Holiday chaos is a price worth paying for my family – Jayne Dowle

FAINT heart never won a week’s holiday in Croatia, postponed from last August. I’ve spent months debating what to do, but in the end I’m from Yorkshire and I didn’t want to waste the £1,500 we have already paid for four flights and a week’s villa rental.

International travel rules in the Covid pandemic are continuing to cause chaos and confusion, writes Jayne Dowle.

Unless Croatia suddenly goes back on the red list, and the Foreign Office bans travel, we’re on our way. And if it’s red, we’ll be able to seek redress.

Sounds simple? Yes and no. The traffic light system, which even the Transport Secretary himself seems to have difficulty keeping up with, is still arbitrary, confusing and punishing.

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What if Croatia turns amber? I think I’ve got this right. My husband and I, both double-jabbed, should be okay to carry on with our normal lives, as long as we return negative PCR tests on days two and eight of our return.

International travel rules in the Covid pandemic are continuing to cause chaos and confusion, writes Jayne Dowle.

The kids, Lizzie, 15 (no jab), and Jack, turning 19 (one jab so far, second booked for September 9), would likely face 10 days quarantine. Please don’t write in and tell me I’ve got this wrong. I probably have. Have you got any idea how complex this stuff is?

I’m used to reading reams of official guidance and retaining key facts quickly, but preparing to go abroad this summer is like reading Catch-22. Backwards.

I ended up taking an entire afternoon off work to sort things out, starting with obtaining a belt-and-braces travel insurance policy. My biggest fear, after serious incapacitating illness, is being stranded in a foreign country with no means to get home.

Actually, insurance was the easy bit. Far more complex was delving into the Foreign Office’s official information on what number and level of tests our party would require to enter and leave Croatia. It’s one of the few countries allowing travellers in with either a rapid antigen test (but not a free one issued by the NHS) or a PCR test, which takes longer and costs more.

International travel rules in the Covid pandemic are continuing to cause chaos and confusion, writes Jayne Dowle.

I think I’ve sussed it. We’re getting antigen tests by post, uploading our results online and crossing fingers for a negative result and “fit to fly” certificates by email.

Test a few days before we return, check, got list of providers in Pula, our nearest town. PCR on day two of return, still to sort, but aware I must as I think I need to obtain reference number before filling in passenger locator forms, without which we’re going nowhere. Cost? About £600 in total. Mad? Possibly.

Somebody is making money out of this and it isn’t me. Still £1,500 for flights and accommodation is quite a modest outlay, when you consider that some greedy caravan-owners are asking the same for a week’s rental on the East Coast this summer.

Given this, it seemed such a shame to waste the opportunity because who knows what next year might bring?

Much as I love the UK – our Yorkshire resorts are the finest in the UK, we enjoyed Norfolk in July and have just returned from visiting a friend in Scotland – I also love foreign travel.

I’m not going to apologise for that. There’s a nasty streak of puritanism these days which guilt-trips everyone who favours beach-wear over a hair shirt.

I’ve obeyed rule after pandemic rule and will continue to do so. The desire to explore another country doesn’t make me a criminal.

In the darkest days of lockdown, one of the things that kept me going was memories of the places I’ve been fortunate to visit or work in over the years, including the USA, China, Australia, Kenya and Morocco.

There is far too much judgement about personal choices which are now our own responsibility, as the Prime Minister – chastely committing to a so-called “staycation” again – keeps reminding us.

Actually, I think it’s called divide and conquer. Or one rule for them and another for everyone else, just to add extra piquancy to the already chaotic travel rules which shift as rapidly and without warning as quicksand in Morecambe Bay.

It’s acceptable, apparently, for COP26 supremo Alok Sharma to take in 30 countries on his environment-saving seven-month world tour, six of them on the “red list”, but unacceptable for hard-working families to choose where to spend their holidays? Mr Sharma has Crown immunity apparently, which means he has swerved quarantine, and clearly a conscience.

Who wouldn’t want to escape this level of British hypocrisy for a few days, given the chance?

I’m really not asking for much. Just let me stare out to sea with the sun on my back and gain a little perspective on this mad world.

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