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Wednesday, December 1, 2021

How strict vaccine rules are threatening to ruin family holidays

Single or double jab entry rules. Tests to enter restaurants. NHS Covid passes that can’t be used by under-16s… the holiday rule quicksand could swiftly sink a family break this winter.

Even within the European Union, the requirements for arrivals can vary widely. Take Malta and Greece, for instance. The former bans all over-12s unless they are fully vaccinated (and requires a negative test from those aged five to 11), while Greece will accept a negative test for children aged 12 or over (under-12s are exempt). 

Rules can change at short notice, and age-specific protocols are often a forgotten factor – as Liddy Pleasants, managing director of Stubborn Mule, a family holiday specialist, explains. 

“We have found that many countries announce their opening up for tourism without mentioning how their new regulations affect children,” she says. 

“This is often added as an afterthought, frequently a week or two later. There can therefore be great fanfare about a country reopening, when in fact it may not be open at all for families.”

Pleasants mentions Thailand as an example: the whole country reopened to fully immunised travellers at the start of the month, yet buried within the stipulations was the note that unvaccinated children aged 12 and over would need to remain in one place for seven days, before being permitted to travel around the country. 

Another grey area on the reopening map is Canada. The rules for children, depending on their birth year, make a family holiday almost unbearably tricky – or impossible. Unvaccinated (or partially vaccinated) children face either being shut out from many venues (if aged 0-11) – or a period in quarantine (for ages 12 and above). 

The Foreign Office may work to keep up with the ever-evolving Covid-related entry rules across the globe, but, as Pleasants points out, it can sometimes “omit reference as to how these affect children”. 

“Our top tip is to ensure that you have checked and rechecked the advice with specific reference to children,” she says. 

“Don’t rely on what you can find online (as much of this is out of date), but speak to a specialist operator who has experience of actually sending families abroad.”

This advice is pertinent to those planning ski holidays this winter. The most stringent regulations exclude unvaccinated over-12s from entire countries (this is the case in Germany, for example), while elsewhere on the ground regulations can add hassle and cost to a trip. Iain Martin is among the parents who, as it stands, face extra charges this winter for a family ski break. Martin will be travelling to Italy with his 15-year-old twins in February. 

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