How to plan a family holiday in the COVID-19 era

It’s super exciting news that holidays this year are back on! Many of us are desperate to get away but understandably there are concerns and questions about how the holiday experience will differ from what we are used to.

Decisions around where you go and what type of accommodation you stay at will be influenced by new considerations. And once you’ve picked where you are off to it will be important to be prepared for some restrictions and adaptations throughout your journey and at your destination. 

Holiday destinations are ready to welcome you back with open arms and rest assured that they will be doing all they can to ensure you have the most enjoyable time. There’s no doubt that you will still be able to have the fantastic family holiday you’ve been longing for; it might just look a little different to how it did before. In this blog, we aim to provide an insight to what you can expect along the way and some of the important guidance you will need to be aware of.

Please note: We are updating this guide frequently, but things continue to evolve and can change quickly, so always check the Foreign & Commonwealth Office for the latest information.

This page was last updated on 27th July 2020, to our knowledge the information was correct at time of publication.

In this guide

The importance of planning ahead

Be informed and prepared

There’s no getting away from it, travelling during the COVID-19 era is going to be slightly different to how it was before. But there shouldn’t be anything that will stop you and your family having a fantastic holiday.

The best advice is to ensure you are fully prepared and informed on what to expect and what is required, that way you can avoid unforeseen surprises that may unsettle you or disrupt your trip. And if you are prepared, in control and therefore unphased by some of the necessary precautionary measures then the whole family can concentrate on enjoying your time together.

What type of accommodation will suit you best?

Have a think about what type of holiday accommodation will suit your family best and allow you to have the most relaxing trip. 

Private villas will appeal to those who don’t wish to share any facilities with other guests and prefer more independence. You will have the flexibility of self-catering and plenty of space indoors and out to enjoy yourselves. If you are considering a resort stay, you can rest assured that resort owners have gone above and beyond to adapt their experience to ensure the safety, wellbeing and enjoyment for guests. After months of being stuck at home cooking endless family meals and providing non-stop entertainment, having plentiful facilities and fabulous dining options will be a welcome treat. All of the resort options on our website have a minimum of two bedrooms plus dedicated outdoor space so you will have plenty of private space to relax in too.

What to pack

You may wish to add a few extra items to your packing list to make sure you are suitably prepared on holiday and while travelling. It’s a good idea to bring your own supply of cleaning items including handy travel size bottles of hand sanitiser and handbag size packs of disinfectant wipes. You will most likely need face masks and getting these sorted in advance will mean you can find some that are the most comfortable for you and you have plenty of spares. Packing your thermometer is also a good idea. Take a look at our Complete Baby & Toddler Packing List which is great for remembering all the usual holiday must-haves.


Check your passports

At the moment, passport renewals are taking longer than the usual three weeks, so get organised in advance and don’t leave it to the last minute.

Going with another family or extended family

As part of the easing of lockdown restrictions in England you are now able to stay overnight with one other household, this includes in shared accommodation on holiday. The guidance for Scotland is up to three different households, but a limit of 8 people. Wales advice allows you to form an ‘extended household’ with only one other household and in Northern Ireland up to 6 people can share indoor accommodation.

The government advises holidaymakers to maintain social distancing and take extra care to maintain excellent hygiene – washing hands and surfaces – when using shared facilities like bathrooms.

Will we need to quarantine?

It is advisable to check if there are any quarantine requirements in the country you are travelling to. Currently there are no quarantine requirements for British holidaymakers in any of the Tots destinations.

You will also need to consider if your family will need to quarantine when you come home. As it stands the 14-day quarantine still applies for travellers returning from Portugal and on the 26th July the FCO brought back in quarantine requirements for travellers from Spain. With the government’s new traffic light system, quarantine will only apply to for countries rated as red.

The latest information is available here

What about travel insurance?

As always, it is important to make sure you have appropriate travel insurance in place before you book a holiday. However, getting cover for Coronavirus-related travel disruption may not be an option. Policies bought before mid-March may still cover you for Coronavirus-related claims but you should always double check the specific details with your insurer. 

It is unlikely that any new travel insurance policies will cover you for Coronavirus-related disruption and travelling against Foreign and Commonwealth Office advice will certainly invalidate any policies that do. There are some providers that will cover you for Coronavirus medical treatment, but not for travel disruption or cancellation.

Can we still use European Health Insurance Cards (EHIC)?

The EHIC card is available free of charge to all UK residents and covers you for medical treatments while visiting EU countries. Any treatment provided is on the same terms as people who are resident of that particular country, at a reduced rate or even free of charge. So, if there is free healthcare available in the country you are visiting the EHIC card will entitle you to free treatment. Children will need their own card, so should be declared as dependents when adults apply.

Whilst the UK is in a transition period under Brexit, UK registered EHIC cards are valid until 31st December 2020. For up to date guidance to apply for an EHIC card visit the EHIC website.

What is it like to fly during COVID-19?

Flying is going to feel a little different for a while as airlines and airports bring in additional protective measures to keep you safe and reduce the spread of Coronavirus.  In the same way that we are getting used to these adaptations creating a new normal on the high street and in other public spaces, the experience at airports and on-board aircraft will soon be something that we become accustomed to.

Making sure you are fully informed and prepared for any restrictions and country-specific requirements is the best way to ensure your journey is as stress-free as possible.

Individual airlines and airports have their own policies and requirements so make sure you look up their websites to get all the details before you travel. We’ve gathered together some general information on what to expect at the various stages of your journey.

At the airport:

  • You should allow extra time for your journey through the airport to allow for new social distancing systems and procedures.
  • You must not travel or go to the airport if you have COVID-19 symptoms. Temperature checks may be in operation and if you do not pass these, you will be asked to return home.
  • Online check-ins and contactless interactions will be in place with many airlines encouraging use of their own apps for check-in and other services.
  • The highest standard of cleaning regimes are being adopting by airports and plenty of sanitisation stations will be available.
  • Where possible, airports have changed seating arrangements in terminals to allow social distancing and introduced one way flows and restrictions on using lifts.
  • What is involved in the security processes won’t change, but you will need to allow additional time to get through security to allow for the necessary spacing and cleaning measures. Remember that the limit for liquids is 100ml which includes anti-bacterial hand gel. Of course, allowances for baby milk and food will still be made.
  • You will be required to wear a face mask throughout the airport. This is mandatory in all or some areas so do check your departure airport. Exemptions are in place for children under the age of 11 and other travellers with specific conditions or disabilities, find out more here. While face masks will be available at airports, it is advisable to bring your own including spares. You should also check the requirements at your destination airport.
  • Some airport shops and restaurants may be closed or restricted so plan accordingly and bring what you can yourself.
  • Children’s play areas at airports will likely be closed.
Airports have detailed information and guidance on their website. Use these quick links to view information published by the main UK airports:

London Heathrow
London Gatwick
London Stansted
London Luton
East Midlands
Belfast International

On the flight:

  • Be prepared for some changes to processes and services on the flight. While each airline will have their own requirements there may be restricted or no food service, changed hand luggage policies and controlled access to the toilets. Check with your airline for details.
  • You will need to wear a face covering on the plane. It is important to check your airline’s policy for children wearing facemasks – for some they are required for children aged 6 and over. Those with a valid medical reason do not need to wear a mask. While face masks will be available at airports, it is advisable to bring your own including plenty spares.
  • Airlines have brought in enhanced cleaning protocols with frequent disinfection processes. Disinfection treatments used provide surface protection from viruses for at least 24 hours.

Aircraft are fitted with state-of-the-art air filtration systems which replace the cabin air every few minutes removing 99.9% of germs and viruses from the air.

<<< Watch this video to see how air filtration systems work

  • Although airlines will be carrying out more frequent cleaning, you may wish to wipe down the seat area for you and your children for added peace of mind. Pay particular attention to your seat buckle, tray table, arm rests and screen.
  • Plan ahead for what additional items you may wish to bring on board. For example, cleaning items and food and drinks (within the 100ml restrictions) and entertainment for little ones. Remember that some airport shops might not be open so to be sure it is best to bring these from home.

Click below for up to date information provided by airlines flying to Tots Destinations

On arrival:

  • Upon landing, there may be additional exit checks at your destination and screening could be in operation. Please remember if you are presenting signs of COVID-19, local public health authorities at your arrival airport may refuse onward travel.
  • Many countries are now requiring you to complete specific forms to present on arrival. These generally require you to provide contact details and information on where you will be staying as well as a self-declaration that you do not have COVID-19 symptoms and have not knowingly come in to contact with COVID-19 prior to travel. It is very important to check entry requirements guidance for the country your are travelling to for relevant information and bring any completed forms with you as required.
  • Face coverings will likely be required throughout the arrival airport.

Arriving home:

  • Make sure you are fully informed on the latest advice for quarantining requirements by checking government advice
  • Face coverings will be required on airport buses, in the arrival hall and at baggage reclaim.

What to expect once you are at your destination

No matter what type of accommodation you book, you can expect some adaptations to the experience.  We have listed out some examples in our What to Expect blog, these include measures such as reduced capacities, extending opening hours and contactless check-ins.

You should make sure you are informed of country specific restrictions and requirements for social distancing and safety precautions as these vary by country. Take a look at the information provided on the government website for the country you are travelling to:


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Tanya Johnson
Tanya Johnson

Tanya Johnson is the Marketing Manager at Tots to Travel, mum of one, big fan of family adventures, the great outdoors, sport and fitness.

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