What does the UK’s travel traffic light system mean for family summer holidays? Have a look at how Green, Amber and Red really work from 17 May 2021, and what to expect when you return to the UK after your family holiday.

UK travel traffic light system: how does it affect family holidays?

UK travel traffic light system green lists 12 countries from 17 May 2021

UK Transport Secretary, Grant Schapps, introduced the travel traffic light system on 7 May with the words, ‘We want a summer in which we can reunite with family and friends, travel to places we love. We want to start looking outwards again.’ Perhaps inevitably, it was a bit of a let down when he followed this bold statement with the announcement that only 12 countries worldwide had made it on to the UK’s Green List for international travel from 17 May 2021.

Portugal; Iceland; Gibraltar; Israel; Singapore; Australia; New Zealand; Brunei; Falkland Islands; Faroe Islands; South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands; St Helena, Tristan de Cunha, Ascension Island.

Take a look at family adventures in Iceland for summer 2021

UK travel traffic light system: how does it affect family holidays?

Green light for Portugal also opens the Azores and Madeira 

On the plus side, Portugal’s green light also means the Azores and Madeira are open for family holidays in late spring or summer. And Iceland remains one of Europe’s main go-to countries for adventure holidays with kids, so it’s another welcome inclusion on the Green List.

Find 7 incredible family friendly hotels in the Algarve for summer 2021

UK travel traffic light system: how does it affect family holidays?

Update on family holidays in Spain from 20 May 2021

Spain is one of the most popular European destinations for UK families - over 18 million British travellers visited in 2019. Although it didn’t make it on to the UK Green List, the country recently lifted its State of Emergency and announced in late April, ‘Spain is going to be ready in June to use EU Digital Green Certificates. We are doing a pilot programme in May, in all our 46 airports. We are going to give all these travellers that certainty. Spain is going to be ready in June to tell all travellers worldwide that you can visit us.’ Even more recently, Maria Reyes Maroto - Spain's Industry, Commerce and Tourism Minister - said Britons should be able to visit Spain from Thursday 20 May without requiring a negative PCR test, thanks to the UK’s vaccination rollout and decline in COVID-19 infection rates.

Take a look at the best destinations in Spain for family holidays this summer

UK travel traffic light system: how does it affect family holidays?

How does the UK travel traffic light system work?

UK restrictions on international travel are set to be eased on 17 May 2021 and it seems likely British families will be largely welcomed worldwide. However, restrictions on returning to the UK from even the 12 green list countries in the travel traffic light system, should factor into any holidays plans for the foreseeable future:

Green List country re-entry requirements

  • 1 x pre-departure PCR test no less than 72 hours before return to UK.
  • 1 x PCR test on day one or two after arrival in UK.
  • Unless tests are positive no quarantine is necessary.

Check all Green List country’s specific entry requirements before booking any travel.

Amber List country re-entry requirements

  • 1 x pre-departure PCR test no less than 72 hours before return to UK.
  • Home quarantine for 10 days on arrival in UK.
  • PCR test on second and eighth day of quarantine

Spain, France and Greece are on the Amber List for travel from UK.

Red List country re-entry requirements

  • 1 x pre-departure PCR test no less than 72 hours before return to UK.
  • Mandatory hotel quarantine for 10 days after arrival in UK at own expense.
  • UK travellers to Red List countries must agree to and book quarantine packages before returning to UK.

Currently 43 countries are on the Red List including Maldives and Turkey.

It’s expected that the UK travel traffic light system will be updated at least every three weeks from 17 May 2021. But as soon as we know, you'll know too. At the moment the information here only applies to England and Wales - always check the travel requirements of any country you plan to visit; we've found most information is current, straightforward and transparent.

Spending summer closer to home? Check out easy family road trips on the UK's loveliest coastal routes. Don't forget to follow Family Traveller on Facebook and Instagram for more travel ideas, news and updates - or just to say ‘hi’.