Now we’re officially (mostly) out of lockdown, many of us are desperate for a holiday. And staycations have never been so popular.
How can you make sure you have a safe staycation?
So your sun-drenched holiday overseas this year is looking a bit dicey, and you’re planning a staycation instead? Maybe you’re a bit nervous of flying, crossing borders, possibly even being quarantined on the way back. Or braced for a second wave, and keen not to get stuck abroad.
Regardless of the reasons, the term ‘staycation’ has seen a rise of over 350 per cent in search terms on Google since March. And Brits are saying a very definite ‘yes’ to UK holidays this year.
But do you know what you can and can’t do on your break away?
Holidays in the UK
Let’s look at the positives for holidaying in the UK first. Apart, of course, from the stress of traveling when there’s a potentially fatal virus doing the rounds.
Hi Firstly, you’ll avoid the hassle of international travel. This includes issues like jet lag, the flying process itself (ugh, security and check-in!), and the time spent traveling – you can lose a day each side of your holiday just in the airport and in the air. And yes, you might find yourself in a beautiful place, with a beautiful beach. But there are also beautiful places in the UK.
The UK is beautiful
You don’t need to go far to recharge the batteries; just having a change of scenery can work wonders. But there are astonishing places to visit in the UK – from the West Country to the Isles in Scotland, there’s breath-taking scenery, and plenty to do. And who doesn’t love a road trip? Or a train ride?!
It’s just as much of a break
It’s also much easier to take your bikes, the dog, meet up with friends… and frankly, just switching off your devices and having a digital detox is the best mental holiday you can give yourself, wherever you are. You don’t need to be on a far-flung trek to enjoy that.
Like this article? Read about Paul Tierney going backpacking in his 50s
Plan ahead for the holiday you want
If you’re the kind of person that likes peace and quiet, you’re going to need to think about where you’re going. We’ve all seen those horror photos from the beaches in Dorset and Brighton. If you’re looking to avoid this kind of crush, you need to do a bit of research. There are plenty more places around the UK that are more off the beaten track. But they’re going to take a bit of finding.
If you’re going to Dorset, off the back of the madness; Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole Council have actually launched their own app. It offers live reports on the crowdedness of their beaches, showing them red, amber, or green. You can download the app on Google Play or from Apple.
If you want something quieter, Airbnb could be a good place to start, looking for areas that are a bit less touristy. You can also message the hosts and ask them for the low-down ahead of booking, get some home-grown information. Also try calling local tourist boards in the areas you fancy, for a bit of local knowledge.
Masks and hygiene
As from 24 July, masks are going to be much more in use. If you’re thinking, like many people are, that it’s a bit ‘horse and stable door’, the main reason for introducing this now is because more vulnerable people are starting to come out of isolation as Covid rates drop. So it’s to protect them.
That’s people with cancer, chronic illnesses, asthma, the elderly, and so on. So do bear that in mind; it’s not a random decision.
You will need to wear a mask in shops, in transport hubs like stations (and airports, if you’re flying), and when traveling on public transport.
What to look out for in your hotel or venue
In terms of what you should expect from your destination venue or hotel, there are key things that you should look out for, to have peace of mind.
We can’t outline everything you need to check, because of the variety of different requirements in different locations. A hotel’s precautions, for example, is not going to be the same as a camp site. But there are certain things you can look out for.
Firstly, does it feel safe?
By that we mean is there clear information on the website, is their social media messaging up to date? Has the place taken the time to outline its plans and actions around safety?
If you’re struggling to find information about a place, and it relies on you having to do things like ring up and ask them, be wary. A professional, organised outfit will know that their customers need this information and will be prepared for this, making sure you feel safe and informed. Go with your gut instinct on this.
Is it clean?
At the very least, you will want to be sure everything is clean. How often are the rooms serviced; what measures are taken to keep communal spaces and toilets safe; how are they managing distancing in areas like restaurants, and so on.
How are the staff organized?
Also look for what measures staff are taking to stay clean, how they’re protecting food, how they’re ensuring their own PPE and avoiding cross-contamination. It sounds like a lot to think about, but as mentioned above, much of this ought to be laid out for you to study at leisure – before you visit.
And be prepared for ‘track and trace’ activity. Most places are going to want your contact details – frankly if they’re not asking you, that’s a warning bell.
What about activities?
If you’re planning on swimming, or going bowling or visiting an attraction, etc, there will be rules in place for each of those venues too. If it’s not clear, you should call ahead and check the requirements (and their own safety measures!).
If you want to check what you might expect, you can see more information on this on the Gov website, covering what you can and can’t do.
What else should you think about?
Not everywhere is the same – check your destination for its own specific rules. The laws in Scotland, for example, are different to those in England.
Also, check your travel insurance. Does it cover illness – and if so, is Covid-19 included? What if you have to cancel? In fact, check all your cancellation policies. What if you can’t get to the hotel because one of you is ill, for example, or you can’t use your train tickets? Definitely research this.
Watch out for scams
Track and trace offers opportunity for scammers to harvest your contact details and personal data. So it’s be aware of what you actually have to give up to anyone asking for information.
All you need to give to anywhere is your name, address and a contact number or possibly email address – a point of contact. So be aware that genuine contract tracers will never:
- Ask for your financial information – such as bank details, or card details. There’s no need for that
- Ask you for any kind of PIN or password setup
- Ask you to call a premium number to register for any reason
Mostly, scammers working on track and trace cons will be doing this on the phone or online, not in person. If you’re worried that something doesn’t feel legitimate, you can report it to Action Fraud by calling 0300 123 2040, or visiting their website.
Finally, a few checkpoints before you set off anywhere…
We’re sure we don’t need to say this, but if you’re not well, STAY AT HOME! You could infect hundreds of people, possibly even kill them if you’ve got Covid-19, or flu.
Plan your journey
If you’re going a long way, think about how often you need to stop, and do this in the most responsible way possible. Can you take packed lunch, and pause in your car, rather than go in and out of pubs or petrol stations? Think ahead. Or try not to travel too far.
Pack a survival kit in the car/your suitcase or rucksack
In order to be able to take care of yourself, pack a little kit. Include a couple of masks, decent hand sanitiser, fresh water, hand wipes, plasters, tissues etc. Consider a spare battery pack for your phone, and a bit of cash. Hey, go crazy and chuck in a bar of chocolate. You never know!
Plan for your destination
Many hotels have different check-in procedures now. Restaurants have limited bookings and spaces. Things take longer to execute, so plan your timings accordingly. The days of flying into the hotel, checking in and flying out again to do something else are gone (at the moment). Allow for this.
Keep your distance
Just because you’re on holiday doesn’t mean you’re suddenly safe. Keep on top of your distancing. Wear your mask. Don’t drink too many Tequila Sunrises and try to hug everyone. Try and keep your groups small, and contained. Be respectful of staff and other guests. And remember – KEEP WASHING YOUR HANDS!
For more information about safe holidaying around the UK, and what you can or can’t do check out the VisitBritain site.