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10 tips for travelling in the time of Covid-19

Cruise Advice

This summer has seen the welcome return of cruising, and once more we are able to report back from ships that our team and our clients have sailed on. You don't need me to tell you that it's been a long time coming!

However, we can't deny that the current travel situation is complicated, and there are still a number of hoops to jump through in terms of tests, forms and paperwork. Having been through the process ourselves now a number of times, we thought it would be helpful to put together ten top tips to help you navigate the various requirements…

1. Get organised

While travel is currently more complicated than it was pre-pandemic, it is actually simpler than you might think - provided that you are more organised than you might have been in the days when we could be more spontaneous.

2. Take your pre-departure test in person and book it early

You may need a 'Fit to Fly' test to show that you are Covid-free. These can be taken in person, or you can do it at home, send it off and wait to get the results by post. We strongly advise that you make your life more relaxed, and take this pre-departure test in person at a walk-in centre. That way you won't be anxiously waiting for the arrival of your home test results; the post, as we all know, can't always be relied on, and we have also heard horror stories of tests piling up at the laboratory.

Timing also matters, because normally the PCR test needs to be taken no earlier than 72 hours before your outbound flight. For that reason we recommend booking your test for the earliest date possible, so that you have a bit of leeway in case your results are delayed.

Covid-19 testing and health screening on SeaDream Yacht Club

3. Print out your test result

Your test result will probably be sent to you by text and email, and will feature a QR code (that square-shaped box that acts like a barcode). We suggest that you print this off and carry it with you. That way you avoid the stress of worrying about whether the battery power on your phone will last, or finding a reliable WiFi network at the airport while you try to retrieve the results.

Even if you don't need a 'Fit to Fly' test for the country you are visiting, we recommend you take one anyway. If it's positive, it will save you flying out to your ship and then being refused boarding. (We used ExpressTest, who guaranteed a response by 10pm on the day after the test).

4. You can take your Day 2 Arrival Test at home

On your return to the UK, you must take another test on or before your second day back, regardless of whether you are arriving from a green or an amber list country. This test needs to be booked before you depart the UK, because you will need to include the reference number on your Passenger Locator Form (see tip 8 below). But if you don't want the inconvenience of travelling to the test centre again, it's perfectly fine to take this test at home and send it off in the post. Unlike your pre-departure test, there is no pressure to get your results back by a certain date.

5. Print out your proof of vaccination

As we have already established, you don't want to be fiddling about with your phone at the airport check-in desk, and since your proof of vaccination is an essential document for travel you may want to have a printed version. You will need to show this at the airport and often prior to boarding your ship, since this is the proof that you have had two doses of the vaccine (if yours was a two-dose vaccine), with the second dose administered at least two weeks prior to travel.

If you register with the NHS App then you can just show this on your phone, but it's easy to print it out. Alternatively, you can get a certificate sent to you from the NHS. The certificate generated by the app is valid for a month, so if you have done this for a previous trip, don't assume it will still be valid.

NHS app showing proof of Covid-19 vaccination status

6. You may have to take a pre-embarkation lateral flow test

Most cruise lines will carry out a pre-embarkation lateral flow test at the port. This is a throat and nostril swab, or nostril only. You will probably get a printout with a QR code and reference number when the swab is taken. There will then be a waiting area with a screen; when your test result comes back, your reference number will show on the screen (usually after about 15 minutes). Armed with your new negative test you can then proceed to boarding.

7. Check who does the disembarkation/return to UK antigen test

You will need this in order to return to the UK. It is a straight forward nostril swab, and needs to take place a maximum of 48 hours before you return home.

This test will normally be arranged on board, but you should check when you get your tickets that the cruise line will do this. The cruise line will email you the results, and probably send you a printout too.

8. Be prepared to fill in the UK Passenger Locator Form

This is an online form that records your travel and contact details for the UK Government in case they need to contact you.

This complicated online form must be completed up to 48 hours prior to your return to the UK, and can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/provide-journey-contact-details-before-travel-uk. If, like us, you hate filling in forms on your phone, we recommend you set up an account in advance, ideally before you leave the UK. This makes filling in the final form much easier.

Even if you have set up an account, you still have to complete the Passenger Locator Form no earlier than 48 hours prior to returning to the UK. Don't forget to keep the password for the account with you. You can then fill in the form while you are away.

The form is irritating in the way that it seems to keep asking you the same question, but just work through it methodically. If you fill it in on a computer, we suggest you download and print the finished item. If you don't want to print it out you can also avoid the stress by saving it to 'Books' on your phone, and that way you won't be dependent on airport WiFi. Check you know how to do this - any young person should be able to help you!

UK passenger locator form

9. Check the arrival requirements for your destination country

Make sure you have checked your arrival country requirements. Just because a destination is on the UK's green or amber list, it doesn't mean the rating is reciprocated. Some countries have their own Passenger Locator Forms, or other rules and requirements.

10. Check, check and check again

Finally, never assume you already know what is required, even if you've already done this once. Regulations can change at short notice. Check through all aspects methodically, downloading and printing where you can. If you are going to rely on your phone rather than printouts then carry a portable power source with you, so that you don't run out of battery on your phone just when you need it.

Your Mundy cruise consultant will work the process through with you if you feel you need a second opinion, but ultimately it is down to you to ensure you have done everything you need to do. If anything seems unclear, use an abundance of caution and a comprehensive, belt and braces approach.

Edwina Lonsdale, Mundy Cruising
Meet the author

Edwina Lonsdale is Managing Director and, together with husband Matthew, owner of Mundy Cruising.

More about Edwina

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