered with soft-sand beaches and has a great coastal path for inland national park for exploring on foot, while the Roseland Heritage AONB in Cornwall is generally quieter than the county’s north coast (we love the Fowey Hall Hotel & Spa or Talland Bay).
It’s a little harder for us to advise on which international destinations are safe to book right now, but the Caribbean could well be a good bet – numbers in this region have been pretty low for the most part and it’s easy to dine and socialise outdoors.
More updates on the top summer holiday destinations will come as and when the travel review has been conducted in April.
RELATED: The Queen's clever COVID-friendly travel gadget revealed
HELLO!'s selection is editorial and independently chosen – we only feature items our editors love and approve of. HELLO! may collect a share of sales or other compensation from the links on this page. To find out more visit our FAQ page.