All the latest inspiration and guidance for help you plan your next family hoilday

This article was updated on 30/11/2021

Following the emergence of the Omicron variant in the UK, new testing requirements have been put in place for international arrivals. All international arrivals must take a  day 2 PCR test (to be taken any time after arrival in the UK
and before the end of day 2 at the latest) and isolate until they receive a negative result.

On 4 October, 2021, a new simplified travel system replaced the UK’s previous traffic light system for international travel.

To help you if you’re considering a family holiday overseas, here we look at how the new system works, which destinations are on the red list for travel, and what else you need to think about when booking a family holiday abroad at the moment.



What is the new system for travel in the UK?

The new simplified travel system categorises countries and territories as either “red” or “the rest of the world”.

It means that eligible fully-vaccinated passengers and eligible under 18s returning from countries and territories that are not on the red list can do so without the need to complete a 10-day self-isolation period. Fully-vaccinated passengers will no longer need to complete a pre-departure test or a day 8 test, either.

However, from 4am on 30 November, all international arrivals will have to take a day 2 PCR test and self-isolate until they receive a negative result.

If you are fully vaccinated, before you travel to the UK, you must:

  • Book and pay for a day 2 Covid-19 test - this must be a PCR test and can be taken any time after you arrive and before the end of day two at the latest, with the day you arrive being day 0
  • Complete a passenger locator form in the 48 hours before you arrive into the UK (you’ll need to enter your Covid-19 test booking reference number on this form).

You must have proof of full vaccination with a full course of an approved vaccine.

You can prove your vaccination status using:

  • The NHS COVID Pass for England and Wales
  • The NHS Scotland COVID Status app
  • COVIDCert NI in Northern Ireland


What about children?

Children aged four and under do not have to take any Covid-19 travel tests after arrival into England, while those aged five to 17 must take a test on arrival in England (before the end of day 2, with the arrival day being 0) but do not have to
take a test before travel to England. From 4am on 30 November, the test taken by children aged five to 17 must be a PCR test.

The rules for travelling with children may vary between England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, so always check the relevant rules.

In Scotland, as an example, children aged under 11 do not need to take a day 2 Covid-19 test.



What are the rules for unvaccinated passengers returning from non-red list countries?

Unvaccinated passengers, or passengers who aren’t recognised as being fully-vaccinated with authorised vaccines and certificates (see more here), will have to:

  • Take a pre-departure test in the three days before travel to the UK
  • Take tests on day 2 and day 8 after arrival in the UK
  • Complete a passenger locator form in the 48 hours before arrival into the UK
  • Self-isolate for 10 days at home or the place you are staying after arrival.

If the results of the day 2 or day 8 test is positive, you will need to self-isolate for a full 10 days with the day you took the test counting as day 0.

Unvaccinated passengers will also have the option to use the Test to Release scheme to shorten their period of isolation

The lists and rules may vary between England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, so always check the relevant list and rules.



Which countries are on the red list?

There are currently 10 countries or territories on England’s red list.

These are:

  • South Africa
  • Botswana
  • Lesotho
  • Eswatini
  • Zimbabwe
  • Namibia
  • Malawi
  • Mozambique
  • Zambia
  • Angola.

Keep up-to-date with England’s current red list on the government’s site here.

You can see the list for Wales here, Scotland’s here and Northern Ireland’s here.



What are the rules for red list countries?

The government says that “If you live in England, you should not travel to countries or territories on the red list.” If you have been in a red list country or territory, and you are a British or Irish National, or have residence rights in the UK, before you return to England, you must:

  • Take a pre-departure Covid-19 test – you must take this in the three days before you travel to the UK
  • Book a quarantine hotel package, including two Covid-19 tests. You must quarantine in a managed quarantine hotel for 10 full days on arrival
  • Complete a passenger locator form.

You must do this even if you are fully vaccinated.

The red list rules for children arriving into England are:

  • Children aged 11 to 17 must take a Covid-19 test in the three days before travel to England
  • On arrival in England, children aged five to 17 must quarantine in a managed hotel for 10 full days and take two Covid-19 tests
  • Children aged four and under do not have to take travel tests but must enter managed quarantine.


What else should I consider before booking a family holiday abroad?

Before booking a family holiday abroad, we recommend that you:

  • Check whether your destination is on the red list.
  • Check what the entry requirements are for the destination you are considering as, even if a destination isn’t on the UK's red list, it may not allow UK residents to enter or may have testing and quarantine requirements in place for travellers from the UK. You may also be required to show proof of vaccination to enter.
  • Check what the advice from the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) is for the destination that you are considering. If the FCDO is advising against all but essential travel, standard travel insurance policies are likely to be invalid.
  • Make sure that the travel company you are booking with has a flexible booking policy in case your trip is disrupted by Covid-19. At tripAbrood, we only work with accommodation providers who have flexible cancellation or refund policies in place. You can read about our ‘Book with Confidence’ promise here.
  • Buy travel insurance as soon as you’ve booked your family holiday, paying attention to the protection the policy offers around disruption caused by Covid-19.