May 8, 2021

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All you need to know about booking a cheap European getaway this summer


The government gave British holidaymakers a glimmer of hope today after it was revealed that Brits will be able to go on summer holidays abroad.

Unsurprisingly, Brits have been eagerly awaiting to find out if holidays could be on the cards. Even just last week when the government announced it would use a ‘traffic light’ system with countries placed on green, amber or red lists, searches for holidays spiked.

For example, holiday comparison website Kayak saw searches for international flights increase by 73% for travel after May 17, and searches for travel overall up by 70% for travel after June 21.

But with some ongoing uncertainty around global restrictions, and new requirements such as PCR tests to return to the UK, is it possible to book a cheap European getaway right now?

Tourists sunbathing in Praia do Camilo, Portugal
Tourists sunbathing in Praia do Camilo, Portugal

The good news is that there are plenty of deals to be found right now if you are thinking of booking.

Travel firms have been pulling out all the stops to entice holidaymakers back. For example, TUI currently has free kids’ places, including summer 2021 holidays, Jet2 has packages with flights from £39 for the summer, and easyJet holidays offers low deposits from £60pp.

Make sure to opt for a flexible booking policy too – these have become fairly standard since the start of the pandemic. You can check the details before you book, but in most cases companies will let you amend the details of your holiday for free if you can’t travel due to Covid-related reasons, such as government restrictions or if you/your travel companions have to self-isolate.

Try and stick to package holidays too, as these offer an extra layer of protection – if the travel firm has to cancel your holiday, you’ll be entitled to a refund.

Woman running in Marina beach, the Algarve,, Portugal.
Are you hoping to head abroad this summer?

However, it’s worth noting that during Covid-19, it’s not just the holiday package cost itself you need to consider.

When travel does resume from the UK, there will be requirements for when you return; one of the biggest costs will come in the form of the PCR tests you’ll need to take.

For example, if you’re returning from a green list destination, you’ll need a pre-departure test, and one on/before Day 2 of your return.

At the moment, these gold-standard PCR tests tests cost around £120, which quickly adds up when you need at least two, and if you’re a family of four.

It’s also worth noting that you won’t be able to get a free PCR test from the NHS for your holiday.

Officials are looking at ways to make PCR tests cheaper; Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has said that the tests, paid for privately, are “too expensive”.

An alternative could also be to use lateral flow tests as these are cheaper and can be offered for free to citizens by the UK government. So in theory you could pack one in your suitcase to take before your return. (However, it’s worth noting that lateral flow tests have been said to be less reliable in their results).

At the time of writing, nothing has yet been confirmed.

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Some travel firms have already been taking steps in a bid to make testing a cheaper process for their customers. For example, TUI has tests from £70 from its recommended suppliers, while British Airways currently offers antigen test kits from £33.

It could be that some firms are able to secure similar discounts for PCR tests if these will be the norm for the restart of travel.

Other options include Cignpost ExpressTest which offers ‘Fit to Fly’ PCR tests for £80 per person at various UK airports (if you’re travelling from London Gatwick these are £60).

Your chosen destination’s entry requirements may also require proof of a negative Covid-19 PRC test result – you’ll need to check the Foreign Office travel advice for further information.

However, it’s worth noting that with vaccine roll outs, some countries including Malta and Cyprus have said that if you can show proof of vaccination, you won’t be required to have a negative test result to enter.

Would you pay for a PCR test in order to travel abroad? Let us know in the comments below.