With half-term just under two weeks away for many school kids in England, even staycations could be off the table for families this year.
On Monday Boris Johnson announced the government’s new ‘three-tier system’ that will see different parts of the country placed in different categories, which could cause a widespread effect on staycations.
Nicky Kelvin, director of content at The Points Guy, says: “If you are planning a staycation, you will [need to] carefully consider the restrictions in both the place where you are, and the location you will be travelling to. This will range from travelling to and from the lowest tier of restrictions where the rules will be the same as if you were going out for dinner with family or friends (for example, observing social distancing and the rule of six).
“At the other extreme, if you are located in an area subject to the highest tier of restrictions, the advice is against travel outside of your local area, except for specific reasons. Unfortunately, a holiday is not one of them.”
What are the different levels and what does each mean?
Those in Tier One are in an area with the lowest infection rates and can travel freely to other Tier One places in England. The rule of six still applies, meaning you can holiday with people from other households so long as the capacity doesn’t exceed six. However, only members of the same household or support bubble can share private accommodation and if you’re staying in a hotel, you should avoid sharing rooms with people you don’t live with.
The government has advised that people living in Tier Two zones should reduce the number of journeys they make where possible. Those in Tier Two can still holiday outside their local area but must not share accommodation with people they don’t live with or socialise with people they don’t live with indoors.
Currently, the Liverpool region is the only place in England that falls under the Tier Three category. This means those in Tier Three should avoid travelling outside of their local area except for work, school or caring responsibilities. Those in Tier One and Tier Two categories are advised not to visit a Tier Three area and those in Tier Three zones should avoid holidaying or staying overnight in any other areas of the UK.
Where can’t I go in England?
At the moment, only the wider Liverpool region (Liverpool, Wirral, Sefton, Knowsley, St Helens and Halton council areas) fall under Tier Three which means that no one in these areas should be holidaying outside of Liverpool. It also means that those outside Liverpool have been advised not to visit.
It might also be worth avoiding those destinations in the Tier Two list, this includes places in Cheshire, Greater Manchester, Derbyshire, Lancashire, West Yorkshire, South Yorkshire, Durham, Northumberland, Tyne and Wear, Tees Valley, West Midlands, Leicestershire and Nottinghamshire.
What destinations are a ‘safe bet’ for an English staycation?
While those in the Tier One band would be your safest bet, Kelvin says: “It’s impossible to say how the government restrictions will change in the coming weeks, both in terms of domestic restrictions, and those relating to international travel.
“It may mean that a very last minute booking will be the way to play it. It is also important to note that restrictions will likely continue to change, and there is nothing to stop, for example, a new quarantine restriction being brought in whilst away on a half-term break.”
What about visiting Scotland and Wales?
At the moment, you can still travel to Scotland but you’ll need to avoid the areas where there are tougher local restrictions. Last week First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced that people living in the central belt region (Edinburgh to Glasgow) should not travel outside of their area between October 10 and October 25 unless it is absolutely necessary.
At the time, Sturgeon added: “We are not insisting that people cancel any half-term breaks they have planned.”
Pubs in Scotland have also been advised to close at 6pm during this period, but you can stay in hotels and private accommodation. As the English half-term break will likely begin on October 26 for most regions, some of Scotland’s restrictions may have eased by then.
As for Wales, a number of areas are facing tougher local restrictions and travel in and out of these areas is for essential journeys only. Those living in these areas cannot go on holiday anywhere else in Wales or the UK. Those living outside of the restricted areas can visit anywhere else in the UK (as long as the destination doesn’t have any local restrictions).
Should I cancel my holiday?
Kelvin advises: “For those who already have bookings lined up for half-term, it is worth sitting on the booking as long as possible before making a decision. If the booking is fully flexible and cancellable, ensure you know the exact date or time you are able to change or refund before without having to lose money or pay fees, and delay a decision until that point when the immediate situation should be more clear.”
Can I get a refund if my hotel or accommodation is closed?
If you have been forced to cancel your holiday due to a government lockdown order, you should be entitled to a refund. Most hotels have already introduced flexible booking schemes so it’s always best to check what the cancellation policies are like before you book.
Can I get a refund if I have to cancel my holiday due to self-isolating?
According to the Association of British Travel Agents, as this is on you rather than the hotel or accommodation, then you are not automatically entitled to a refund. However, many hotels and accommodations are offering flexible bookings so do ring up and see if you can move your booking to a later date.