It’s bad tidings, I’m afraid. Christmas is cancelled in England, or at least this is what we have been led to deduce, from the Government’s latest group social distancing announcement banning group gatherings of more than six people, both indoors and outdoors.
Get caught with Great Auntie Mabel and Uncle Bert in a group of seven or more relatives, and you could be slapped with a festive £100 fine, or £3,200 depending on how many times you have been caught breaking the rules between now and then. Merry Christmas.
But all is not lost. There are countries around the world that offer the holy trinity of winter sun, no quarantine on arrival (or return), and no draconian restrictions on group sizes if you choose to travel with friends or another family.
Obviously, things change very quickly and any of the below destinations could be put on the Foreign Office’s quarantine list by Christmas, if cases rise, and the destinations could indeed introduce their own measures between now and then.
But, so long as you book through a reputable tour operator, you will be eligible either for a refund or to re-book at a later date depending on their policy, in the event that your holiday is cancelled due to new restrictions.
Where is hot, on the ‘travel corridors list’?
The following destinations offer winter sun, are on the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) "green list" (meaning your travel insurance will be valid), and require no quarantine on arrival or return. Nearly all require a test certificate prior to travel for entry, and some will run health checks on arrivals, with a quarantine if you test positive for Covid-19.
- Antigua and Barbuda (test certificate required for entry)
- Barbados (test certificate required for entry; second test 5–7 days after arrival)
- Bermuda (test certificate required for entry)
- Curaçao (test certificate required for entry)
- Dominica (test certificate required for entry and health check on arrival)
- Grenada (test certificate required for entry)
- Guadeloupe (test certificate required for entry and health check on arrival)
- St Lucia (test certificate required for entry, health check on arrival)
- St Pierre and Miquelon (test certificate required for entry)
While they do not guarantee winter sun, the warmer European destinations of mainland Greece, Cyprus, Italy and Turkey, as well as the Portuguese islands of Madeira and the Azores, are also still on the UK travel corridors list (check devolved administrations, which have different policies). The rules for these are as follows:
- Cyprus (test certificate required for entry)
- Greece (passenger locator form to enter; check FCDO for islands that you can and cannot visit)
- Italy (complete self declaration form before entry)
- Portuguese islands (test on arrival)
- Turkey (medical evaluation on arrival)
Take me away to…
Christmas in Antigua
Antigua is one of the world’s more accessible paradise islands – there are eight-hour flights from the UK. A lush verdant interior, scattered with colourful villages and churches, gives way to pristine sandy beaches and startling blue sea. Best of all, it's one of an ever-shrinking list of places you can actually visit right now.
Kuoni is offering a seven-night, all-inclusive holiday for a family of four in the Hillside Suite four-star Verandah Resort & Spa. The holiday departs Gatwick on December 21, flies with British Airways, and costs £8,999 total if you book before September 30.
Scott Dunn is offering an 11-night stay at Carlisle Bay, Antigua, from £27,000 based on a family of four travelling on December 23, staying in a two-bed beach balcony suite on a B&B basis, including return flights from London Gatwick with British Airways and private transfers
Christmas in Barbados
Over on the west coast, where the soft-sand beaches are overseen by some of the Caribbean's most luxurious hotels, over-the-top villas and snazziest restaurants, Barbados lives up to its glamorous reputation. And, for now at least, you can travel without needing to go into quarantine (two tests are required, however).
First Choice Holidays is selling a seven-night trip to Barbados for a family of four for £7,357, departing on December 20. The beachfront hotel is Turtle Beach Resort, in St Lawrence.
Hays Travel is offering a seven-night stay (B&B) at the three-star Butterfly Hotel in Barbados for £999 per person on selected dates in December 2020.
Christmas in Dominica
With a towering, mountainous interior covered in dense rainforest, high-drop waterfalls, thermal springs and a boiling lake, not to mention rare parrots and agouti (something like giant rats), Dominica is the Jurassic Park of the Caribbean. It's an exciting island for walkers, whether intent on gentle potters or embarking on arduous treks along sections of the Waitukubuli National Trail, which curls for 115 miles over the island.
Kenwood Travel is offering a seven-night escape to Dominica, for a family of four, for £9,164 staying at the Fort Young Hotel. Departs from Gatwick on December 21, flying economy with British Airways.
Christmas in St Lucia
With its lush landscapes and gorgeous coastline, a trip to St Lucia is an extremely tempting proposition at any time. But the weather is best December to April – perfect for a Christmas getaway, without the need to quarantine.
TUI offers a seven-night stay at the 5T Royalton St Lucia in Smugglers Cove on an all-inclusive basis. Prices start from £1,822 per person, based on two adults sharing and includes flights departing from London Gatwick airport on December 22 with transfers.
Christmas in Turkey
While it is by no means a classic 'winter sun destination' in the same vein as countries like Barbados, Dominica and Antigua, Turkey could offer a mild-weather Christmas option closer to home. And it is, at the time of writing, safely on the travel corridors list.
Hays Travel is offering a seven-night, all-inclusive stay at the Limak Lara Deluxe Hotel in Antalya for £456 per person, on selected dates in December 2020.
Christmas on the slopes?
Fancy Christmas on the slopes? Our ski editor, Lucy Aspden gives her top tip:
There is arguably nothing more magical than spending the festive season in the snow and luckily there is hope that the upcoming ski season will go ahead in time for Christmas.
While Italy’s ski resorts were initially the first in the world to go into lockdown back in February, since travel has recommenced they have fared well and Britons face no quarantines at either end of their journey.
Italian resorts are often overshadowed by their big-name French neighbours but not only is skiing in Italy much more laid back than its Alpine rivals, it is also cheaper.
A great choice for families is Champoluc in the Ayas Valley, a charming village, with a typically Italian laid-back atmosphere. The 200km Monterosa ski area is one of the most underrated in the Alps, the scenery is beautiful and there’s a general lack of crowds on the slopes. If early-season snow cover is an issue and you’re keen to explore, the snow-sure resort of Cervinia is just over an hour’s drive away, with access to Europe’s highest skiable glacier on the Swiss border.
British operator Ski2 has been active in the resort for over 20 years. It has its own ski school with English-speaking instructors, nursery with British nannies, and an equipment rental shop. In order to give guests extra peace of mind in these uncertain times the company is offering a 100 per cent Covid guarantee, which will offer a full refund or rearrangement of your trip if you cannot travel because of the pandemic.
CampZero opened last winter and brings an eco-friendly five-star offering to the traditional resort. Its 10 family suites span two floors, with a living area and two bedrooms, floor-to-ceiling windows and balconies – plenty of room to unwrap presents. There’s a swimming pool and spa, two climbing walls (one on ice) and two restaurants to choose from in the evening. A week’s stay for a family of four over Christmas costs from £1,929 per adult and £1,829 per child, including bed and breakfast, private airport transfers, six-day Monterosa lift pass, lunches each day on the mountain and ski guiding.