Travelling for the first time post pandemic

The title of this may be slightly misleading as I’m probably going to end up talking mostly about the slight issues we had with our passenger locator form when returning back from our recently holiday to Madeira. But since it’s quite a while since I put to bed the whole ‘COVID diaries‘ element of this blog, it felt like it might be useful to give an update on what it was like leaving the country for the first time since the pandemic started.

We knew we wanted a break since the last few times we’re taken leave and just stayed at home we’ve ended up going back to work more depressed than when we left. We both still work from home, which for the most part is great, but it means when you take time off, and don’t go anywhere, you’re still just at home. And we were starting to go a bit stir crazy.

We chose Madeira simply because you could fly there from Newcastle, it was reasonably priced for a weeks all inclusive, and neither of us had been before. And I can confirm that leaving the country felt amazing! We were very careful in the couple of weeks before we left and pretty much self isolated. There was nothing that was going to stop me getting on that plane. And despite both being double jabbed, the last thing either of us wanted to to catch the ‘rona and feel yucky before, or while we were away.

What I will say though is that the first time you leave the country post pandemic is super daunting and we both got really anxious about it. Jet2, who we travelled with had some really good checklists of what you have to do for each country, what you need to do if you’re double jabbed, and what to do if you’re not.

For Madeira it was pretty straight forward. You create an account on their government website (Madeira Safe) and put in a few details about your travel dates, where you’re staying, passport details and proof of vaccination if you have it (we just uploaded pdf versions of our COVID passports). You then get a QR which will be bright green at first but turns dark green about 48 hours before you go. Then there are staff at the airport after you’ve collected your luggage who scan your QR code and away you go, free to visit Ronaldo’s statue with with dodgy golden crotch.

That begs the question, why is the UK passenger locator form so bloody complicated?! We took advice from a friend and created an account on the website before we left which stores your home address, passport details etc so at least would be one less thing to do when we were there. There in lay the first hurdle. Dave didn’t add the + symbol before the 44 when entering his phone number, which meant he never got an authentication code to verify his account. But then he couldn’t use the same email account to try again because it was already registered. So he had to use a different email address altogether. That was ballache number one.

Ballache number two was trying to scan The QR codes on our vaccination passports when completing the passenger locator form 48 hours before we came home. It wouldn’t scan Dave’s for whatever reason but then wouldn’t let him go back and choose the different option of uploading a pdf. It’s all very frustrating when you’re on holiday supposedly relaxing and enjoying yourself. We got there in the end by just starting his form again and using my phone which had a better QR scanner. But what should have been a 10 minute job ended up taking an hour and 15mins.

It’s not just us who have faced problems either. When my parents came back from holiday recently, they had used a third party (reputable) service to complete their locator form. When they arrived at the airport, their third party hasn’t added their flight number, the form was rejected and they had to do locator forms again themselves. Airports are stressful enough at the best of times let alone without that to worry about too.

It also doesn’t help that all the warning on the site are super harsh and scaremongering. Alerts about 10 grand fines if you enter incorrect information or risk of not being let out or back in the country. It put a bit of a dampener on the last day of our holiday for sure and made for an anxious transfer to the airport, where of course, everything was absolutely fine.

The form itself isn’t complicated, it’s the tech issues that made it pretty un-user friendly. Especially when other countries seem to have quite straight forward processed.

The good thing is, we’ve done it now, and if we go away again in March like we’re planning to, hopefully all these teething problems will have been ironed out, or we will at least have more confidence with the process. I have to say the staff at both airports were great and super friendly so that did give me confidence that should there have been any problems, there would have been someone there to help.

Have you travelled out the country yet? If so how have you found it? Is all the extra paperwork you need to do putting you off travelling just yet?

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