After two years of pandemic disruption, most of us are pretty out of practice when it comes to overseas travel. And it’s fair to say things have changed.
Certainly as far as the current staffing problems facing airports and airlines are concerned, travelling abroad isn’t easy at the moment. Booking a holiday abroad means running a gauntlet of potential cancellations, long delays at airports and luggage going astray.
In response, the UK government has launched a new campaign to keep travellers up to date with the latest information and advice. The FCDO’s Get Travel Smart initiative aims to help travellers prepare for what might be their first journey overseas in two or three years, including how to navigate and protect themselves against potential disruption this summer.
So what do you need to know to get yourself ‘travel smart’ ahead of your summer holiday? Here’s what the FCDO is advising.
Make sure you cover yourself with travel insurance
At the heart of the campaign, the FCDO has teamed up with ABTA, the UK’s travel industry trade association, to push the message that holidaymakers need to get themselves insured before they go away this year. Worryingly, one poll has found that up to 40% of Brits are planning not to buy travel insurance this year.
The Get Travel Smart campaign is very rightly aiming to change minds by pointing out the risks people are taking if they don’t take out travel insurance. Flight and holiday cancellations are making headlines on a daily basis at the moment. And although you are entitled to refunds or rebookings, there is no guarantee you will get a refund for other costs like travel to and from airports, airport parking, car hire etc. Travel insurance protects the cost of your whole holiday in the event of a cancellation.
Plus, with cases on the rise again, there’s still a very real risk of having to cancel your holiday if you or a member of your party falls ill with or tests positive for COVID-19 before your travel. In that event, your airline or travel agent has no obligation to offer you a refund. Again, travel insurance has your back.
Insurance doesn’t just protect against cancellations, either. With all the issues with baggage handling and other ground staff at airports right now, another very topical issue is lost luggage. Landing at the start of your holiday only to find your luggage hasn’t arrived with you is a nightmare. But with travel insurance, at least you can cover the cost of replacing all the personal belongings you have lost.
Finally, one other big reason to prioritise travel insurance is medical cover. If you fall ill or have an accident abroad, you will most likely have to pay for treatment – and it can be very expensive. With the cost of hospital treatment potentially running to tens of thousands of pounds for common things like a broken arm or even a bad case of heat stroke, it’s just not worth taking the risk. Not when the cost of single trip travel insurance starts at just a few pounds.
Check FCDO travel advice for your destination
The other thing the Get Travel Smart campaign is urging travellers to do is check for updates on the FCDO travel advice pages. The FCDO provides information for more than 200 destinations around the world. This includes official government travel advice if there is any reason why travelling to that place might pose a risk, such as conflict, political unrest or rising cases of COVID-19 (or outbreaks of other diseases).
The FCDO destination pages also provide other general travel advice, including up to date visa and COVID entry rules. They serve as a useful hub for getting the latest information on travel disruption around the world, as the problems facing airports and airlines continue to spread.
One specific reason to keep checking in with the FCDO’s official travel advice is to be sure your travel insurance policy will be valid. Most travel insurers won’t cover you if you travel against official advice. So even if you have already bought a policy and then the FCDO’s advice changes because of, say, rising COVID cases in your destination, your insurance will be void. Some insurers, however, now offer special add-ons that effectively keep your insurance valid even if FCDO advice for a destination warns against travel.